Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Playing three card monte with airplanes

The February 23 capture by Iran of the CIA-backed Jundallah Baluchi terrorist leader Abdolmalek Rigi when his plane was forced to land in Bandar Abbas airport in Iran is raising more questions about the role of Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan in the operation.

Published news reports appear to be exercises in disinformation by the western corporate media and the Iranian and Pakistani media. At least two planes appear to have been involved in the Iranian capture of Rigi and some of his associates.

A story was floated by the neocon-oriented Daily Telegraph of the UK on February 24 that indicated that Rigi was forced off a Kyrgyzstan Airways flight from Dubai to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The flight was said to have carried 119 passengers, including Rigi, when Iranian agents on board forced the plane to land at Bandar Abbas, Iran, where Rigi was taken into custody by four masked elite troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (see below). However, the photograph shopped around by the media, including the Iranian media, shows Rigi being taken off a plane that is much smaller than the Kyrgyzstan flight QH454 that normally flies the route between Dubai and Bishkek. The small plane pictured below resembles a small jet, possibly a Lear or Dassault Falcon. KYRGYZSTAN's fleet includes 3 Antonov AN-24s, 1 Tupolev TU-134a, and 2 Yakovlev YAK-40s.

The "QH" flight designator is for KYRGYZSTAN, not "Kyrgyzstan Airlines" as reported by the Telegraph. There is another airline, "Kyrgyzstan Airlines, that flies from Islamabad, Pakistan to Bishkek but it does not fly to Dubai as does KYRGYZSTAN. Kyrgyzstan Airlines uses the flight designator of "R8." Kyrgyzstan Airlines' fleet consists of two Airbuses, six Antonovs, one Boeing 737, five Tupolevs, one Ilyushin IL-76TD, and two Yakovlevs.

There is also an aircraft marking difference between the small plane from which Rigi is removed and KYRGYZSTAN. The small plane bears blue, white, and red striping while KYRGYZSTAN planes bear a solid red stripe (see far below).

The mystery of how Rigi was captured remains murky with even DebkaFile of Israel, seen as close to the Mossad, unable to report more than the following: "The sparse details filtering through from Dubai and Tehran by Wednesday morning, Feb. 24, indicate that Abdol Malek Rigi boarded Kyrgyzstan Airways flight QH454 bound from Dubai for Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, on Tuesday. He was not traveling with bodyguards. A group of Iranian special operatives were among the 119 passengers. The flight was intercepted as soon as it crossed into Iranian airspace near Bandar Abbas and forced by an Iranian warplane to land at a military air base.ital of Kyrgyzstan, on Tuesday." DebkaFile concedes that the Iranians pulled off a masterful operation in capturing Rigi.

Rigi being taken off plane by Iranian special forces at Bandar Abbas.

The Iranians are presumably not only finding out from Rigi the extent of the CIA's support for the anti-Iranian government Jundallah Baluchi movement in Pakistan but also how the CIA has armed and provided logistical support to anti-Pakistani Baluchi secessionists -- a fact that will further alienate Islamabad from Washington and help forge a new Pakistani-Iranian intelligence alliance.

Of particular interest to the Iranians and Pakistanis are the CIA's operations at the Shamshi airbase in Pakistan, control over which was ceded by Pakistan to the CIA in October 2001. Blackwater/Xe personnel also operate from the Shamshi base, an important air transit hub between the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Gulf and U.S. bases in Afghanistan.

The CIA's support for Iranian Baluchis operating against Tehran has also had the effect of restoring the Baluchi Liberation Army, with CIA munitions destined for the Jundallah guerrillas falling into the hands of Baluchi secessionists in Pakistan, particularly among the Bugti, Marri and Mengal tribes that now threaten to disrupt trans-Pakistani pipelines to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, which is being developed by Chinese engineers and construction companies. The CIA, apparently unable or unwilling to distinguish between the Iranian and Baluchis and their agendas, permitted explosives and detonators destined for use in Iran to be used against regular Pakistani army units and Chinese assets assisting in the Gwadar port project.

Pakistan also suspects American energy politics at play. By stirring up Baluchis on both sides of the Pakistani-Iranian border, the CIA stands to disrupt planned natural gas pipelines from Qatar to Pakistan that will transit through Iran and the Iran-Gujarat oil pipeline.

WMR's intelligence sources have provided a best guess scenario for what occurred in regard to Rigi and his capture by the Iranians. Our sources state that Iranian intelligence is claiming very loudly that they captured Rigi without any foreign assistance. This apepars to be for cover satrory purposes. If ISI delivered him to Bandar Abbas aboard a Lear, the Iranians had at least a half day to arrange for the touchdown of the KYRGYZSTAN Dubai-Manas flight to cover up the actual flight from Gwadar. If the Iranians had a couple of their agents pretend to be Rigi they fooled the world and allowed Pakistan's ISI to get off the hook as far as their involvement was concerned. Rigi was reported not to be traveling with bodyguards from Dubai to Bishkek, which does not explain the detention of another individual, reported by some sources to have been Jundallah's "number two man."

Passengers on the KYRGYZSTAN flight diverted to Bandar Abbas claimed that two men were removed by Iranian agents. The passengers assumed that one was Rigi. However, informed observers in the region now believe that the passenger plane diversion was a cover for the delivery of Rigi by the ISI to Iranian hands.

There is also a possibility that Iranian agents gained access to a CIA contractor charter flight from Gwadar to Dubai, commandeered the flight to Bandar Abbas, and grabbed Rigi. Oddly enough, a U.S.-based charter aircraft company does operate from Gwadar Airport, Stratos Jet Charters, which provides Citations, Beechjets, Lears, Hawkers, Falcons, Challengers or Gulfstreams. The firm is headquartered in Orlando, Florida.

The U.S. arming of the Iranian Baluchis is part of a CIA covert program to stir up Iran's ethnic minorities, including Kurds, Arabs in Khuzestan, Azeris, Turkomen, as well as Baluchis. Last November, the American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) organized a conference in support of Baluchistan at the National Press Club in Washington. The Washington event was reported to have had links to the CIA.

One major question that remains is why was Rigi traveling to the U.S. airbase at Manas, Kyrgyzstan some two days after meeting with senior U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan and, reportedly, Pakistan? It is something Iranian intelligence is keen to discover.