Zarif defends handling of kidnapped guards via Facebook

Iran's foreign minister has defended the administration against growing criticism of not doing enough to secure the release of the five border guards kidnapped in February, one of which has been killed.

al-monitor  Photo by Facebook/jzarif.
Arash Karami

Arash Karami


Topics covered

rouhani, pakistani militant groups, mohammad javad zarif, kidnapping, iranian politics, facebook

Mar 28, 2014

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the efforts of the administration of President Hassan Rouhani to secure the release of the kidnapped border guards against mounting criticism from conservatives who want the administration take more swift action against terrorists operating on the Iran-Pakistan border.

“Like many of you, the condition of the Iranian hostages has been mine and my colleagues’ biggest concern,” Zarif wrote on Facebook this morning, speaking of the five border guards kidnapped by the Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl in February. One of them, Jamshid Danaeifar, who had a ten-day-old son, was killed last week by the group believed to be inside Pakistan.

“Our around-the-clock efforts [are focused on] the healthy return of these dear ones to the embrace of their families,” Zarif continued. “Propaganda and slogans, despite making one happy, not only do not help free these dear loved ones, but perhaps make the situation more complex.”

He wrote that he understood some of the “harsh criticism and even insults” were the result of emotions arising from the matter, but pointed out that he wrote a letter to the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, about the guards. He also wrote that Rouhani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke for nearly an hour about the situation. He rejected criticism by some in Iran that Western countries take more action when their soldiers are kidnapped, writing, “Dozens of citizens from big countries in the West have been murdered by similar extremist groups in Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan.”

Supporters of Saeed Jalili, the former nuclear negotiator under previous President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former Supreme National Security Council head and 2013 presidential candidate, created a poster implying that Jalili would have handled the situation better.


The poster reads, “The man who arrested in the sky the head of terrorists with one phone call is gone.” That man is Abdulmalek Rigi, the head of the Sunni Baluch terrorist group Jundullah. Iran claims he was arrested when Iranian fighter jets forced his plane down during an international flight. Others have said that Pakistani authorities arrested and secretly handed Rigi over to the Iranians. Rigi was executed in 2010 for a wave of murders and bombings that targeted civilians.

Hard-line Raja News reported that the main reason for the insecurity in Sistan-Baluchistan province is the Rouhani administration’s "incorrect" assessment of the dangers of religious extremist groups. The article pointed to the fact that Rouhani’s minority affairs adviser Ali Younesi denied that Iran has a serious problem with such groups in the province. The article also criticized the Sistan-Baluchistan governor, who was appointed by Rouhani, for asking the media to not use the terms “takfiri” or “Wahhabi,” but instead call the groups' members “thugs.”

Raja also criticized officials who, instead of saying that the root of the problem in the area is extremist Wahhabi ideology, pointed to the high unemployment and poverty rates in the province as some of the main reasons for the presence of extremist groups. Raja also criticized the administration for not presenting any plans for the oversight of Sunni seminaries. The article also accused the governor of the province of hiring individuals who are close to terrorists, warning that granting people with Wahhabi ideology concessions and positions of power will embolden them to commit more terrorism. The article did not name any specific individuals.

Ali Shamkhani, the current secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said that one of the reasons the kidnappings took place is the relatively open border between Iran and Pakistan in the province, and added that security forces are currently making plans to ensure this does not happen again. He also said, “In the last 35 years, Iran has brought the leaders of these [terrorist] groups to their knees.”

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