London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iran’s interior minister warned on Monday that his country’s forces may enter Pakistani and Afghan territory to rescue border guards seized by a rebel group if the governments of its neighbors do not act to stop cross-border raids by insurgents.
Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said: “Iranian forces will enter Pakistan if the country does not take actions against terrorist groups,” the country’s Mehr news agency reported.
The minister’s warning came days after a terrorist group called Jaish-ul-Adl announced it had seized five Iranian border guards near the Iran–Pakistan border.
They were abducted in Jakigour region in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province on February 6 and reportedly transferred to Pakistani territory.
A video clip of the kidnapped Iranian border guards was published on Saturday for the first time.
In the video, the soldiers said they were being held by Jeish-ul-Adl and asked the Iranian government to meet the demands of the kidnappers.
Fazli said Iran had asked Pakistan to deal “strongly and seriously” with the case or let Iranian forces conduct security operations “deep in Afghanistan and Pakistan territory.”
He added: “Otherwise we do consider it our own right to intervene and create a new security sphere for our safety.”
The Iranian minister added that his country’s officials would meet border security forces on the issue.
On February 9, Iran’s Foreign Ministry expressed its concerns about the case to the Pakistani ambassador to Tehran, Noor Mohammad Jadmani.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry also urged the Pakistani government to hand over the perpetrators to Tehran and take serious measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future.
On October 25, 2013, Jaish-ul-Adl killed 14 Iranian border guards and wounded six others near the city of Saravan in Sistan and Baluchestan province.
In a letter to the president of the UN Security Council on October 28, 2013, Iranian Ambassador to the UN Mohammad Khazaei said the evidence indicated that Jaish-ul-Adl had carried out the terrorist attack by infiltrating Iran’s eastern borders from Pakistan.
The terrorist group claims it is fighting for the rights of ethnic Baluchis, a Sunni minority in Sistan and Baluchestan province in southeastern Iran, and in protest at Iran’s interference in Syria.
The region, one of the country’s poorest, has become one of the most volatile of Iran’s border provinces in the past few years.
However, some analysts say that military force alone will not be enough to pacify the area and end cross-border violence by insurgent groups.
Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi, an Iranian expert in Pakistan’s affairs, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The [only permanent] solution is actually political and will be made only through the [economic] development of the area,” he said.
“Groups that are looking to materialize their aims through military activities will naturally rise in a society where there is poverty and discrimination,” he added.