Iraqi abductors of an Iranian official said their captive was an officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards who was responsible for a plot to foment sectarian strife in Iraq. Tehran authorities identified the man as a foreign ministry official, and said they were trying to secure his early release through diplomatic contacts with Iraq, Britain and the US. August 8, 2004 - Iraqi kidnappers, who took an Iranian official hostage last Wednesday, said on Sunday that the man was part of the Islamic government’s plot to foment sectarian strife in Iraq between that country’s Shiite majority and the Sunni minority. They said his activities were “outside the sphere of diplomacy.”
The man, identified as Fereydoun Jahani disappeared last Wednesday on route to the Shiite holy city of Karbala from Baghdad, in order to begin his new assignment as Iran’s consul, according to Iran’s envoy to Iraq Hasan Kazemi-Qumi.
The group, which calls itself the “Islamic Army of Iraq,” displayed their hostage in a video aired on the Dubai-based Arabic news network “al-Arabiya.” They warned Iran against interfering in Iraq’s domestic affairs.
They said the captive official, identified by Iran as a “diplomat,” was a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and showed his credentials bearing the insignia of the IRGC. Security experts have said scores of IRGC officers have been sent to Iraq. But cabinet spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said on Monday that the abducted man was a foreign ministry employee.
Iraqi interim officials, including defense minister Hazem al-Shaalan, have accused Iran’s Islamic authorities of secretly funding Iraq’s Shiite political parties and insurgents in a bid to influence Iraq’s next January elections.
Analysts said it was difficult to ascertain what was behind Jahani’s kidnapping since little was known about his captors and they had yet to make any specific demands for his release, Reuters writes on Monday in a dispatch from Baghdad.
Mustafa Alani, Middle East expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Reuters that ruling Iraqi Shiites like Shalaan and prime minister Iyad Allawi were playing up nationalist Arab sentiment to undermine non-Arab Iran’s influence in the country.
“They fear the nightmare of Hezbollah in south Lebanon,” he said, referring to the Iranian-founded and funded Shiite group which has conducted a proxy-war with Israel for decades.
A Tehran-based analyst told Reuters that different power centers in the Islamic Republic government were trying to curry favor with different groups in Iraq ranging from the interim government to radicals like rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The Islamic officials “are divided over a coherent approach to Iraq and this is reflected in the contradictory statements and actions," he said. “The one thing they agree on is the need for the Shiite majority to be reflected in the Iraqi government.”
The Islamic government has started a widespread diplomatic effort in a bid to secure the release of the kidnapped man, foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi said on Monday. He said contacts have been made with the Iraqi government, British and Swiss embassy in Tehran, as well as “various people.”