When I first read about the attack on our men in Karbala, the details seemed rather incredible. The enemy, speaking English and dressed in American uniforms, attacked a group of soldiers holding a meeting with local leaders on reconstruction issues.
Further deepening the mystery was the fact that initial reports by the military had 5 of our men killed on site with another three wounded. But somehow, the AP ferreted out the real story. The military has now confirmed that the 5 Americans were led away in handcuffs and executed a short distance away.
Bill Roggio has some information that, if true, alters the way we should be looking at the war and raises troubling questions about its possible widening:
The American Forces Information Service provides the details of the attack in Karbala. Based on the sophisticated nature of the raid, as well as the response, or cryptic non-responses, from multiple military and intelligence sources, this raid appears to have been directed and executed by the Qods Force branch of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps. My sources agreed this is far to sophisticated an operation for the Mahdi Army or Badr Corps, while al-Qaeda in Iraq would have a difficult time mounting such an operation in the Shia south. “The Karbala Government Center raid the other day was a little too professional for JAM [Jaish al-Mahdi, or the Mahdi Army],” according to a military source.
This raid required specific intelligence, in depth training for the agents to pass as American troops, resources to provide for weapons, vehicles, uniforms, identification, radios and other items needed to successfully carry out the mission. Hezbollah’s Imad Mugniyah executed a similar attack against Israeli forces on the Lebanese border, which initiated the Hezbollah-Israeli war during the summer of 2006.
The Qods Force is the foreign action arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. These are the most fanatical of the fanatical believers in the Iranian revolution and are highly motivated and trained. They’ve carried out assassinations in Europe and the Middle East of Iranian dissidents living abroad as well as assisting Hizbullah in Lebanon for many years.
Here’s the AFIS report Bill was referring to:
At about 5 p.m. that day, a convoy consisting of at least five sport utility vehicles entered the Karbala compound and about 12 armed militants attacked the American troops with rifle fire and hand grenades, officials said.
One soldier was killed and three others wounded by a hand grenade thrown into the center’s main office. Other explosions within the compound destroyed three Humvees.
The attackers withdrew with four captured U.S. soldiers and drove out of the Karbala province into the neighboring Babil province. Iraqi police began trailing the assailants after they drew suspicion at a checkpoint.
Three soldiers were found dead and one fatally wounded, along with five abandoned vehicles, near the town of Mahawil. Two were found handcuffed together in the back of one of the vehicles. The other two were found nearby on the ground. One soldier was found alive but died en route to a nearby hospital. All suffered from gunshot wounds.
Also recovered at the site were U.S. Army-type combat uniforms, boots, radios and a non-U.S. made rifle, officials said.
Bill believes the attackers were making a bee line for the Iranian border, hoping to hold our men as hostages to be exchanged for the Qods Force members we’re holding after our raid at Ibril. If so, the execution style murders were carried out because the Iranians feared capture (not that it makes any difference in the end).
With all the trouble that Ahmadinejad appears to be in with the elites in Iran, this botched operation probably doesn’t help him. If the Iranian President has in fact committed the Qods Force to action against Americans in any substantial way, this would represent a escalation – one that the President has matched with his order to kill or capture Iranian agents in Iraq.
This situation bears watching.