Following up my post from Sunday where I linked Bill Roggio’s piece on the possibility of the Karbala attack that killed 5 Americans being an operation carried out by the Qods Force of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, it appears that the Pentagon is indeed taking a closer look to see if the Iranian footprint can be detected:
The Pentagon is investigating whether a recent attack on a military compound in Karbala was carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives, two officials from separate U.S. government agencies said.
“People are looking at it seriously,” one of the officials said.
That official added the Iranian connection was a leading theory in the investigation into the January 20 attack that killed five soldiers.
The second official said: “We believe it’s possible the executors of the attack were Iranian or Iranian-trained.”
Five U.S. soldiers were abducted and killed in the sophisticated attack by men wearing U.S.-style uniforms, according to U.S. military reports.
Both officials stressed the Iranian-involvement theory is a preliminary view, and there is no final conclusion. They agreed this possibility is being looked at because of the sophistication of the attack and the level of coordination.
“This was beyond what we have seen militias or foreign fighters do,” the second official said.
The investigation has led some officials to conclude the attack was an “inside job”—that people inside the compound helped the attackers enter unstopped.
One of the commenters from my Sunday piece offered some interesting speculation; that the attack was carried out by former Iraqi Special Ops members. It makes sense since what the Pentagon is looking at is the level of training and planning that went into the operation. And while not indicative of militia or insurgent participation due to the operation’s sophistication, it might point the finger at units in the old Revolutionary Guard who were among Saddam’s most effective troops.
After some investigation, I had to conclude that this is not likely. We haven’t seen many operations that showed the kind of intensive training and discipline that would be the hallmark of Special Forces. In fact, the insurgents and militias are so ill trained and undisciplined that whenever they stand toe to toe with our boys, we win easily. Unless one speculates that this is among the first operations carried out by a Special Ops force that has been in hiding for nearly 4 years, it just isn’t likely that Saddam era commandos were involved in the Karbala attack.
The possibility of a traitor operating inside the compound would partly answer one question I had when I first read of the attack; how could the enemy penetrate our security? But for these guys to have talked their way past a couple of checkpoints is still a mystery. Unless security was just so lax that the cruised through based on the color of their uniforms. If that were the case, I hope some heads are rolling in that command.
But what of Iran? I speculated on Sunday, based on reports I linked to from Bill’s site, that it may have been a hostage situation gone bad. The enemy seized our soldiers and took off toward the Iranian border with them. After acting suspiciously at a checkpoint, Iraqi troops gave pursuit. It was during the chase that the Americans were apparently executed by their captors. And there was a report that 4 suspects had been arrested, although we haven’t heard anything since then about their nationalities or whether they were even involved.
Time’s Robert Baer speculates that the motive may have been revenge:
The speculation that Karbala was an IRGC operation may have as much to do with Iraqis’ respect for IRGC capacity for revenge as it does with the truth. Nevertheless, we should count on the IRGC gearing up for a fight. And we shouldn’t underestimate its capacities. Aside from arming the opposition, the IRGC is capable of doing serious damage to our logistics lines. I called up an American contractor in Baghdad who runs convoys from Kuwait every day and asked him just how much damage.”Let me put it this way,”he said.”In Basra today the currency is the Iranian toman, not the Iraqi dinar.”He said his convoys now are forced to pay a 40% surcharge to Shi’a militias and Iraqi police in the south, many of whom are affiliated with IRGC.
Mindful of the spreading chaos in Iraq, President Bush has promised not to take the war into Iran. But it won’t matter to the IRGC. There is nothing the IRGC likes better than to fight a proxy war in another country.
This also makes sense. The Qods Force has a clandestine arm that has been involved in several assassinations of Iranian dissidents in Europe and the Middle East. Our buddy President Ahmadinejad cut his bones as a senior commander in the Force and it has been charged but never proven that he participated in the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leader Abdorrahman Qassemlou in Vienna in 1989. I have no doubt that Ahmadinejad sees our raid on the “consulate” in Irbil and the taking and holding of 5 Qods Force members as a personal affront and a national humiliation. It would make sense that he would send some of his old friends into Karbala to avenge this blow to Iranian honor.
On a related note, it appears that the Bush Administration will not reveal specifics of Iranian involvement in the violence in Iraq after all. The press conference that was scheduled for today which would have supplied chapter and verse of Iranian assistance to the militias and the insurgents has been postponed:
A plan by the Bush administration to release detailed and possibly damning specific evidence linking the Iranian government to efforts to destabilize Iraq have been put on hold, U.S. officials told FOX News.
Officials had said a “dossier” against Iran compiled by the U.S. likely would be made public at a press conference this week in Baghdad, and that the evidence would contain specifics including shipping documents, serial numbers, maps and other evidence which officials say would irrefutably link Iran to weapons shipments to Iraq.
Now, U.S. military officials say the decision to go public with the findings has been put on hold for several reasons, including concerns over the reaction from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad â€” as well as inevitable follow-up questions that would be raised over what the U.S. should do about it.
This stinks of State Department meddling. Their concern is that there is a possibility Ahmadinejad is on the ropes in Iran thanks to his spectacularly incompetent rule and the restlessness of some of his supporters and any serious charges made regarding Iranian complicity in the violence in Iraq will only strengthen the President and unite the Iranians behind him.
I will admit to not knowing enough about internal Iranian politics to enable me to make an informed judgement as to whether that is true or false but I know enough to believe that reports of President Ahamdinejad’s demise could be greatly exaggerated. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Most of these reports about unrest regarding his rule are coming from predictable sources – ex-Presidents Ayatollah Ali Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Rafsanjani’s lists did very well in local elections last month and Khatami has been a font of criticism of Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy for a long time. The only person Ahmadinejad has to keep happy is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Only the Big Tuna could engineer his ouster in the Iranian Majlis.
This from an Iranian insider:
“I don’t think Ahmadinejad will leave the presidency before his mandate expires but I am also convinced he will not succeed in winning a second term,” added Saharkhiz. “Many factions and personalities who supported Ahmadinejad’s candidature at the 2005 presidential elections have already abandoned him and don’t spare criticism, even harsh and direct, of the president and his government.”
One other possibility for the delay in releasing the evidence of Iranian perfidy in Iraq may be that they want to complete the investigation into what happened in Karbala. The problem there is that could take weeks. And I assumed that one reason the Administration wanted to get this information out there was to stiffen some Congressional spines about our involvement in Iraq. With Iran contributing to the deaths of Americans and Iraqis, it makes pacifying the country even more of an imperative.
This situation with Iranian meddling in Iraq has grown intolerable. Despite cries from some Iraqi quarters to stop the round up of Iranians, as long as Maliki supports it (and perhaps even if he doesn’t) we should continue to aggressively pursue them.