Monday, July 02, 2007

U.S. Charges Iran With Attack On Americans in Iraq

The propaganda war against Iran is really heating up today:

Iranian operatives helped plan a January raid in Karbala in which five American soldiers were killed, an American military spokesman in Iraq said today.

Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, the military spokesman, also said that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has used operatives from the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah as a “proxy” to train and arm Shiite militants in Iraq.

American military officials have long asserted that the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, has trained and equipped Shiite militants in Iraq. There is also extensive intelligence that Iran has supplied Shiite militants with the most lethal type of roadside bomb in Iraq, a bomb called the explosively formed penetrator, which is capable of piercing an armored vehicle.

But today’s assertions, which were presented at a news briefing here, marked the first time that the United States has charged that Iranian officials have helped plan operations against American troops in Iraq and have had advance knowledge of specific attacks that have led to the death of American soldiers.

In effect, American officials are charging that Iran has been engaged in a proxy war against American forces for years, though officials today sought to confine their comments to the specific incidents covered in their briefing.

When the Karbala attack was carried out on January 20 this year, American and Iraqi officials said that it appeared to be meticulously planned. The attackers carried forged identity cards and wore American-style uniforms.

One American died at the start of the raid, but the rest of the American soldiers were abducted before they were killed.

Some officials speculated at the time that the aim of the raid might have been to capture a group of American soldiers who could have been exchanged for Iranian officials that American forces detained in Iraq on suspicion of supporting Shiite militants there.

But while Americans officials wondered about an indirect Iranian role in the Karbala raid, until today they stopped short of making a case that the Quds Force may have been directly involved in planning the attack.

General Bergner declined to speculate on the Iranian motivations. But he said that interrogations of Qais Khazali, a Shiite militant who oversaw Iranian-supported cells in Iraq and who was captured several months ago along with another militant, Laith Khazali, his brother, showed that Iran’s Quds force helped plan the operation.

Similar information was obtained following the capture of a senior Hezbollah operative, Ali Musa Daqduq, General Bergner said. The capture of Mr. Daqduq had remained secret until today.

“Both Ali Musa Daqduq and Qais Khazali state that senior leadership within the Quds force knew of and supported planning for the eventual Karbala attack that killed five coalition soldiers,” General Bergner said.

Documents seized from Qais Khazali, General Bergner said, showed that Iran’s Quds Force provided detailed information on the activities of American soldiers in Karbala, including shift changes and the defenses at the site.

More generally, General Bergner added, Iran’s Quds Force has been using Lebanese Hezbollah as a “proxy” or “surrogate” in training and equipping Shiite militants in Iraq.

The aim of the Quds force was to prepare the militant groups so they would attack American and Iraqi government force while trying to conceal an obvious Iranian role, he said.

There have long been reports that Hezbollah operatives have been working with the Quds Force to train Iraqi operatives in Iran and even Lebanon. But few details had emerged about specific Hezbollah officials.

It is noteworthy that it is Michael Gordon of the New York Times -- who co-wrote some of the Judith Miller pre-war agitprop pieces -- that has the byline on this latest salvo in the information war against Iran.

You can expect there to be calls for the U.S. to do something to avenge the Iranian intervention in Iraq.


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