The Karbala attack and the IRGC
The Iranians may be responsible the conducting the attack that resulted in the murder of five American soldiers in Karbala
On January 20th, a team of twelve men disguised as U.S. soldiers entered the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, where U.S. soldiers conducted a meeting with local officials, and attacked and killed five soldiers, and wounded another three. The initial reports indicated the five were killed in the Karbala JCC, however the U.S. military has reported that four of those killed were actually removed from the center, handcuffed, and murdered.
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 Revolutionary Guard Corps. Sources agreed this is far too 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 details from the Karbala raid from AFIS:
"The precision of the attack, the equipment used and the possible use of explosives to destroy the military vehicles in the compound suggests that the attack was well rehearsed prior to execution," said Army Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, spokesman for Multinational Division Baghdad. "The attackers went straight to where Americans were located in the provincial government facility, bypassing the Iraqi police in the compound."
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.
Mahawil is in Babil province, about 27 miles directly east of Karbala [corrected]. While it is impossible to prove, the attackers may have been making a bee-line towards the Iranian border.
The Karbala raid makes sense in light of the U.S. raids on the Iranian diplomatic missions in Baghdad and Irbil, where Iranian Qods Force agents were captured, along with documentation that divulged Iran's involvement with and support of Shia death squads, Sunni insurgents, and al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunnah. Five Iranians from the Irbil raid are still in U.S. custody, and captured U.S. soldiers would provide for excellent bargaining chips
If it is confirmed that Iran's Qods Force was responsible, the news that the United States has authorized the killing or capture of Iranian agents inside Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan and Lebanon makes all the more sense.