By Bill Roggio, The Weekly Standard
The January 20 attack on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center by the Iranian backed Qazali Network, which resulted in the kidnapping and murder of five U.S. soldiers, was long known to be an Iranian planned and sponsored strike. While Iran has insulated itself with its cutouts in the Qazali Network, Multinational Forces Iraq has captured members of the network who implicated the Iranian regime, as well as documents that substantiate the allegations. And now U.S. forces have satellite imagery that proves Iranian involvement. In the June 4 edition of Aviation Week and Space Technology, the magazine reports that Iran had built inside its borders a mockup of the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center, which was used to train the attackers. The "training center" was discovered by a U.S. spy satellite surveying Iran.
"U.S. reconnaissance spacecraft have spotted a training center in Iran that duplicates the layout of the governor's compound in Karbala, Iraq, that was attacked in January by a specialized unit that killed American and Iraqi soldiers," Michael Mecham reported in the "In Orbit" section of the magazine. "The U.S. believes the discovery indicates Iran was heavily involved in the attack, which relied on a fake motorcade to gain entrance to the compound. The duplicate layout in Iran allowed attackers to practice procedures to use at the Iraqi compound, the Defense Dept. believes."
An American military officer confirmed to us that the report is accurate, but did not disclose the location of the training camp. In early January, Strategic Policy Consulting confirmed a two year old report by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society that Iran was using the "Arab populated city of Ahwaz, southwestern Iran, as a base of operations." The city of Ahwaz is in Khuzestan province, which borders the southern Iraqi province of Basra. It is not publicly known if Ahwaz is the location of the Karbala mockup.
"The Al-Qods Force trains militants in manufacturing improved explosive devices and finances and organises pro-Iranian militias in Iraq," noted the the British Ahwazi Friendship Society report. "According to SPC, the Iraq network is under the command of Jamal Jaafar Mohammad Ali Ebrahimi, who is also known as Mehdi Mohandes."
We were the first to note, on January 26, that Iran's Qods Force, which is responsible for planning and conducting foreign operations, intelligence gathering, and terrorist activities, was likely behind the attack due to the complexity of the strike. General David Petraeus briefed on the Karbala attack on April 26 and noted the Qazali network was responsible for the strike.
On May 19, Coalition forces killed Azhar al-Dulaimi during a raid in Baghdad's Sadr City. Dulaimi was described as the "mastermind" and "tactical commander" of the Karbala attack, In March, U.S. forces captured Qais Qazali, the network's leader, his brother Laith Qazali, and several other members.
Multinational Forces Iraq has been targeting the Qazali Network's "secret terror cells" as well as those of the Sheibani Network. Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed 26 members of this network and captured 71 more since April 27, 2007. Three more members of the "secret cell" were captured and another killed today.
The Sheibani Network is the overarching organization that receives support, weapons, advice, and targeting from Iran's Qods Force. Senior members of the Qazali and Sheibani Networks are members of Iran's Qods Force.