Wednesday, July 11, 2007

As American and Iraqi casualties mount, U.S. military commanders have become increasingly willing to criticize Tehran’s role in fueling the violence in Iraq — something senators would do well to bear in mind this week while going on about the need to withdraw or “redeploy” American troops there. According to Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, Tehran had a direct role in a Jan. 20 attack on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center in which five American soldiers were killed — four of them murdered after being abducted by Iranian-backed radicals who wore American-style uniforms and carried forged identity cards.

Gen. Bergner revealed at a July 2 press conference that Tehran’s terrorist proxy, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, is involved in organizing and training Iraqi jihadists called Special Groups who attack American soldiers in Iraq. He added that the Quds Force, a special unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that specializes in financing and arming terrorist movements, is spending up to $3 million per month to bring groups of up to 60 Iraqi insurgents at a time to three training facilities near Tehran. At those camps, jointly operated by the Quds Force and Hezbollah, they are taught how to carry out bombings and kidnappings and use rockets, mortars and improvised explosive devices to kill and maim American troops.

In March, coalition forces in Iraq captured Ali Mussa Daqduq, a Hezbollah explosives specialist, near Basra. Initially Mr. Daqduq pretended to be a deaf mute, but he began to talk when he realized that his captors had learned his identity: A 24-year veteran of Hezbollah, he had commanded a special operations unit and headed Hezbollah boss Hassan Nasrallah’s security detail. In May 2006, he traveled to Tehran to meet with senior Quds Force officials and observe members of the Special Groups in training.

According to the June 4 issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology, a U.S. spy satellite operating over Iran found a mockup of the Karbala facility attacked on Jan. 20. “The U.S. believes that the discovery indicates Iran was heavily involved in the attack, which relied on a fake motorcade to gain entrance to the compound,” Aviation Week reported. “The duplicate layout in Iran allowed attackers to practice procedures to use at the Iraqi compound, the Defense Department believes.”

Indeed, Gen. Bergner’s detailed briefing is just the latest evidence of Tehran and Hezbollah’s malevolent roles in Iraq dating back to 2003. Shortly before the U.S.-led coalition deposed Saddam Hussein in March of that year, Hezbollah’s radio station, al-Manar, broadcast a speech by Sheikh Nasrallah telling American troops that “our slogan was and will remain death to America.”After the war began, al-Manar broadcast video that ended with suicide bombers blowing themselves up and likening President Bush to Adolf Hitler. In October 2005, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that improvised explosive devices being used to kill British soldiers in Iraq were of a type that had been used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah.

Similarly, Iran had an interesting relationship with Abu Musab Zarqawi, the brutal terrorist killed by coalition forces in June 2006. After being wounded in combat against U.S. military forces in Afghanistan in 2001, Zarqawi fled to Iran and subsequently made his way to Syria and Lebanon for meetings with Hezbollah. Early in 2006, journalist Kenneth Timmerman told us that Zarqawi on occasion crossed the border into Iran when coalition forces closed in on him. After Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq organization bombed the Golden Mosque in Samarra on Feb. 22, 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to exploit the tragedy to foment violence against the United States and Israel, calling the bombing an act committed by “a group of defeated Zionists and occupiers.”

One might think that the fact that an aspiring nuclear-weapons state like Iran was waging a proxy war to kill and maim American service personnel would be of some enduring interest to the mainstream media and politicians who like to talk about how much they “support the troops.” But Gen. Bergner’s speech was basically a two- or three-day story, giving everyone time to return to the “more important” news of the day — like the firing of federal prosecutors and finding a graceful way to slink out of Iraq.

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