Now, six months later, the US military has finally decided to confirm Iran’s role.
Iran’s elite Quds force helped militants carry out a January attack in Karbala that killed five Americans, a U.S. general said Monday. U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner also accused Tehran of using the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as a “proxy” to arm Shiite militants in Iraq.
The claims were an escalation in U.S. accusations that Iran is fueling Iraq’s violence, which Tehran has denied, and were the first time the U.S. military has said Hezbollah has a direct role.
A senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative, Ali Mussa Dakdouk, was captured March 20 in southern Iraq, Bergner said. Dakdouk served for 24 years in Hezbollah and was “working in Iraq as a surrogate for the Iranian Quds Force,” Bergner said.
The general also said that Dakdouk was a liaison between the Iranians and a breakaway Shiite group led by Qais al-Kazaali, a former spokesman for cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Bergner said al-Kazaali’s group carried out the January attack against a provincial government building in Karbala and that the Iranians assisted in preparations. Al-Khazaali and his brother Ali al-Khazaali were captured with Dakdouk.
Dakdouk told U.S. interrogators that the Karbala attackers “could not have conducted this complex operation without the support and direction of the Quds force,” Bergner said.
Documents captured with al-Khazaali showed that the Quds Force had developed detailed information on the U.S. position at the government building, “regarding our soldiers’ activities, shift changes and defenses, and this information was shared with the attackers,” Bergner said.
The Karbala attack was one of the boldest and most sophisticated against U.S. forces in four years of fighting in Iraq, and U.S. officials at the time suggested Iran may have had a role in it.
In the assault, up to a dozen gunmen posed as an American security team, with U.S. military combat fatigues, allowing them to pass checkpoints into the government compound, where they launched the attack. One U.S. soldier was killed in the initial assault, and the militants abducted four others who were later found shot to death.