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The Bloody History of the Irbil Five

John on July 13, 2009 at 9:33 pm

To understand the significance of the Irbil five, you have to understand what led up to their capture and what followed it. Recall that violence was at its height in late 2006 and early 2007. The NY Times reports that from October to December of 2006 EFP roadside bombs produced in Iran account for 30% of all allied deaths in Iraq. (This number excludes Anbar province where the bombs are not found).

On December 20, 2006 Bush sends a second carrier group to the Gulf. The following day, US forces raid the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a Shia leader, and arrest two senior members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force: Col. Abu Amad Davari and Brig. Gen. Amir Mohsen Shirazi (other reports call him Moshin Chizari or simply Chizari). Chizari is the #3 commander of the Revolutionary Guard. The Washington Post describes what was found on the men:

[D]etailed weapons lists, documents pertaining to shipments of weapons into Iraq, organizational charts, telephone records and maps, among other sensitive intelligence information. Officials were particularly concerned by the fact that the Iranians had information about importing modern, specially shaped explosive charges into Iraq, weapons that have been used in roadside bombs to target U.S. military armored vehicles.

On January 10, 2007, President Bush addresses the nation and says this about the role of Iran in Iraq:

Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

The following day, January 11, 2007, US forces raided a consular office in Irbil, Iraq. They captured six Iranians:

  • Hassan Abbassi, a strategist “close to” President Ahmedinejad and the only individual with any diplomatic credentials.
  • Mohammad Jaafari, an aid to National Security advisor Ali Larijani
  • Jalal Sharifi, a professional intelligence officer.
  • Brig. Gen. Mohammad Djafari Sahraroudi, a Kurdish affairs expert wanted by Interpol
  • Mojhadi and…
  • Safderi, two Revolutionary Guard officers

Hassan was released. The remaining five were held until last week when Barack Obama released them. But there’s more to the story.

On January 20, 2007, just nine days after the Irbil five were captured, 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. They kidnap five US soldiers. All five are later killed. Within a week, investigators have a suspect “this raid appears to have been directed and executed by the Qods Force branch of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps.”

Incredibly, just 11 days after the Karbala raid, the NY Times runs an editorial insisting that President Bush stop trying to “bully” Iran. Twelve days later the Telegraph reports that 100 50 caliber sniper rifles, originally sold to Iran, have turned up in Iraq. The rifles cost $20K each.

On March 23, the Iranian navy kidnaps 5 British sailors off the coast of Iraq. The following day the Jerusalem Post reports that a decision to kidnap coalition soldiers had been made nearly a week earlier. The mullahs are still very worried about the capture of the Irbil five. The regime fears they may leak damaging information about Iran’s operations in Iraq.

So in essence, both America and Britain had hostages taken by Iran in response to the capture of the Irbil five. The five Americans taken at Karbalah were murdered. The British hostages, after weeks of captivity, were released. This is the price allied forces paid for the Irbil raid.

Despite this, despite the fact that their only reason for being in Iraq was to coordinate attacks on US soldiers, despite the faux election last month, despite the murder and beating of protesters in the streets that followed, despite the fact that as recently as last week General Odierno indicated Iran was still active in Iraq — despite all of this President Obama handed these five men back to Iran. I guess this is what “no preconditions” looks like in practice.

Related: Andrew McCarthy has an excellent piece on the release of the Irbil 5 over at NRO.

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Category: Foreign Affairs |

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