Big news: U.S. arrests leader of breakaway Mahdi Army faction for Karbala raid

posted at 6:54 pm on March 22, 2007 by Allahpundit

The bombshells keep bursting. Read this if you haven’t yet before you go any further, though; it’s important and you’ll need it as background.

Now then. Bonanza:

“Over the past several days, coalition forces in Basra and Hilla captured Qais Khazali, his brother Laith Khazali and several other members of the Khazali network,” the U.S. military said in a statement Thursday.

The military said the network is “directly connected” to the killings in Karbala, a Shiite city south of Baghdad…

Khazali has not been seen in public since late 2004, the AP reported.

U.S. officials have been tight-lipped about the arrests. The military has not disclosed evidence linking the Khazali network to the Karbala attack, but one official called it “significant.”

I’d say so — according to the Blotter, the evidence includes the ID cards of the U.S. troops kidnapped and murdered in the raid.

The Karbala raid is suspected of having been an Iranian operation, possibly conducted in retaliation for the seizure of five of their “diplomats” by the U.S. in Irbil a few weeks prior. Supposedly the five were members of the Quds Force, the elite wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard who are in Iraq training and supplying Shiite militias. The raid was unusual in its professionalism: the attackers spoke English, wore U.S. uniforms, and drove American-style SUVs, all of which was thought to be above Sadr’s pay grade but certainly not Iran’s. All of which was known before — except for the possible involvement of Khalazi, who was identified yesterday by the AP as the leader of the Iranian-trained “rogue” splinter group of Mahdi Army fighters. If the AP story’s true, his role in the Karbala raid is further evidence of Iran’s guilt; conversely, if Iran’s role in the Karbala raid is assumed, then the AP story about Khalazi and the rogue JAM is more credible. Mutually reinforcing, neat and tidy. Perhaps too much so, but more on that in a bit; we have another bombshell to blow first. From the Blotter:

The coalition also found evidence linking the men to Iran and to an arms smuggling operation that included the high impact Explosively Formed Projectiles, or EFPs, according to U.S. officials.

EFPs are those super-destructive IEDs identified last month by the Bush administration as one of the biggest killers of U.S. troops in Iraq. Bush claims they’re being manufactured in Iran and supplied to the militias by the Quds Force, probably with but possibly without the knowledge of Iran’s leaders. Now the Blotter’s putting them in Khazali’s hands, which suggests that this guy and his network are a linchpin of Shiite jihad in Iraq, which in turn would mean this is a very, very big pinch. Is thatt plausible, though? Well, the AP article yesterday quoted two Mahdi Army commanders saying that Iran’s been recruiting from their ranks since 2005. The CNN article linked above notes that Khalazi’s absence has been conspicuous since 2004. So yeah, the timetable fits — he might have been across the border learning Hezbollah-type tactics for the past two years and then came home to do Iran’s dirty work.

It all fits so nicely and importantly that it seems too good to be true … which is why it probably is. Not the part about him being involved with Iran, but this whole story about him being the leader of some “breakaway” Mahdi Army faction. The military said today that the arrests were made over the past three days; coincidentally, the big AP scoop about his role as leader of the “rogue” JAM appeared just last night without mentioning anything about an arrest. That’s an amazing coincidence to have happen to a guy who’s been out of the news otherwise for three years, don’t you think? I’m thinking he’s not the leader of any “rogue” faction at all. He’s probably a fully credentialed Mahdi Army commander in good standing, but when word got out about the first arrests on Monday night, the leadership realized the jig was up and that they’d soon have to explain why one of their top guys had been caught with EFPs and dead Americans’ identification. So they went to the AP with this “rogue faction” cover story, which gives the rest of them plausible deniability and lets the more conciliatory members continue to negotiate with the U.S. Like I said last night, it’s the Roggio theory in reverse.

Either that or it’s all a big lie, we planted the evidence on Khalazi, he has nothing to do with Karbala, etc etc etc.

I don’t think this is a coincidence either:

U.S. forces in Iraq have freed a top aide to rebel Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr after holding him for more than two years…

U.S.-Iraq coalition leaders said in a statement that they believed Shibani “could play a potentially important role in helping to moderate extremism and foster reconciliation in Iraq,” the BBC reported.

Shibani, a leader in Sadr’s Mehdi Army, has been held since his capture two years ago in the mainly Shiite town of Najaf. The U.S. military described him at that time as a major security threat.

They pinched Khalazi so they had to make a goodwill gesture and help Sadr save face by letting another guy go. That’s Shibani. Presumably the Iranians have no influence over him (yet) since he’s been in jail for so long.

One last tidbit, again from the Blotter. It’s not just Iran that’s under the gun today:

U.S. military also disclosed today that the leaders and members of the “Rusafa” car bomb network responsible for “some of the horrific bombings in eastern Baghdad in recent weeks” had also been arrested.

And it was also revealed that a “Saddam Fedayeen leader involved in setting up training camps in Syria for Iraqi and foreign fighters” was also arrested in Mosul. Officials declined to name the individual or describe the location of the camps in Syria…

Today’s arrest was the first official indication … that terrorist training camps were operating in Syria.

A lot of damning information is suddenly coming out. I wonder what’s up.

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The defectors(s) paying off?

TheBigOldDog on March 22, 2007 at 7:01 PM

Hmmm Russians leaving nuke site, now we have evidence of Iran killing US soldiers. I have a feeling a certain nuke site is not going to be around long.

djohn669 on March 22, 2007 at 7:01 PM

I love it when evil masterminds get captured.

So, Who’s up for laying landmines along the Iraq-Iran Border?

Jones Zemkophill on March 22, 2007 at 7:06 PM

Most astonishing to me is how the French are tossing down with us. That’s the bombshell.

laelaps on March 22, 2007 at 7:07 PM

Allah, the dems must HATE you for reporting the truth to us all. That was very well thought out.

I don’t think the president would spring a important development on the dem leadership. He’d pull them into the loop first. Maybe watching them will give a clue as to what is going on? Pelosi is talking like she is ready to pass a clean bill if this current one fails? Is that an indication that she is getting her ducks in a row?

csdeven on March 22, 2007 at 7:08 PM

Good news is good news even if it is not on the MSM. I’ll take it where/when ever.

tormod on March 22, 2007 at 7:08 PM

If the Russians and the French are throwing in, then there has to be new info and that has to have come from the defector(s).

TheBigOldDog on March 22, 2007 at 7:09 PM

These Khalazi boys better be in for more then waterboarding.
I don’t care if they make them sisters.

As for the French……weird. What the hell kind of ROE could they possibly have in the straits?

Limerick on March 22, 2007 at 7:12 PM

It’s looking like a showdown.

Maybe the opinion in the world has changed. The effiminate American image no longer rests sweetly in the breasts of jihadi’s. I gues we ARE good for our word. A strong will can sitffen the spines around you. I really hope Spain comes back to the fight, leaving Iraq certainly hasn’t helped them.

Fred Thompson in ’08 and jihadi’s know they’ll spend the next four years in hiding.

Theworldisnotenough on March 22, 2007 at 7:13 PM

Could the de Gaulle be a stunt for the French elections? Rah Rah wave the tri-colors?

Limerick on March 22, 2007 at 7:16 PM

I’m beginning to suspect the dems are putting out the word to support this war because its going well.

Vincenzo on March 22, 2007 at 7:38 PM

Most excellent news. Just was reading about this on the Blotter and then see you have much more. Great post, better news.

JammieWearingFool on March 22, 2007 at 7:44 PM

I know it’s too soon, but…. is it time for the Democrats to start mixing the Koolaid?

gmaninatl on March 22, 2007 at 7:45 PM

I can’t wait to hear this on the news tonite … oh wait, this is positive news.

All in all this seems to shaping up. Thanks to our men and women in Iraq and everywhere else.

darwin on March 22, 2007 at 7:51 PM

First they ought to waterboard the guy, then shoot him after they drain him dry.

As for Syria and Iran — when does the bombing begin?

georgej on March 22, 2007 at 7:56 PM

Of coiurse this would put pressure on the other nations to impose sanctions on Iran. China and Russia might still want the Ayatollah’s there.

The key I think is that this really kills mookies chances of rebuilding the Mahdi army. It seems like the US is doing a fairly good job of choping them into peices. And all without major confrontations.

William Amos on March 22, 2007 at 8:04 PM

Something is definitely afoot, it seems.

Top notch reportage, AP.

hillbillyjim on March 22, 2007 at 8:06 PM

Is it possible that the Khazali brothers could roll over on Sadr? Or is that just crazy talk?

liberrocky on March 22, 2007 at 8:13 PM

I agree, something is a foot. Something big. It’s like the world’s most important chess match is unfolding in front of our eyes. And our guys are winning.

As for the french, well, at least they have shown up for the fight.

But our guys are the best. The Very Best! Methodically tearing the terror network apart, one evil doer at a time. And where else but Hot Air could one learn about all this? Oh yeah, there are articles here and there but who can put it all together better than Allahpundit? No one. Way to go Hot Air.

Zorro on March 22, 2007 at 8:19 PM

I look for the Dem’s in Congress to scale up their attacks on the White House and their so-called investigations.

They simply can’t stand the notion of “Bush’s War.” having any measure of success.

Time will tell.

hillbillyjim on March 22, 2007 at 8:37 PM

They will do anything in their power to distract national attention away from anything that resembles good news from the Middle-East.

hillbillyjim on March 22, 2007 at 8:41 PM

are we sure it is them? I think it is a cover by the leftist press for Sadr. Once all the people around him start getting arrested…they are part of fracture groups or are somehow NOT connected. I don’t trust it. They are caugh fine…but I don’t think it is being reported correctly.

I think he is turning them in and he is getting away with it.

tomas on March 22, 2007 at 9:01 PM

I look for the Dem’s in Congress to scale up their attacks on the White House and their so-called investigations.

They simply can’t stand the notion of “Bush’s War.” having any measure of success.

Yup. They are going to be limited to diversions. If the French are involved they can’t condemn it.

B Moe on March 22, 2007 at 9:39 PM

Surge working, democrat party in seeming disarray, Republicans standing up in the House, Bush/Gonzalez finally standing firm…this isn’t an early April fool’s joke is it?!?!

Bless our troops!

SouthernGent on March 22, 2007 at 9:52 PM

The Americans’ great care, expense, and temporizing seems to continue to favor muslim growth, confidence, and expansion. I’m still waiting for a Western government or anyone with a lot of money and a big Rolodex, really, to arrange a deadly spectacle that leaves muslims sick with the certainty they’ve been deceived about Allah’s might and favor. When I read that someone has done something to precipitate a great spiritual crisis within Islam, I’ll begin to think the infidels may have figured out how to save themselves.

Kralizec on March 22, 2007 at 9:55 PM

When are we going to capture and torture Sadr?

Tim Burton on March 22, 2007 at 10:12 PM

Hang ’em High and make my day. Love me some Clint Eastwood movies.

thedecider on March 22, 2007 at 10:33 PM

When are we going to capture and torture Sadr?

Tim Burton on March 22, 2007 at 10:12 PM

What is that?

major john on March 22, 2007 at 10:39 PM

Am I the only one who looks at that pic of al-Sadr and sees Cartman dressed as the IRS guy trying to get his ten bucks back in ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die’?

…Anyway, hopefully we can pull good intel from out raids.

Bad Candy on March 22, 2007 at 11:01 PM

Cap’n Crunch….you can tell by the color.

Limerick on March 23, 2007 at 12:02 AM

The French story must really be confusing for the Dems here in the U.S. They look up to the French. It’s like some strange bizarro world. What are the Dems to do?

Seriously, what are the French doing? I can’t imagine this will get positive press in France. Working militarily alongside the warmongering Americans?

Rick on March 23, 2007 at 12:25 AM

Captain Louis Renault: “Round up the usual suspects

Rick: Cue it up: “Play Sam, Play, Play it again, if it was good enough for her, it is good enough for me, Play …” As Time Goes By”

PinkyBigglesworth on March 23, 2007 at 12:35 AM

Well since the de Gaulle is there there are only three choices: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran. Best guess on my part would be that order.

Limerick on March 23, 2007 at 12:41 AM,14632,Soldiertech_M1028,,00.html

Maybe this is why Sadr skeedattled. I just talked to a man who sent 24 down range. He said they were the best thing since toilet paper. Welcome back to Picketts charge.

Limerick on March 23, 2007 at 1:14 AM

Limerick on March 23, 2007 at 1:14 AM


Followed by ……… “ouch”!

Welcome to the “Surge”!

PinkyBigglesworth on March 23, 2007 at 2:16 AM

Is it just me or could al-Sadr use a couple of cases of Orbit gum? Oh … and about six months of dental work.

darwin on March 23, 2007 at 8:43 AM

Nice teeth Sadr. Gotta love Islamofacist dental hygiene!

driller on March 23, 2007 at 12:19 PM

Most of the violence against UK forces in Basra is being engineered by Iranian elements, a British Army colonel based in the southern Iraqi city says

‘Iran link’ to violence in Basra

TheBigOldDog on March 23, 2007 at 12:44 PM

Are there any dentists in Iraq?

Wade on March 23, 2007 at 3:22 PM

All the good dentists in Iraq are wearing US BDU’s. I’m sure if al-Sadr would make an appointment, they would be happy to “treat” him.

driller on March 23, 2007 at 5:30 PM

I assume that after today’s vote all the Democrats would prefer al-Sadr’s smile to those just below ( Michelle, Valarie and Emma). Or maybe the women won’t mind under their burka, but you can still smell their perio breath through that mesh screen.

driller on March 23, 2007 at 5:42 PM