Iranian escalation in terrorist prison break?

Is Iran escalating its involvement in Iraq? A radical change in tactics by masked rebels in the Sunni triangle may signal more highly organized "special ops" type battles in the Iraqi insurgency, possibly aided by Iran's El Qods Brigade. That unit was organized by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now head of the Iranian regime. During the Iran—Iraq war it specialized in behind—enemy—lines assaults on Saddam's army, in exactly the region that saw today's attack.

At the same time, Iranian Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei called on the United States to leave Iraq.

Tactically, the prison assault, about 100 miles from the Iranian border, has the appearance of a special ops attack. According to ABC news,

"About 100 masked gunmen stormed a prison near the Iranian border Tuesday, cutting phone wires, freeing all the inmates and leaving behind a scene of devastation and carnage 20 dead policemen, burned—out cars and a smoldering jailhouse.

In all, 33 prisoners were freed, including 18 insurgents who were detained Sunday during raids by security forces in the nearby villages of Sansal and Arab, police said. It was the capture of those insurgents that apparently prompted Tuesday's attack. The 15 other inmates were a mix of suspected insurgents and common criminals.

In an Internet posting Tuesday night, the military wing of the Mujaheddin Shura Council, a militant Sunni Muslim insurgent group, purportedly claimed it carried out the operation. The posting said the group killed "40 policemen, liberated 33 prisoners and captured weapons."

While a Sunni militia took credit for the attack, that would be expected to hide Iranian involvement. The Iranians did not take credit for supplying armor—killing shaped—charged IEDs to the mujahedeen several months ago.

The number, the use of surprise, disruption of communications, and overall success of the assault all suggest a higher level of training and command than is normally shown by the Sunni insurgents. The prison attack was stealthy, so that US air power could not be brought to bear. That is only possible if the enemy had carefully studied US strengths and weaknesses, and taken tactical advantage of them. The immediate web publication of the story to extract maximum propaganda value is also consistent with a highyly coordinated operation, as is the coincidence in time with Khamenei's warning to the United States.

Tehran has been threatening the Europeans very directly at the United Nations. They have explicitly mentioned cutting oil supplies, and hinted at sponsoring terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States.
That context makes it likely ——— though not certain ——— that the prison  assault  is different from the stand—off car bombings that have been the typical style of attack.  It may signal a radical change of tactics, one that requires a great deal of training, command and coordination. It is significant that the attack freed imprisoned mujahedeen who were captured by US forces working with the Iraqi Army. It therefore reversed the gains of  last week's  Operation Swarmer, and demonstrated the limits of current US—Iraqi control in the border region with Iran.

The Tehran regime is sending out threatening signals in response to international pressure to stand down its nuke program. This could be another one. If so, we may be seeing more highly coordinated attacks like this in the future.

James Lewis   3 22 06

Is Iran escalating its involvement in Iraq? A radical change in tactics by masked rebels in the Sunni triangle may signal more highly organized "special ops" type battles in the Iraqi insurgency, possibly aided by Iran's El Qods Brigade. That unit was organized by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now head of the Iranian regime. During the Iran—Iraq war it specialized in behind—enemy—lines assaults on Saddam's army, in exactly the region that saw today's attack.

At the same time, Iranian Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei called on the United States to leave Iraq.

Tactically, the prison assault, about 100 miles from the Iranian border, has the appearance of a special ops attack. According to ABC news,

"About 100 masked gunmen stormed a prison near the Iranian border Tuesday, cutting phone wires, freeing all the inmates and leaving behind a scene of devastation and carnage 20 dead policemen, burned—out cars and a smoldering jailhouse.

In all, 33 prisoners were freed, including 18 insurgents who were detained Sunday during raids by security forces in the nearby villages of Sansal and Arab, police said. It was the capture of those insurgents that apparently prompted Tuesday's attack. The 15 other inmates were a mix of suspected insurgents and common criminals.

In an Internet posting Tuesday night, the military wing of the Mujaheddin Shura Council, a militant Sunni Muslim insurgent group, purportedly claimed it carried out the operation. The posting said the group killed "40 policemen, liberated 33 prisoners and captured weapons."

While a Sunni militia took credit for the attack, that would be expected to hide Iranian involvement. The Iranians did not take credit for supplying armor—killing shaped—charged IEDs to the mujahedeen several months ago.

The number, the use of surprise, disruption of communications, and overall success of the assault all suggest a higher level of training and command than is normally shown by the Sunni insurgents. The prison attack was stealthy, so that US air power could not be brought to bear. That is only possible if the enemy had carefully studied US strengths and weaknesses, and taken tactical advantage of them. The immediate web publication of the story to extract maximum propaganda value is also consistent with a highyly coordinated operation, as is the coincidence in time with Khamenei's warning to the United States.

Tehran has been threatening the Europeans very directly at the United Nations. They have explicitly mentioned cutting oil supplies, and hinted at sponsoring terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States.
That context makes it likely ——— though not certain ——— that the prison  assault  is different from the stand—off car bombings that have been the typical style of attack.  It may signal a radical change of tactics, one that requires a great deal of training, command and coordination. It is significant that the attack freed imprisoned mujahedeen who were captured by US forces working with the Iraqi Army. It therefore reversed the gains of  last week's  Operation Swarmer, and demonstrated the limits of current US—Iraqi control in the border region with Iran.

The Tehran regime is sending out threatening signals in response to international pressure to stand down its nuke program. This could be another one. If so, we may be seeing more highly coordinated attacks like this in the future.

James Lewis   3 22 06