United States District Court, District of Columbia
RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case arises from the abductions and murders of four U.S.
soldiers serving in Iraq. In January 2007, First Lieutenant
Jacob Fritz, Specialist Johnathan Bryan Chism, and Private
First Class Shawn Falter were abducted from the Provincial
Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, Iraq and, shortly
thereafter, murdered by their captors. In October 2006, Staff
Sergeant Ahmed Al-Taie was abducted while in Baghdad, held
hostage, and, ultimately, murdered. Plaintiffs, the estates
and family members of the four direct victims, contend that
"[t]hese two separate incidents of kidnapping and murder
are linked" because "both were planned and executed
mere months apart" by the same terrorist organization:
Asaib Ahl al-Haq ("AAH"), a network of Iraqi Shia
militias. Dkt. 38 at 1. Significantly, plaintiffs assert that
AAH benefited from and relied on "training, funding,
direction, and support" from Iran, which Iran provided
as part of a "coordinated scheme ... to target U.S.
service-members in Iraq." Id. Without Iranian
aid, Plaintiffs continue, AAH could not have carried out the
Karbala attack nor evaded the U.S. military's search for
Staff Sergeant Al-Taie.
all except one of whom are U.S. nationals, bring this action
against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps (collectively, "Iran"),
and five "John Doe" defendants. To establish
subject matter jurisdiction, they invoke the state-sponsored
terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
("FSIA"). 28 U.S.C. § 1605A(a). They rely on
another provision in the statute, § 1605A(c), to supply
a federal cause of action, alleging that Iran provided
"material support" to AAH, which in turn engaged in
acts of extrajudicial killing, hostage taking, and torture.
Id. § 1605A(c). Plaintiffs also assert state
common law claims for wrongful death, battery, assault, false
imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress
including solatium, survival damages, conspiracy, and aiding
and abetting. Iran, in the form of either the Islamic
Republic of Iran or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
("IRGC"), has not answered or otherwise appeared in
this action and, at Plaintiffs' request, the clerk of the
court has entered a default as to both Defendants. Dkt. 23;
Dkt. 39. The John Doe defendants have not been served, and
thus the Court's decision does not apply to those
have moved for a default judgment against the Islamic
Republic of Iran and the IRGC, Dkt. 64, and for the
appointment of a special master to conduct damages
proceedings, Dkt. 49. As explained below, the U.S. national
plaintiffs have established their right to relief under 28
U.S.C. § 1605A. Plaintiffs concede, however, that
because plaintiff Bashar Al-Taie is not a U.S. national, he
is not entitled to relief under 28 U.S.C. § 1605A(c).
The Court concludes, moreover, that Bashar Al-Taie has
failed, at least at this stage of the litigation, to
establish that he is entitled to relief based on his state
law claims. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' motion for the entry
of a default judgment against the Islamic Republic of Iran
and the IRGC will be GRANTED as to the U.S.
national plaintiffs and DENIED without
prejudice as to Bashar Al-Taie. See 28 U.S.C. §
1608(e). Having found that the U.S. national plaintiffs have
established Defendants' liability to the satisfaction of
the Court, the Court will GRANT
Plaintiffs' motion for the appointment of a special
master as to the U.S. national plaintiffs,
DENY the motion without prejudice as to
Bashar Al-Taie, and APPOINT a special master
to hear the damage claims of the U.S. national plaintiffs and
to report to the Court regarding the appropriate award.
the estates of the four U.S. soldiers and twenty-two of their
family members, bring this action for damages against the
Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard
Corps, and five unidentified "senior Iranian government
officials and members of the IRGC" who, Plaintiffs
allege, "planned, supported, and approved the
abduction[s] and murder[s]" of Fritz, Chism, Falter, and
Al-Taie. Dkt. 9 at 6-10, 12 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 11-31,
37). They effected service on the Islamic Republic of Iran
and the IRGC in January 2017 and December 2017, respectively,
and neither Defendant has answered, filed a motion under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12, or otherwise appeared.
See Dkt. 21; Dkt. 37. Accordingly, at
Plaintiffs' request, the clerk of the court declared the
Islamic Republic of Iran in default on August 14, 2017, Dkt.
23, and declared the IRGC in default on March 27, 2018, Dkt.
now seek entry of a default judgment with respect to
liability against both Defendants pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 55. Dkt. 64. Even in a garden variety case,
the entry of a default judgment is not automatic and requires
the exercise of sound discretion. See Mwani v. bin
Laden, 417 F.3d 1, 6 (D.C. Cir. 2005); Sanchez v.
Devashish Hospitality, LLC, 322 F.R.D. 32, 36 (D.D.C.
2017); Boland v. Yoccabel Const. Co., Inc., 293
F.R.D. 13, 17 (D.D.C. 2013) (citing Jackson v.
Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980)). Most
notably, the Court must-at a minimum-satisfy itself that it
has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims and personal
jurisdiction over the defendants. See Jerez v. Republic
of Cuba, 775 F.3d 419, 422 (D.C. Cir. 2014) ("A
default judgment rendered in excess of a court's
jurisdiction is void."); Mwcmi, 417 F.3d at 6
(explaining that the Court must "satisfy itself that it
has personal jurisdiction before entering judgment against an
cases brought against a foreign state, however, the
Court's discretion to enter a default judgment is more
narrowly circumscribed. By statute, no federal or state court
may enter a default judgment against a foreign state or
instrumentality "unless the claimant establishes his
claim or right to relief by evidence satisfactory to the
court." 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e). This is the same
standard that applies to default judgments against the United
States under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(d). See
Owens v. Republic of Sudan, 864 F.3d 751, 785 (D.C. Cir.
2017); Hill v. Republic of Iraq, 328 F.3d 680, 683
(D.C. Cir. 2003). In a case, such as this, alleging that a
foreign state materially supported acts of terrorism, the
district court must determine "how much and what kinds
of evidence the plaintiff must provide." Han Kim v.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 774 F.3d
1044, 1047 (D.C. Cir. 2014). But the Court must do so in
light of Congress's purpose in enacting § 16O5A-that
is, to "compensate the victims of terrorism [so as to]
punish foreign states who have committed or sponsored such
acts and [to] deter them from doing so in the future,"
id. at 1048 (citation omitted)-and the difficulty in
obtaining "firsthand evidence and eyewitness testimony .
. . from an absent and likely hostile sovereign,"
Owens, 864 F.3d at 785. This means that, to obtain a
default judgment against Iran, plaintiffs must (1) carry
their burden of producing evidence sufficient to show that
their claims fall within the state-sponsored terrorism
exception to the FSIA, see 28 U.S.C. §
1605A(a); Owens, 864 F.3d at 784; (2) establish that
defendants were served in accordance with the FSIA,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a); and (3) establish
their right to relief under federal, see 28 U.S.C.
§ 1605A(c), or state law, Owens, 864 F.3d at
809 ("the pass-through approach remains viable"),
by offering evidence "satisfactory to the court,"
28 U.S.C. § 1608(e).
this backdrop, the Court held a four-day hearing on
liability, Dkt. 51 (Transcript of Evidentiary Hearing, Apr.
10, 2018); Dkt. 52 (Transcript of Evidentiary Hearing, Apr.
11, 2018); Dkt. 53 (Transcript of Evidentiary Hearing, Apr.
12, 2018); Dkt. 54 (Transcript of Evidentiary Hearing, Apr.
13, 2018), and received additional evidentiary submissions,
Dkt. 55, as well as proposed findings of fact and conclusions
of law from plaintiffs, Dkt. 59-1. In the course of the
hearing, the Court applied the Federal Rules of Evidence, but
did so on the understanding that, first, it has "the
authority-indeed, ... the obligation-to 'adjust
[evidentiary requirements] to . . . differing situations,
'" Han Kim, 774 F.3d at 1048 (quoting
Bundy v. Jackson, 641 F.2d 934, 951 (D.C. Cir.
1981)) (modifications in Han Kim), and, second, that
the Court need not "step into the shoes of the
defaulting party and pursue every possible evidentiary
challenge," Owens, 864 F.3d at 785. Recognizing
that expert testimony is not only entirely proper, but often
sufficient, id. at 788, and even indispensable in
"terrorism cases . .. because firsthand evidence of
terrorist activities is difficult, if not impossible to
obtain," id. at 787, the Court also considered
the extensive expert testimony the Plaintiffs presented.
Whether through expert testimony or other competent evidence,
the Court must ultimately determine whether the Plaintiffs
have "substantiate[d] [the] essential element[s] of
jurisdiction" with admissible evidence. Id. at
Court now makes the following findings of fact and
conclusions of law.
FINDINGS OF FACT
evidentiary presentation included testimony from thirteen
witnesses (including experts) and dozens of exhibits
(including several government reports). Along with other
witnesses, the Court heard from Colonel William Rabena
(ret.), the U.S. Army officer appointed to investigate the
2007 Karbala attack; General George Casey (ret.), the
Commander of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq at the time of
the Karbala attack and of the abduction of Staff Sergeant
Al-Taie; Dr. Matthew Levitt, an expert on Hezbollah and
Iran's support for terrorist proxies, including AAH; Dr.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, an expert on AAH and Iranian support
for terrorism in Iraq; Dr. Craig Mallak, a forensic
pathologist who previously served as the U.S. Armed Forces
Medical Examiner; XXXXX;
and representatives from each of the four families of the
on the testimony of these witnesses, and almost one hundred
trial exhibits, the Court finds as follows: First, Iran
provided AAH with significant support-in the form of
training, supplies, intelligence, and funding-as part of its
larger strategy to destabilize Iraq and drive the United
States from the Middle East using Iraqi Shia militias as
proxies. Second, AAH carried out the Karbala attack, took
Fritz, Chism, and Falter hostage, and brutally beat and
murdered them. Third, AAH held Al-Taie hostage, brutally beat
and murdered him. Finally, AAH could not have committed any
of these acts without Iran's support.
Iran's Provision of Support to Asaib Ahl al-Haq
Overview of Iran's Proxy Strategy
after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the Islamic Republic of
Iran initiated a campaign to export the principles of the
Iranian Revolution to areas with large communities of Shia
Muslims by, among other things, using local groups as
proxies. Dkt. 52 at 192 (Levitt). The Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps-or IRGC-played a critical role in
this effort. Id. at 194 (Levitt). The IRGC is a
military institution that operates separately from the
ordinary Iranian military; instead of defending Iran's
borders, the IRGC is "charged with preserving the ideals
of the Islamic Republic," both in Iran and elsewhere.
Ex. 66 at 25; see Dkt. 52 at 193-94 (Levitt).
"special branch" of the IRGC known as the Quds
Force is "tasked with extending" the IRGC's
"mission beyond Iran's borders." Ex. 66 at 25;
Dkt. 52 at 194 (Levitt). The commander of the Quds Force,
General Qasem Soleimani, reports directly to Iran's
Supreme Leader, Ali Khomeini. Ex. 66 at 25. Among other
responsibilities, the Quds Force is charged with
"cultivating and supporting pro-Iran proxies" in
foreign countries and coordinating with these militant groups
to conduct terrorist attacks. Id.; see also Dkt. 52
at 194 (Levitt). According to the U.S. Department of the
Treasury, the Quds Force has supported militant groups
including the Taliban, Hamas, and-most relevant here-the
Lebanese Hezbollah ("Hezbollah") and Iraqi Shia
militant groups. Ex. 67 at 2. By using these groups as
proxies, Iran has sought to achieve its goals in other
regions while simultaneously denying responsibility for the
actions of its proxies. Ex. 65 at 19; Ex. 66 at 22, 26; Ex.
15 at 4. The State Department has designated
Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, see U.S.
Dep't of State, State Sponsors of Terrorism
(last visited August 2, 2018),  and the Treasury
Department has designated the IRGC's Quds Force as an
entity providing support for terrorism, Ex. 67 at 2.
order to fully understand AAH's role in the Karbala
attacks, it is necessary to understand Iran's prior
conduct in supporting proxy organizations and the role those
organizations played in AAH's development. Accordingly,
the Court will outline how Iran turned Hezbollah into an
Iranian proxy before describing the similar approach that
Iran took with Iraqi Shia militias, including AAH.
development into an Iranian proxy in Lebanon is relevant to
this case in two respects. First, it serves as an example of
how Iran cultivates militant organizations in other countries
and employs them as surrogates-a model that Iran then applied
to Iraqi Shia militias. See Dkt. 52 at 216 (Levitt).
Second, Hezbollah served as a liaison between Iran and AAH
and helped Iran establish a proxy relationship with AAH.
See infra Part II.A.3.b. Iran's relationship
with Hezbollah, accordingly, is part of the story of
AAH's emergence as an Iranian proxy.
was founded in the early 1980s as a loose network of Shia
militias that sought to transform Lebanon into an Islamic
republic. Ex. 65 at 6-8. Iran played a central role in
Hezbollah's development and growth. Id. at 8.
Notably, shortly after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982,
"approximately 1, 500 [IRGC] advisors set up a base in
[Lebanon] with the goal of exporting the Islamic revolution
to the Arab world," and, according to Nairn Qassem,
Hezbollah's deputy Secretary General, the
organization's "members were required to attend
these camps and learn how to confront the enemy."
Id. By 1985, Hezbollah's "ideological
platform" identified "the Iranian regime as the
vanguard and new nucleus of the leading Islamic State in the
world" and declared: "We abide by the orders of one
single wise and just leadership, represented by 'Waliyat
el Faqih' [rule of jurisprudent] and personified by
Khomeini." Id. (alteration in original). In the
expert opinion of Dr. Levitt, "Hezbollah has been
Iran's proxy ever since, and it is estimated that,"
today, "Iran provides Hezbollah with as much as $700
million-$l billion per year" id., in the form
of cash, training, intelligence, and weapons, see
Dkt. 52 at 204 (Levitt).
envisions itself as "the sharp end of the spear[, ]
going where Iran tells it to go in defense of. . . . Shia
[Muslims] around the world." Dkt. 52 at 202 (Levitt). Of
particular relevance here, Hezbollah has committed numerous
terrorist attacks on Americans at the behest of Iran.
Id. at 208-09. As Dr. Levitt explained at trial:
Starting in the early 1980s, even before Hezbollah officially
announced itself in 1985, Hezbollah at Iran's behest
carried out attacks on the U.S. Embassy in 1983 in Beirut;
the U.S. Marine barracks and French and Italian forces later
in l983[;] [a]nd then the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in
Later, at Iran's behest, Lebanese Hezbollah together with
Iraqi Shia militants . . . carried out a series of attacks
targeting U.S. and other western interests, including the
U.S. Embassy, in Kuwait in 1983, '84[, ] and '85. . .
In 1992, Iran and Hezbollah partnered in a very, very
detailed, intricate way[, ] using Iranian diplomats[, ] . . .
diplomatic institutions[, ] . . . ministries[, ] and front
companies and Hezbollah operatives to blow up the Israeli
embassy in Buenos Aires in 1994. And just a few weeks before
that, they nearly blew up the Israeli embassy in Bangkok,
Id. at 208-10. Iran and Hezbollah thus have a
"deep relationship that involves not just shared
interests, but [a] shared ideology and shared goals."
Id. at 202. Hezbollah "sees itself as an
important and capable tool available to Iran to not only
export the revolution, but to do what Iran asks of it
because," as a matter of the organization's core
ideology, "the [S]upreme [L]eader of Iran is the leader
of the Shia on planet earth." Id.
with numerous other decisions from this Court, the Court,
accordingly, finds that Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy.
See Friends of Mayanot Inst., Inc. v. Islamic Republic of
Iran, No. 16-1436, 2018 WL 2023498, at *2 (D.D.C. May 1,
2018); Peterson v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 264
F.Supp.2d 46, 53 (D.D.C. 2003); Stern v. Islamic Republic
of Iran, 271 F.Supp.2d 286, 292 (D.D.C. 2003).
Asaib Ahl al-Haq
the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran pursued "a
Lebanonization strategy" in Iraq to "co-opt
elements of the local Shia community and use them as ...
instruments of Iranian force." Ex. 65 at 18-19 (quoting
Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq in 2008 and former
U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon); see also Ex. 1 at 3-4
(press briefing by Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, the
spokesperson for coalition forces in Iraq, on July 2,
2007). Iran had several goals. Most
significantly, it sought to transform Iraq into a
"weakened, decentralized, and Shia-dominated"
state that would be "incapable of posing a threat to
Iran." Ex. 65 at 18 (quoting Lowell Jacoby, the director
of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2005). In addition,
Iran sought "to push the United States out of the Gulf
region," including out of Iraq. Id. "If
the United States were humiliated in Iraq and forced out of
the region in disgrace, the thinking went, the Americans
would be deterred from pursuing similar military
interventions in the [Gulf] region in the future."
Id; see also Ex. 66 at 22-23. But, while seeking
"to bloody coalition forces in Iraq," Iran was
"[c]areful not to provoke a direct confrontation with
U.S. and coalition forces" and thus "trained and
funded a variety of [Shia] militias and insurgent groups in
an effort to bog down coalition forces in an asymmetric war
of attrition." Ex. 65 at 18.
Iraqi Shia group, Jaysh al-Mahdi ("JAM"), was an
early beneficiary of Iranian support. Ex. 66 at 11. Formed by
Muqtada al-Sadr in 2003, JAM served as the military wing of
the Sadrist movement. Id. at 16. By 2004, JAM began
to fracture, and a number of "splinter
groups"-"a somewhat amorphous conglomeration of
Iranian-backed Shia militias" known as the Special
Groups-emerged. Id. at 11. These Special Groups
functioned independently from JAM. Id. at 17;
see Ex. 87b at 4 (interrogation report for Qais
Khazali) ("[I]t was . . . decided that the Special
Groups were necessary, but must be kept separate from
[Muqtada al-Sadr], and the legitimate JAM."); Ex. 1 at 8
(explaining that the Special Groups "may have . . . been
affiliated with [JAM] at one point" but that they had
"broken away from [JAM]" and were "operating
outside [al-Sadr's] control"). Like JAM, they were
"funded, trained and armed by" IRGC "Q[u]ds
Force operatives." Ex. 1 at 1. The Special Groups
"plan[ned] and execut[ed] .. . bombings, kidnappings,
extortion, sectarian murders, illegal arms trafficking[, ]
and other attacks" against Iraqi civilians, Iraqi
forces, and coalition forces. Id. at 2. Many of the
Special Groups eventually came to recognize the authority of
Qais Khazali, a former leader of the Sadrist movement and an
ally-turned-rival of Muqtada al-Sadr. Ex. 66 at 17-18;
see Dkt. 52 at 18-19 (Casey). Under Qais
Khazali's leadership, these groups became known as Asaib
Ahl al-Haq, or "AAH." Ex. 66 at 11.
played a central role in Qais Khazali's ascent and
AAH's formation. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali
Khomeini, "met with [Qais Khazali in Iran] and recruited
him to lead [AAH]," which was to "operate without
the knowledge or authorization of [Muqtada al-Sadr]."
Ex. 3 at 4 (declassified Department of Defense memorandum);
see also Ex. 66 at 20 (relying on same). Iran viewed
Qais Khazali's AAH as a complement to Muqtada
al-Sadr's JAM, Ex. 66 at 25, and thus "leapt at the
opportunity to diversify its investment in Iraqi militant
groups," id. at 35. Iran began to support AAH,
along with JAM, in 2004. Mat 25. By June 2006, Qais Khazali
"was in charge of [S]pecial [G]roups throughout
Iraq." Ex. 1 at 3; see Ex. 87b at 4 (March 2007
report stating that "[Qais Khazali] has been the sole
authorizing authority for operations performed by the
'Special Groups' in Iraq for the past nine
months."). As the "primary leader" of the
Special Groups, Qais Khazali "had significant links to
Iran." Ex. 3 at 4. He was familiar with "Iranian
surrogate networks operating in Iraq" and their
leadership structures and with "the facilitation and
movement of personnel and equipment across the Iran- Iraq
border." Id. at 2. He also met with Quds Force
officers "on multiple occasions." Id. Qais
Khazali's brother, Laith Khazali, "effectively"
served as "his deputy." Dkt. 52 at 222 (Levitt).
Iran's Provision of Funding Weapons, and
through the Quds Force, sought "[to] turn . . . Shia
militia extremists into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its
interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and
coalition forces in Iraq." Ex. 12 at 19 (2007 statement
of General David Petraeus, Commander of Multi-National
Force-Iraq); see also Ex. 2 at 8 (slides
accompanying Brigadier General Kevin Bergner's July 2,
2007 press briefing); Ex. 66 at 33. This effort to use
proxies in Iraq was part of a "deliberate policy to
inflict casualties on U.S. forces" that was
"approved by the [S]upreme [L]eader" of Iran and
was "executed very covertly ... by the Q[u]ds
[F]orce." Dkt. 52 at 14 (Casey). Iranian support-in the
form of funding, weapons, and training-was critical to the
success of the Special Groups, which otherwise "would
[have been] unable to conduct their terrorist attacks in
Iraq." Ex. 1 at 3; see also Ex. 14 at 8 (press
conference given by General David Petraeus, Commander,
Multinational Force-Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador
to Iraq on September 12, 2007). With respect to AAH in
particular, the Court credits Dr. Gartenstein-Ross's
expert opinion that "Iran provided significant material
support to AAH throughout [the relevant period which] made it
much more capable of carrying out" attacks on U.S.
service-members, and which "bolstered its overall
prominence within the [Shia] insurgency." Dkt. 53 at 41
(Gartenstein-Ross). As Dr. Gartenstein-Ross further
explained, Qais Khazali "had independent support from
Iran" and, "by around 2006, . . . AAH was clearly
the most powerful of what was called the Special
Groups." Id. at 55.
Special Groups were "funded, trained, armed, and
directed by Iran's Q[u]ds Force, with help from Lebanese
Hezbollah." Ex. 15 at 4 (General David Petraeus,
Commander, Multi- National Force-Iraq, Report to Congress on
the Situation in Iraq, Apr. 8-9, 2008). The U.S. Department
of Defense estimated that, in addition to training, the Quds
Force supplied the Special Groups with arms and funding
valued at between $750, 000 and $3 million a month. Ex. 1 at
3; see also Dkt. 52 at 226 (Levitt) (same); Ex. 87c
at 3 ("[T]he funding for the Special Groups comes from
... the [IRGC]."). In the words of Dr. Levitt, although
far less than the funding Iran provided to Hezbollah, the
funds provided to AAH were devoted "to carry[ing] out
operations," and "three-quarter[s] of a million
dollars to $3, 000, 000 a month ... can buy a lot of
damage." Dkt. 52 at 226 (Levitt).
Quds Force, in particular, provided "Iraqi militants
with Iranian-produced advanced rockets, sniper rifles,
automatic weapons, [and] mortars[, ] [which] have killed
thousands of [c]oalition and Iraqi [f]orces," as well as
"explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) that have a
higher lethality rate than other types of improvised
explosive devices (IEDs)... and are specially designed to
defeat armored vehicles used by [c]oalition [f]orces."
Ex. 10 at 2 (U.S. State Department's 2007 Country Report
on Terrorism); see also Ex. 14 at 8 (General
Petraeus, Commander of Multinational Force-Iraq, explaining
that it was "very, very clear" that Iran had
provided Shia militias with EFPs and rockets); Dkt. 52 at 16
(Casey) (describing evidence that Iran supplied Iraqi
militias with EFPs). Iran smuggled the weapons into Iraq
using supply routes called "ratlines," Dkt. 53 at
139-40 (Gartenstein-Ross), primarily for use by AAH, Dkt. 52
at 213 (Levitt); see also Id. at 24 (Casey)
(describing the locations of "supply network
lines"). On the Iraqi side, both Qais and Laith Khazali
were involved in smuggling arms and artillery from Iran into
Iraq. Ex. 3 at 5. Laith Khazali, for example, "was
instrumental in acquiring surface-to-air missiles (SAMs),
RPGs, bazookas and Stella missiles for [S]pecial
[G]roups." Id. at 4.
addition to providing financial support and weapons, Iran
(directly and indirectly) provided training for Iraqi
militants affiliated with AAH. At the behest of Iran,
Hezbollah created a unit "whose sole purpose was to
train Iraqi Shia militants," including AAH, to carry out
attacks in Iraq directed at U.S. troops and others. Dkt. 52
at 217, 223 (Levitt); see also Ex. 16 at 1. Of
particular relevance here, in 2005 or 2006, Hezbollah ordered
Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah commander, to work with
the Quds Force to "provide training and equipment"
to the Special Groups, Dkt. 52 at 223 (Levitt); see
also Ex. 1 at 2, and to "organize the [S]pecial
[G]roups in ways that mirrored how Hezbollah was organized in
Lebanon," Ex. 1 at 3. Daqduq, accordingly, traveled to
Iraq, "met with the commander and the deputy commander
of the . . . Q[u]ds Force special external operations,"
and "was directed by [the] Q[u]ds Force to make trips in
and out of Iraq and [to] report on the training and
operations of the Iraqi [S]pecial [G]roups."
Id. at 2. Daqduq ultimately made four such trips to
"monitor and report on the training and arming of
[S]pecial [G]roups in mortars and rockets, manufacturing and
employment of [IEDs], and kidnapping operations."
Hezbollah's assistance, Iran provided "training at
every level of the militant organizations that received
assistance, from foot soldier to leadership." Ex. 66 at
27; see also Ex. 12 at 25 (2007 statement of General
David Petraeus, Commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq)
(discussing the Hezbollah unit "created to support the
training, arming, funding, and, in some cases, direction of
the militia extremists by the Iranian Republican Guard
Corps' Quds Force"). The leaders of Shia militias,
for example, received "administrative, logistics,
financial, religious[, ] and small unit tactics leadership
training." Ex. 3 at 10 (interrogation report of Daqduq).
AAH members were also given training in engineering,
artillery, intelligence, infantry, and kidnapping. Ex. 26 at
5-6. Much of the training occurred at camps in Iran.
See Ex. 10 at 2; Ex. 66 at 27; Dkt. 52 at 14 (Casey)
("[W]e had significant evidence through signals
intelligence and human intelligence that Iran was operating
training bases for Iraqi militia[s] in Iran."). The Quds
Force would train "approximately 20 to 60 Iraqis at a
time" in Iran and then send them back to Iraq. Ex. 1 at
3; see Ex. 26 at 5. These individuals, in turn,
"passed on this training to additional militants inside
Iraq," as part of "a 'train-the-trainer'
program." Ex. 10 at 2. The Quds Force and Hezbollah also
provided training inside Iraq. Id.
played a critical role in Iran's efforts to train Iraqi
Shia militants. The Hezbollah trainers (like their Iraq
trainees) spoke Arabic (unlike their Quds Force liaisons who
spoke Farsi). Ex. 65 at 24. Some Iraqi militants, moreover,
perceived a "lack of respect" on the part of
Iranians. Ex. 66 at 26. Hezbollah trainers thus helped
overcome the language barrier and bridge the "cultural
divide between Persian Iran and Arab Iraq." Id.;
see Ex. 26 at 7 ("The [Quds Force] needed
[Hezbollah's] help . .. because Iranians are not accepted
in Iraq whereas the Lebanese would be.").
training programs played a significant role in the success of
AAH and other Special Groups. Without that Iranian-backed
training, the Special Groups would have been
"nowhere" near as effective as they were. Dkt. 52
at 18 (Casey).
The January 20, 2017 Attack in Karbala
assistance that Iran provided to AAH included help in
planning and executing an assault on the Provincial Joint
Coordination Center ("PJCC") in Karbala, Iraq. In
the course of that assault, Fritz, Chism, and Falter were
abducted, and they were later brutally beaten and murdered by
the assault team. AAH could not have carried out those acts
of terrorism without Iran's support.
The Assault on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination
U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003. From July 2004 to
February 2007, General George Casey served as the Commander
of the Multi-National Force in Iraq. See Dkt. 52 at
7-8 (Casey). By the time General Casey arrived, the mission
had evolved, and, with his input, the Multi-National Force
directed its efforts to helping Iraq build a representative
government "with security forces that [could] maintain
domestic order and keep the terrorists out."
Id. at 8. "[A]s the Iraqi security forces grew
over time," a need emerged "to coordinate the
security actions between" the Multi-National Force,
"the Iraqi military[, ] and the Iraqi police forces at
the provincial level." Id. at 9. The
Multi-National Force, accordingly, put a program "in
place in 2006" that "would transfer security
control of the province" to Iraqi military and police
forces "when the Iraqis were ready." Id.
To do so, a provincial governor would need to demonstrate an
ability to coordinate the actions of the Iraqi military,
Iraqi police, and coalition forces. Id. In each
province, this coordinating activity was run out of Iraqi
government facilities known as Provincial Joint Coordination
Centers or "PJCCs." Id.; see Dkt. 51 at
56-57 (Rabena). In addition to serving as a base for
transition efforts, these compounds also operated as the
offices for local government. Dkt. 54 at 106 (Alkire). The
PJCCs hosted meetings between local elected officials or
religious leaders and the Iraqi police, Iraqi security
forces, and coalition forces. Id.
PJCC in Karbala, Iraq consisted of a main building attached
to the Iraqi governor's building. Ex. 23. The main
building faced an outdoor courtyard and, beyond the
courtyard, a parking lot. Id. U.S. soldiers
assisting the provincial government during the transition
lived at the PJCC. Ex. 4 at 9. Their barracks were located to
the side of the courtyard and the main building. Ex. 23.
These U.S. soldiers "often lived at the compound for up
to a week at a time," Ex. 4 at 9, and, when there,
worked "side by side, shoulder by shoulder" with
Iraqi police and security forces to facilitate the
transition, Dkt. 51 at 57 (Rabena). On average, thirty-seven
to forty U.S. troops were positioned at the Karbala PJCC at
any given time. Id. (Rabena). Because the PJCC was
an Iraqi government facility, Iraqi police bore principal
responsibility for the security. Id. at 58 (Rabena).
Iraqi police staffed gates-or security checkpoints-at various
locations in and around the facility. Id. at 65,
69-71 (Rabena); Ex. 23. American forces assisted with
security, Dkt. 54 at 106-07 (Alkire), and, among other
things, operated Humvees positioned around the main building,
including in the courtyard and in the parking lot,
see Ex. 23.
January 20, 2007, the U.S. forces at the Karbala PJCC
included the 1st Platoon, A Battery, 2d Battalion,
377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment. Ex. 4 at 9. At that
time, the platoon's mission was to help the provincial
government plan security for an upcoming religious event that
was expected to draw more than ten million pilgrims.
Id. The 1st Platoon was led by First
Lieutenant Jacob Fritz and included, among others, Specialist
Johnathan Bryan Chism and Private First Class Shawn Falter.
Id. at 7. As platoon leader, Fritz was responsible
for interacting with elected and religious officials who
"would come to the PJCC to speak with the governing body
of the PJCC." Dkt. 54 at 106 (Alkire). He lived and
worked out of a small, courtyard-facing room at the front of
the main building along with Captain Brian
Freeman. Dkt. 51 at 66, 75 (Rabena); Dkt. 52 at
68 (Rabena); Ex. 23. Chism and Falter, meanwhile, worked
rotating guard shifts, helping the Iraqi police secure the
PJCC. Dkt. 51 at 69, 74 (Rabena); Ex. 23; Dkt. 54 at 107
Karbala attack was carried out by a team of AAH militants. In
brief, a small assault force bypassed the security
checkpoints, infiltrated the PJCC, and captured Fritz, Chism,
Falter, and Freeman. The four soldiers were abducted,
handcuffed, and driven away from the PJCC by a team of the
militants. Other militants aided in the abduction by securing
the PJCC checkpoints, subduing the Iraqi police, and firing
on the PJCC building to create the false impression that the
compound was under a small arms attack, thereby diverting
attention from the abduction. Dkt. 52 at 41 (Rabena). When
the abduction team was unable to clear a security checkpoint
about twenty-five miles east of Karbala, the militants
murdered their hostages. Ex. 4 at 8; Dkt. 52 at 80-96
(Rabena). From start to finish, the assault on the PJCC took
no more than fifteen minutes. Ex. 4 at 11-13; Dkt. 52 at 63
(Rabena). It was "well-coordinated and
synchronized," Ex. 4 at 11, exceedingly
"complex," id. at 20, and-of particular
importance to this case-"well beyond the" range of
"local insurgent or militia capabilities,"
id. at 11.
assault on the PJCC began around 6 p.m. on January 20, 2007.
Ex. 4 at 10. Approximately seven vehicles approached from the
south, driving up to the first of two gated checkpoints. Dkt.
51 at 59-60 (Rabena); Ex. 4 at 7; see Ex. 23. They
gave "the impression [that] they were ... a convoy that
was coming from the [U.S.] embassy." Dkt. 51 at 60
(Rabena). The attackers had outfitted themselves and their
vehicles (predominantly black Chevrolet Suburban SUVs) to
appear as though they were American soldiers or security
contractors: the SUVs were rigged with false antennae on
their front bumpers and carried placards directing others to
stay back a hundred meters, and the attackers spoke English,
wore U.S. Army Combat Uniforms, and had helmets and weapons
resembling those of U.S. Soldiers. Ex. 4 at 7; Dkt. 51 at
60-61, 79-80 (Rabena). Most of the vehicles then continued on
to a second security gate, located due north of the first
checkpoint. Ex. 4 at 11; Ex. 23.
gates, the attackers pretended that they were Americans, and
then "bullied their way past" the checkpoints by
demanding-in English-that the Iraqi police turn over their
weapons. Dkt. 51 at 61 (Rabena); Ex. 4 at 10-11. One vehicle
stayed behind at each gate. Dkt. 51 at 78 (Rabena). The
passengers got out, one militant held the Iraqi police at
gunpoint at each checkpoint, and the remaining occupants
fanned out to take positions from which they could fire on
the PJCC building once the assault began. Dkt. 51 at 62,
78-79 (Rabena); Dkt. 52 at 41, 45 (Rabena); Ex. 4 at 11. A
third vehicle positioned itself between the two checkpoints.
Ex. 4 at 11; Dkt. 51 at 78 (Rabena). The remaining SUVs
continued north toward the PJCC's main building and
entered the parking lot. Dkt. 51 at 79, 83 (Rabena); Ex. 4 at
11. An unknown number of militants disembarked and
immediately subdued the Iraqi police stationed around the
gated entrance to the courtyard. Dkt. 52 at 41 (Rabena); Ex.
4 at Tab M.
the militants then crossed through the gated entrance into
the courtyard and approached the front door of the PJCC main
building. Ex. 4 at 11. At this time, Freeman and Fritz were
in their room at the front of the building, see Id.
at 10, while Chism and Falter occupied an armored Humvee in
the courtyard next to the building's entrance,
id. at 11; see Ex. 23 (showing the position
of American forces during the attack); see also Dkt.
51 at 73-74 (Rabena). Chism manned the machine gun mounted on
top of the turret; Falter was in the driver's seat. Dkt.
51 at 73 (Rabena); Dkt. 52 at 47-48 (Rabena). The five
insurgents, who wore the uniforms of American troops and
spoke English, greeted Chism and Falter and walked toward the
PJCC as though they were arriving for a meeting. Ex. 4 at 11;
Dkt. 52 at 47-48 (Rabena). Falter exited the Humvee and
started to approach the SUVs, presumably to determine the
reason for their arrival. Id. About five seconds
later, three more militants entered the courtyard, greeted
Chism and Falter, and followed the initial group of five to
the front entrance of the PJCC. Ex. 4 at 11; Dkt. 52 at 48-49
(Rabena). Like the others, these militants were dressed in
American uniforms and greeted Chism and Falter in English.
Dkt. 52 at 49 (Rabena).
the last three insurgents to enter the courtyard had specific
tactical roles, and they executed their assignments more or
less simultaneously. The last of the three walked past
Falter, turned around, and shot him in the neck from behind.
Id. (Rabena); Ex. 4 at 11. The second climbed on the
back of the Humvee and shot Chism, who was facing the
courtyard gate and "had no chance to react." Ex. 4
at 11; see also Dkt. 52 at 50 (Rabena). Despite the
seriousness of their injuries, neither Chism nor Falter was
killed by these gunshots. Dkt. 52 at 49-51 (Rabena). The
third insurgent made his way to the front entrance of the
main building and subdued the two Iraqi police officers there
and took their weapons. Id. at 51 (Rabena); Ex. 4 at
after the sound of gunfire in the courtyard, "a
well-coordinated and synchronized attack occurred in the
building, in the back, and against the barracks area."
Ex. 4 at 11. The militants who were staged outside the
building began to fire at the building, which had the effect
of diverting the U.S. military personnel in the barracks
areas and on the second floor of the PJCC to the roof of the
building, where they responded to what they believed to be a
small arms assault on the complex. Dkt. 52 at 51-55 (Rabena).
At the same time, other militants launched an attack on the
PJCC command and control room, which was located next to the
room where Fritz and Freeman were working. Id. at 53
(Rabena); Ex. 4 at 12. According to Colonel William Rabena,
the U.S. Army Officer appointed to investigate the attack,
this focus of the attack was consistent with a plan to abduct
Fritz and Freeman; the attackers "knew that" the
occupants of the command and control room posed the most
substantial threat to their mission, and they therefore
confronted that threat before turning their attention to the
abduction of Fritz and Freeman. Dkt. 52 at 53 (Rabena); Ex. 4
command and control room held five U.S. soldiers-the only
soldiers other than Fritz and Freeman located on the first
floor of the main PJCC building-as well as radios for
communicating between the PJCC and coalition forces. Dkt. 51
at 75 (Rabena); Ex. 23. By attacking that room, the militants
were able to aid their exfiltration by delaying
communications regarding the attack, and they were able to
subdue "the closest support that could interfere with
the abduction." Dkt. 52 at 54 (Rabena). The fact that
the attackers "knew exactly where they were going"
evidences that they had inside information and that the
attack was a highly sophisticated one. Id. at 55
(Rabena); see also Ex. 4 at 12. The U.S. soldiers
working in the command and control room were able to prevent
the attackers from fully opening the door, but the militants
were able to direct gunfire and a grenade into the room. Ex.
4 at 12; Dkt. 52 at 56-57 (Rabena). Three of these five
soldiers were injured, and one, Private First Class Millican,
was killed. Dkt. 52 at 55-56 (Rabena). PFC Millican thwarted
the militants' effort to take the command and control
room when he threw himself on the grenade. Id.
at 57 (Rabena); Ex. 4 at 17.
soldiers in the command and control room continued to fight
back, they heard gunshots and explosions elsewhere. They
heard shots in the hallway and heard a grenade explode in
Fritz and Freeman's room next door. Ex. 4 at 12-13; Dkt.
52 at 57 (Rabena). The militants then took Fritz and Freeman
from the officer's room and led them out of the building.
Dkt. 52 at 58-59 (Rabena). While exiting the PJCC, the
militants threw a high explosive grenade into the hallway
near the two rooms. Ex. 4 at 13; Dkt. 52 at 57 (Rabena). That
grenade blast, along with increased gunfire, prevented the
soldiers in the command and control room from leaving the
room. Ex. 4 at 13. Both Fritz and Freeman were alive at this
time, although it appears that Fritz was injured and
bleeding. Id. Significantly, the militants did not
attack the soldiers on the second floor of the PJCC,
providing further evidence that their mission was to abduct
the U.S. soldiers. Dkt. 52 at 59-60 (Rabena). Upon returning
to the courtyard, the militants destroyed the Humvee that
Chism and Falter had manned, as a well as an unmanned second
Humvee, Ex. 4 at 13, and they used "smoke grenades"
to obscure their exfiltration. Dkt. 52 at 61-62 (Rabena).
They then handcuffed Freeman and Chism and put them in one
SUV and handcuffed Fritz and Falter together and put them in
a second SUV. Id. at 62 (Rabena). Up to this point,
the entire attack took only about ten to fifteen minutes.
Id. at 63 (Rabena).
attackers fled, and a chase ensued. Hrg. Tr. (Apr 11, 2018)
at 64, 73-74. The militants drove toward the city of Hillah
in the general direction of Iran. Ex. 25; Dkt. 52 at 70-74
(Rabena). But instead of taking the road that directly
connected Karbala with Hillah, they took a long detour
through Musayib. Dkt. 52 at 74 (Rabena); see Ex. 75
at 2. Their route tracked a well-known "ratline," a
path along which Iran smuggled weapons and ammunition into
Iraq. Dkt. 52 at 74 (Rabena). Iraqis who were sympathetic to
Iran controlled the checkpoints along the ratline and
facilitated the passage of smuggled goods. Id. at
75-77 (Rabena). No. one outside the area "would have
known to take those roads unless they were being helped"
by the IRGC. Id. at 76 (Rabena).
however, this escape route failed. Members of the Iraqi Army
stationed at a checkpoint in the town of Mahawil received
word that an attack had occurred in Karbala and that they
should stop a "fast moving small convoy of SUVs."
Id. at 77-78 (Rabena); Ex. 4 at 8-9. Earlier that
day, three men had approached the Iraqi Army soldiers
stationed at the checkpoint and told them that a convoy would
be coming through and that they needed to let the convoy
proceed. Dkt. 52 at 78 (Rabena). In doing so, they provoked
suspicion, asserting at times that those in the convoy were
Americans, and at other times saying that they were Israelis.
Id. (Rabena). Later, the three men came back to make
sure that the Iraqi soldiers would facilitate the passage of
the convoy, and, as the convoy approached, they "yelled
out to the guards, 'Don't shoot them. Don't shoot
them. This is what we talked about.'" Id.
(Rabena). The Iraqi soldiers figured out what was happening
and, accordingly, detained the three men and pursued the
convoy. Id. (Rabena). It was later determined that
one of the three men was a high ranking official from a
Shia-affiliated militia. Id. at 77, 79-80 (Rabena).
the guard posts now "really on alert" the militants
knew "that someone [wa]s following them." Dkt. 52
at 79 (Rabena). As a result, they "took a back road,
changed out of the U.S. Army Combat Uniforms that they wore,
"abandoned most of [their] equipment," and shot
Fritz, Chism, Falter, and Freeman. Ex. 4 at 8; Dkt. 52 at
80-96 ("[The attackers] had to execute [the soldiers]
because they couldn't go any further."). By the time
the Iraqi Army arrived, only Freeman was still alive, and he
died a short time later. Dkt. 52 at 83, 85 (Rabena).
The Direct Victims
Chism, and Falter each sustained numerous gunshot wounds and
blunt force injuries. Based on the "signs of vital
reaction" to these wounds, the Court finds that the
injuries were inflicted while the soldiers were still alive.
Dkt. 54 at 44-45 (Mallak). In addition, the Court finds that
each soldier was deliberately killed-or, to put it more
precisely, executed-by the attackers. This finding is based
on the location and nature of the soldiers' wounds as
well as the fact that all four of the victims were
handcuffed. Id. at 33-34 (Mallak). The Court also
finds that Fritz, Chism, and Falter were abducted so that
they could be traded for militants held captive by coalition
forces. Finally, the Court ...