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Fritz v. Islamic Republic of Iran

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 2, 2018

NOALA FRITZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, et al, Defendants,

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This 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.

         Plaintiffs, 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 defendants.

         Plaintiffs 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.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs, 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. 39.

         Plaintiffs 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 absent defendant").

         In 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).

         Against 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 786.

         The Court now makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         Plaintiffs' 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; [1] and representatives from each of the four families of the murdered servicemembers.

         Based 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.

         A. Iran's Provision of Support to Asaib Ahl al-Haq

         1. Overview of Iran's Proxy Strategy

         Shortly 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.[2] 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).

         A "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.[3] 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), [4] and the Treasury Department has designated the IRGC's Quds Force as an entity providing support for terrorism, Ex. 67 at 2.

         In 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.

         2. Hezbollah

         Hezbollah's 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.

         Hezbollah 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).[5]

         Hezbollah 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 1984....
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, Thailand.

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.

         Consistent 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).

         3. Asaib Ahl al-Haq

         a. Origins

         Following 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).[6] Iran had several goals. Most significantly, it sought to transform Iraq into a "weakened, decentralized, and Shi[]a-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.

         One 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.

         Iran 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).

         b. Iran's Provision of Funding Weapons, and Training

         Iran, 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.

         The 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).

         The 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.

         In 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." Id.

         With 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.

         Hezbollah 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.").

         These 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).

         B. The January 20, 2017 Attack in Karbala

         The 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.

         1. The Assault on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center

         a. Hack ground

         A 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.

         The 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.

         On 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.[7] 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 (Alkire).

         b. The Attack

         The 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.

         The 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.

         At both 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.

         Five of 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).

         Each of 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 11.

         Seconds 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 at 12.

         The 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.[8] Id. at 57 (Rabena); Ex. 4 at 17.

         As the 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).

         The 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).

         Ultimately, 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).

         With 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).

         2. The Direct Victims

         Fritz, 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 ...


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