Mughniyeh Killed in Damascus
Imad Muganiyeh, known to Americans as the man who killed Navy diver Robert Stethem; the man who tortured and killed CIA station chief William Francis Buckley, and possible mastermind of the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut died in car bomb explosion in a posh suburb of Damascus. Hezbollah has blamed Israeli agents.
However, Israel has denied any involvement. The Times Online says "Israel today denied any involvement in Mughniyeh’s death. 'Israel rejects any attempt by terrorist organisations to attribute to it any implication in this affair,' said a statement from the office of Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister." And indeed he had no shortage of enemies, ranging from the Saudi backers of Hariri to the United States.
Mughniyeh’s death came on the eve of an expected mass rally in central Beirut to mark the third anniversary of the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister. Lebanon is in the throes of a grave political crisis pitting the anti-Syrian March 14 parliamentary coalition against the Hezbollah-led opposition. ...
Walid Jumblatt, an outspoken March 14 leader told The Times that Mughniyeh’s death was “good news”, and hinted that the Hezbollah commander may have been betrayed by his Syrian allies.
Andrew Exum at Middle East Strategy at Harvard writes that Mughniyeh’s demise, coming on the anniversary of Rafik Hariri's death, means that both sides of the Lebanese political divide will be pumped up and primed for war tomorrow. What happens next will be interesting to watch.
It was widely believed that Hezbollah was girding for another rocket assault on Israel. It had recently been resupplied with rockets, shipped under the label of civilian supplies, past the UN Peacekeeping force. Hezbollah was also supposed to have sent reconnaissance teams disguised as journalist to the Lebanese/Israeli border to obtain video footage of certain areas. The strike on Mughniyeh suggests that parallel counterpreparations mirroring those of Hezbollah were simultaneously in progress. Mughaniyeh was regarded as a particularly difficult target. Wikipedia quotes Robert Baer, a former CIA officer as saying, "Mugniyah is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we’ve ever run across, including the KGB or anybody else. He enters by one door, exits by another, changes his cars daily, never makes appointments on a telephone, never is predictable. He only uses people that are related to him that he can trust. He doesn’t just recruit people."
Revenge attacks are expected. “Hezbollah are wise people and they will not react hastily. They will study and reflect before they do anything,” said Ibrahim Mussawi, editor of Hezbollah’s Al-Intiqad newspaper.
And one of the things Hezbollah might reflect upon as they regard the charred and mangled corpse of Mughniyeh is that while one can evade payment for a time, the repo man always comes in the end.
Fausta notices that by coincidence, the US was pressuring diplomatically and financially Iran to do something about the 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in Argentina. In fact Argentina issued an arrest warrant in 1999 against "Hezbollah member Imad Mugniyah" in connection with the attack. So to Jumblatt's suspicion that the Syrians double-crossed him or accusations that the Israelis killed him must be added the possibility that the Iranians were tying up loose ends. There will be a lot of speculation over the next few days.
And ... Bill Roggio describes the life and times -- and ultimate demise -- of Mughniyeh. He quotes the Jerusalem Post report to make the point that the bomb was placed to kill to give him the literal hotseat. "When taking a close look at the car, we noticed that it was not burnt or blackened, but the driver’s and passengers’ seats were damaged." Tawfiq said. He believed that a bomb had been planted under the driver's seat." Roggio describes some of the highlights of his long and bloody career.
Mugniyah had extensive links with the Iranian intelligence services, and was directly linked to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and former al Qaeda in Iraq commander Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Mugniyah was on FBI's list of 22 most wanted terrorists, with a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture. US Special Forces aborted a raid to capture Mugniyah in the Persian Gulf in 1996. He was believed to have visited Syria in January 2006, attending a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Assad.
Mugniyah likely played a support role in al Qaeda’s Sept. 11 attacks on the US. The 9/11 Commission Report was explicit about Iran's connections with al Qaeda. "The relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations."