‘Lebanese Carlos’ Killed in Damascus Blast

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My immediate reaction to Imad Mughniyah’s assassination is that it was almost certainly the Israelis, who have had a long-standing and well deserved grudge against him. It appears Israel has adopted the now common Al Qaeda and Hamas post-attack practice of praising the event while denying responsibility for it. Thus, Israeli Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, formerly a senior intelligence officer, stated today, “I, of course, do not know who carried out the assassination of Imad, but he should be blessed.” If it was Israel, it also proves the Mossad still maintains extensive intelligence and operational capabilities in the region for which the organization has become famous. This man, Mughniyah was very difficult to kill. Read for example, about the last botched attempt to kill him in the 1990s when they got his brother instead, a car shop owner in Beirut.

One note of caution however: There were a number of other countries and players who were after him. Thus, the possibility someone else could have carried out the assassination, while not likely, can not be ruled out. Dr Eyal Zisser, head of the the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University (who is a personal friend of mine) said today that Mughniyah “was wanted by 42 countries, most of the world was after him. Israel’s official denial just adds another question mark to all the others raised by the assassination.” Nonetheless, it remains largely irrelevant because Hizbullah will not wait for an investigation.

Some analysts will probably point to the timing of Mughniyah’s killing to implicate Israel, noting that just this week Israel announced it may launch targeted assassinations against the Hamas leadership in response to ongoing Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli towns in the western Negev — Hamas and Hizbullah being two completely different organizations notwithstanding. Some may conclude it was meant as a signal to Damascus-based exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal that the Qassams must stop, or perhaps there are other recent events to which they will discover a link. But on the contrary, I think timing has very little to do with this. Israel and possibly other players have been trying to kill the elusive Mughniyah for years without success, until today. In the world of intelligence, it’s well understood that when you have a valuable target in your sights, you pull the trigger. The longer you wait, the higher the chance of your plot being uncovered, the greater the danger to your operatives on the ground. Frankly, if it were so easy to assassinate Mughniyah at a given time Israel saw fit to send a message, he would have been killed years ago. Speaking to the Jerusalem Post today, retired Israeli Brigadier-General and senior Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) research fellow Shlomo Brom stated, “As far as timing is concerned, it’s probably little more than grabbing the opportunity. If you read James Bond novels you might think that reaching someone is easy, but in reality a security service can be tracking a person down for years and years before getting a chance to strike.”

Remember that scene in Scarface when Tony Montana is enlisted by Sosa to help his assassin dispose of a journalist who is about to expose the drug trafficking industry? As they sit and wait for the journalist to come out of his hotel, his wife and children get in the explosive-laden car along with him. At this point Montana refuses to allow Sosa’s assassin to push the detonator, despite his insistence to carry out the operation, and Montana shoots him a few moments later in a fit of coked-out rage. Montana turns to Sosa’s man and says, “What’d you think of that, huh? What you think, I’m a fucking worm like you?… I told you, no fucking kids! No, but you wouldn’t listen, why, you stupid fuck, look at you now.” Afterwards the explosive device is found under the journalist’s car and the plot is uncovered.

Mughniyah was truly vicious and nobody should shed a tear for him although some in the Arab world undoubtedly will. But before you go celebrate, know that there will be consequences. Hizbullah has a proven track record of tit for tat responses to Israeli attacks. We don’t know yet when, where or how many dead. First of all, there is the possibility of retaliation against captive Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, two cards Hizbullah currently holds against Israel. At the very least we should not expect their return anytime soon. However, much more likely is that Hizbullah will retaliate either with a high profile assassination of their own, as predicted by Timur Goksel, lecturer on international relations in Beirut and a former United Nations official in south Lebanon, or will opt for a larger and more gruesome attack against Jewish or Israeli targets abroad, resembling the 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Beunos Aires and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center, also in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people. These attacks are seen as retaliation for the Israeli assassination of former Hizbullah leader Abbas Musawi in 1992, and for Israel’s 1994 raid on Hezbollah’s Ein Dardara training camp in the Bekaa Valley. Musawi was then replaced by the more charismatic and effective Hassan Nasrallah.

Only in this case, there is no chance any replacement for Mughniyah will be more effective than he was. And Mughniyah won’t be planning the retaliation this time around.

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4 Responses to “‘Lebanese Carlos’ Killed in Damascus Blast”

  1. Dovaleh Says:

    Whether it was Israeli Mossad or not (this guy was the mastermind of the barracks attack in Beirut that killed 241 Americans and about 50 French as well as the kidnappings of a CIA station chief and the journalist Terry Anderson. Also, the 1985 hijacking where a U.S. Navy Diver was killed, his body dumped on the tarmac at the Beirut Airport.) It looks like the French and the Americans wanted him just as badly as the Israelis. My guess would be that it was Israel (with its regional capability, esp. in Syria), along with major international go-ahead. There is no question that this piece of shit got what was coming to him! Let him hang out with Moussawi and those virgins now!!!

  2. Dovaleh Says:

    Keep the postings coming; your analyses are excellent!

  3. Daniel Says:

    Why am I not surprised that you included a Scarface quote?

    I also read another theory, though probably not as likely, that it was Syria (he was killed next to a building used by Syrian security services) as a “good-will” gesture to the Americans. I think that I read this in the Christian Science Monitor – not exactly a bastion of conspiracy theories.

  4. akkz Says:

    u can say what u want about imad mughniya, he is a mrtyr to us, at least his fights were an act of resistance, what were the marines doing in lebanon in the first place?why was the diver in beirut airport? dont u ask urself these things? stop bullshitting…
    u cry over the americans in vietnam, then why were they there? in iraq? in afghanistan? the people have awoken and u cant stop that anymore, we have media now that shows everything,
    who is the mass murderer a fighter for a cause, or the people who started that cause?

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