5 years, 10 months ago
As expected, there is world wide buzz over the involvement of the international intelligence community in the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. In addition to the public claims by Hezbollah that the Mossad directed the event, there is the assertion that the U.S. masterminded the plan.
A Kuwaiti newspaper reports that Hizbullah terrorist chief Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car-bomb attack in Damascus on Tuesday, was in the midst of planning major terrorist attacks in moderate Arab countries when he was killed.
Al-Watan reports that American intelligence had learned that Mughniyeh arrived in Damascus three days earlier with instructions from, and in coordination with, the Iranians. His objective was to meet with Hizbullah leaders and coordinate a mass attack, for which he was to receive help from Syrian intelligence.
The American involvement in the killing is explained as being in retaliation for a recent car bomb attack that targeted a U.S. Embassy vehicle; three passersby (sic).
Another Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Siasa, reports that Mughniyeh took part, shortly before he was killed, in a secret meeting in the Iranian School in Damascus. Also participating in the meeting were Syrian Intelligence Chief Gen. Aisaf Shwackath, Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, and an Islamic Jihad representative. On the agenda: planned attacks in Arab countries that refuse to take part in the coming Arab League summit in Damascus. The newspaper entertains the possibility that the meeting was merely a camouflage for Syrian involvement in Mughniyeh’s killing.
In addition to Mughniyeh’s atrocities against America and her interests there is no question that the U.S. administration was desirous of his demise. Mughniyeh trained Moqtada al Sadr’s forces in Iraq, the Mahdi Army. In fact, in case there was any remaining doubt as to the inclinations of Sadr and his followers, al Sadr declared three days of mourning after learning of the assassination of Mughniyeh. As I stated in Assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, I continue to believe that the U.S. was not involved in the assassination plan, at least not directly. The report of American involvement is possibly disinformation. If the CIA was involved, it is a good sign of the resurgence of the field capabilities and human intelligence of the CIA. This report sweeps from blaming the U.S. to Syria. But Syria either looks inept or complicit.
A Western diplomat based in Damascus said the incident was a double embarrassment for Syria — “on account of (Mughniyeh) being here and because they could not protect him.”
“The Syrian security agencies have a lot of explaining to do as to how a hit like this could be carried out in a city that’s remarkably secure,” said Jon Alterman, head of the Middle East program at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Some in the security services were either caught unaware or are complicit in the killing,” he said.
Kuwait also had reason to want him dead.
The Interior Ministry confirmed Mughnieh’s role. Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Khaled al-Sabah was quoted Wednesday that “all of Kuwait is pleased by Mughnieh’s killing.” He was also quoted as saying that “The killing of the criminal Imad Mughniyeh was divine vengeance from those who killed the sons of Kuwait and threw them from planes at Limasol Airport in Cyprus,” the minister said.
Most Kuwaiti dailies welcomed his assassination and recalled the hijackings, the killing of two Kuwaiti passengers and the series of bombings. The 17 prisoners consisted of 12 Iraqis who belonged to the Dawa party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and five Lebanese, one of them Ilyas Saab, the brother-in-law of Mughnieh, according to Kuwaiti dailies. Kuwaiti courts convicted three of them to death and the rest to various jail terms. Three others were sentenced to death in absentia, allegedly including Iraq lawmaker Jamal Jafaar Mohammed of the Dawa party.
Yet it doesn’t end there. Internal Lebanese politics and civil war (due to actions by Hezbollah) has taken its toll on the balance of power in the Middle East, and sabers are rattling.
There was alarm when Walid Jumblatt used the word “war” in a statement on Sunday in Baaqlin. The Druze leader’s words were harsh, even if he did not say that he welcomed war, but only made his willingness to fight one conditional on the opposition’s wanting war. But Lebanon has been split by a cold civil war for over a year now, and as the country commemorates the third anniversary of Rafik Hariri’s assassination today, Jumblatt’s rhetoric may have, paradoxically, helped stabilize the situation – even if stabilization remains a relative concept.
The assassination in Damascus of Imad Mughniyeh, whatever its larger implications, may actually bolster this modest stability. Hizbullah’s leadership will likely need time to assess where it is, and what Mughniyeh’s killing means for the party and its relations with Tehran.
Syrian security forces have arrested several Palestinian suspects in connection with the assassination, but this may be for show. The smoke still hasn’t cleared concerning this assassination. However, one thing is clear. Mughniyeh was considered untouchable and to most unrecognizable,” a senior intelligence source said. “This is a monumental intelligence achievement.”