Hezbollah Operation Leader with Ahmadinejad in Damascus?
In Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to Damascus to form his own terrorist version of a ‘Coalition of the Willing’, The New York Sun’s Meghan Clyne reports that one of America’s most wanted terrorists, Imad Fayez Mugniyah, was among the entourage swarming around Ahmadinejad.
While this is likely, if not probable, a note of caution first. Ms. Clyne’s characterization of his presence with Ahmedinejad in Syria is decidedly more certain in tone (“One of the American government’s most wanted terrorists visited Syria late last week with Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, according to a former Reagan administration national security official…”) than the primary source she quotes, Michael Ledeen (“…nor was it surprising that among his entourage were key Iranian officials in charge of Hezbollah, probably including the operational leader, Imad Mughniyah.”) [All Emphasis Added]
Centcom and other US sources have declined to confirm Mugniyah’s presence, though one source said that European diplomatic sources noted his presence. At any rate, if he was present last week, Mugniyah is surely safely back in the friendly confines of the mullahs’ Tehran today. There is a certain safety assurance for one of the world’s most wanted terrorists when traveling with a head of state, even the head of a state sponsor of terrorism. (Those who would see Ahmadinejad meet his maker would be well advised to consider that Ahmadinejad and his unrestrained tongue, in the short term, is more valuable to the West alive than dead, as he effectively and consistently removes the veil from the Iranian regime, exposing its true nature.)
Who is Imad Fayez Mugniyah, the international operational leader of Hezbollah?
Before the attacks on 9/11 brought bin Laden to the forefront of American interest, Mugniyah was considered “the prime focus of American anti-terror efforts.” As the international operations leader of what the US intelligence community often refers to as “The A-Team of Terror”, many consider him to be even more dangerous than bin Laden.
Born in Lebanon and now 44 years old, the Shi’ite Imad Fayez Mugniyah first trained in his home country with Yassir Arafat’s al-Fatah in the PLO-run Sunni Lebanese camps. When the PLO was kicked out of Lebanon in 1982, Mugniyah joined the ranks of Hezbollah and rose quickly. Russia contends that at some point in the 1980’s, he served as one of Yassir Arafat’s body guards. What is noteworthy is that Mugniyah first joined the Sunni PLO faction and only later joined the Islamist Shi’ite Hezbollah. Religious belief may have little to do with his core convictions and motivations, but instead simply a shared ingrained hatred of Jews, Israel, America and the West. As the Iranians met in Damascus with mixed religious company in the form of the Sunni Hamas and PFLP-GC and the Shi’ite Hezbollah to form a united front for a new jihad against Israel & the US, Mugniyah’s experience in terrorism on both sectarian sides may have proven a useful mediation resource if/when needed. Still, this potential usefulness pales in comparison to the might he wields as the international operations commander of Hezbollah.
Imad Mugniyah was busy in his first years with the Hezbollah. In 1983, he masterminded the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks, as well as the bombing of the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in 1984. In 1985, he was the mastermind who planned and executed the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, during which US Navy diver Robert Stetham was tortured, shot in the head and his body unceremoniously dropped from the airliner to the tarmac below. Also in 1985, he was behind both the abduction of four Soviet diplomats (during the Soviet war in Afghanistan) and the abduction and murder of former CIA Beirut chief William Buckley.
In 1993, Mugniyah organized the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina and more than a few believe his signature is also on the bombing of the US barracks at Khobar Towers in 1996.
Considering the nature of Ahmadinejad’s visit to Bashar Assad in Damascus with the goal of creating a new united and Iranian-backed terrorist ‘Coalition of the Willing’, Imad Mugniyah’s presence there is almost certain, though unconfirmed. This new apparent ‘Coalition of the Willing’ is troubling news and a gathering storm for Israel, likely to be overhead in the very near future in all its fury. But it is also a strategic repositioning of power from a position of weakness, designed to shift focus from the Assad regime and thereby relieve the crush of international pressure, which in turn (they hope) will weaken internal opposition and keep Assad propped up. Iran needs Assad in power in Syria to keep the western window of infiltration into Iraq open. If Assad falls, as Michael Ledeen says, “the reverberations will reach Baghdad and Tehran” like a thunderclap and the already nervous mullah regime in Tehran will experience a new level of fear through an emboldened Iranian population. The fall of Assad would be the beginning of their own end.