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The Web Surrounding Mugniyah's Death

While questions still remain regarding who orchestrated the assassination of Imad Mugniyah, there seems to be general agreement that Hizballah and its allies intend to use the "terror master's" death to justify acts of aggression (or from their perspective, retaliation) against Israel.

However, in today's Daily Star, Michael Young reports that the Hizballah-Syria-Iran alliance is spinning a more convoluted tale - one that has much grander ambitions in mind:

In the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai Al-Aam, a source close to Hizbullah was quoted as saying that the Mughniyeh hit was "Palestinian-Israeli," using American technology and financed by an unidentified Gulf Arab official.

While a Palestinian-Israeli-American-Persian Gulf alliance might seem illogical to many, the motive for promoting such an idea is much clearer:

The deepening animosity between Syria and Saudi Arabia might mean the Mughniyeh investigation is carried even further to implicate some Arab states. The fear is that Syria would do such a thing to gain leverage and force leading Arab heads to state to attend the Arab League summit scheduled for late March in Damascus, therefore guaranteeing that the event will be a success. The only problem is that the absence of a prior solution in Lebanon will almost certainly mean a failed summit. Assad will probably not bring the Saudis or anyone else to his gathering through intimidation, let alone through a politicized investigation.

Yet, Young believes that most catastrophic element of the report may well be the Lebanese connection:

According to a Syrian source cited by Al-Haqiqa, the Mughniyeh investigation may accuse "official or semi-official Lebanese parties ... allied with [the government]" of having participated in the Mughniyeh operation. The paper suggested investigators might also identify Walid Jumblatt, or more specifically his alleged security chief, Hisham Nasreddine, as having played a role in the killing. The "official or semi-official" parties the source refers to is almost certainly the Information Department of the Internal Security Forces - essentially the state security apparatus most loyal to March 14. A key objective of Syria and the opposition in the negotiations over a new government has been to ensure that the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Information Department, is taken out of the hands of the parliamentary majority. If the information in Al-Haqiqa becomes the basis of an official Syrian charge, the aim may be to advance this agenda. As for Jumblatt, no one will seriously believe the Druze leader has the capacity to eliminate so secretive as figure as Mughniyeh. However, if the Syrians do level such an accusation, it may exacerbate tension on the ground between Jumblatt's supporters and Hizbullah, without the latter being able to express doubt in the Syrian conclusions. The party has little margin of maneuver vis-a-vis Damascus, and Iran has reportedly indicated it wants no quarrel with the Assad regime over Mughniyeh. Hizbullah has blamed Israel for the assassination, but its secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has also described March 14 as having sided with Israel. If the Syrians play on that theme, Nasrallah may find himself tossed back into the unforgiving alleyways of inter-Lebanese conflict.

If the Syrian report actually implicates all of these players, the fallout could be immense.

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