Imad Mughniyah has reportedly gone to his virgins. I say “reportedly” because you never really know with him. He has changed his appearance in the past, even, I am told, his fingerprints, and is altogether capable of feigning his death. As Tom Jocelyn has tirelessly reported, he was in cahoots with al Qaeda, and moved between Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Iraq. I have long believed he was the key Iranian operative in Iraq, and his documented contacts with Zarqawi show that.
No surprise that he was in Damascus when destiny apparently claimed him. Hezbollah was a joint Iranian-Syrian operation in which the Iranians ran the organization and Syria provided the base, and logistical support. As I was the first to report, he flew with Iranian President Ahmadi-Nezhad to Damascus for high-level meetings with Bashar Assad and key Syrian military and intelligence officers a while back. So he had very high standing among the terror masters.
His bloody arms reached into South America, both in the creation of Hezbollah bases and in the murderous operations in Buenos Aires in the mid-nineties that led to his indictment by the Argentine Government. And I have no doubt that he was involved in setting up terror cells in the United States. Remember that he was both the operational chieftain of Hezbollah and a high-ranking officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force.
His death would be a major blow to the ability of the terror masters to wage war against us; while there are always evil people eager to kill us, it will not be easy to replace Mughniyah.
There will be a lot of speculation about his killers. Hezbollah has already accused the Israelis, which is what you’d expect them to say. But there are many others who hated Mughniyah, ranging from various Lebanese and Saudi groups who held him responsible for the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, to anti-Iranian and anti-Syrian groups, especially some of the Kurds, to our very own spooks and soldiers, who have long yearned for revenge against the man who organized the brutal murder of Robert Stethem, the suicide bombings against the U.S. Marines in Beirut, similar acts against U.S. diplomats and spooks at our Embassies in the same city, and of course Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and the dreadful death-by-torture of our top spy in Beirut in the mid-1980s.
I doubt we did it. Indeed, I rather suspect that CIA was bound and determined NOT to go after Mughniyah, even though there was a bounty on his head. I know of several instances in which CIA vetoed proposals from well-placed people who claimed to be able to kill or capture Mughniyah, and I have spoken to government officials in Washington who were astonished at the Agency’s lack of vigor. Nonetheless, I have no doubt we will hear from several “experts” that it was a CIA operation.
Israel is more likely, and has a proven ability to operate in Damascus, although Olmert has denied any Israeli involvement. On the other hand, it may have been a joint operation involving a European intelligence service (the French, who were big supporters of Hariri, come to mind) and a local group, perhaps Lebanese Druse, perhaps Syrian and/or Iranian Kurds.
And of course there is also the possibility that the Iranians did it. Their proxy war against us in Iraq–of which Mughniyah was the supreme commander–is in ruin, and they may have decided that he had either lost his touch, or had gone over to the other side. This is not so fanciful as you might imagine. Remember that the Abu Nidal Organization, for many years the most feared terrorist group in the world, tore itself apart when the leader came to believe he had been betrayed by someone inside his organization. That was one of CIA’s greatest psychological operations, run by perhaps the last great American spymaster, Duane Clarridge.
Such things do happen. To be sure, they are more often the stuff of fiction, but sometimes life does imitate art.