Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Imad Mughniyah

Augustus Richard Norton, perhaps the best historian of the past thirty or so years of Lebanon's history that we have, thinks Imad Mughniyah's reputation may be exaggerated:
"Last week’s assassination of Mughniyah has certainly increased the political polarization. Mughniyah--one of a cohort of young militants who imbibed the ideology of Iran’s revolution and then were radicalized by the Israeli invasion of 1982--had plenty of blood on his hands. Celebrations of his violent end have painted him as a mastermind of all manner of bloodshed and chaos over the course of the past quarter century or so. His role in some cases, such as the infamous hijacking of TWA 847 in 1985 or the kidnapping and despicable treatment of hostages in 1980s, is well-documented. His role in the early 1990s in the Buenos Aries bombings has been substantiated by Argentinean investigators.

"I am not convinced that he deserves all the credit for terrible deeds that has fallen on his corpse. For instance, was he a 21 year old Svengali who directed the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut in April 1983 and the horrendously effective truck bombing of the marine barracks in the autumn of the same year? Perhaps not. Mind you, Mughniyah had plenty of blood to answer for, but hearing the litany of deeds attributed to Mughniyah one has to be a bit skeptical. The Long Commission, aptly in my view, characterized the attack on the marines in 1983 as an act of war by Iran. Mughniyah would have been a player, but not the mastermind.

"In recent years, little was ever said about Mughniyah in Lebanon. Lebanese close to Hezbollah usually noted that he was most likely in Iran, and he had been close to Pasdaran figures since at least the early 1980s. A variety of commenters, including Israeli officials, have alluded to his operational role in the 2006 war. My own hunch is that the great service that he performed in the July war of 2006 was to maintain the supply conduit between Hezbollah and Iran, as well as being the Pasdaran’s nexus with Hezbollah."



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