Kuwaiti paper: Mughniyeh hit 'only first step'

Newspaper claims Mossad plans to target Hamas, Revolutionary Guards to goad Iran into a response.

Imad Mughniyeh good 248 (photo credit: AP)
Imad Mughniyeh good 248
(photo credit: AP)
A Kuwaiti newspaper has quoted unnamed Israeli sources as saying the Mossad killed Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus on February 12. "The assassination of Hizbullah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh was only the first in a string of assassinations that Israel is planning to carry out against senior figures of Hizbullah, Hamas and perhaps even Iran," Kuwait's Al-Jarida newspaper quoted Israeli sources as saying on Wednesday. The paper said the sources did not rule out the possibility that "the Mossad will move to stage two and target the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards - without waiting for Hizbullah's response to the assassination of Mughniyeh." "Those who assassinated Mughniyeh knew well enough that they had hit the highest-ranking coordinator between Iran and its proxies around the globe," the sources said. "Those who did this understand the implications of such an operation." According to the sources, "The Mughniyeh assassination was a link in a long chain of operations. After Mughniyeh there will be a second stage and a third stage, which will target Hizbullah and Hamas. This could prompt Iran to take action, which will force Israel to target it." The sources reiterated a claim made in a Sunday Times report earlier this week that the successful killing of Mughniyeh had clinched the government's decision to extend the term of Mossad head Meir Dagan. "This operation restored the Mossad's status and its dignity," the Israeli sources were quoted as saying, "that, and the bombing of the Syrian installation in Dir al-Zur last year." On September 6, the IAF reportedly destroyed a suspected nuclear site deep in Syria. The Prime Minister's Office declined comment, saying it had no idea who the sources were who spoke to the Kuwaiti newspaper. On Tuesday, a senior Kuwaiti analyst was quoted by Reuters as saying that Persian Gulf nations believed Israel would strike at Iran's nuclear facilities rather than allow Teheran to attain offensive nuclear capabilities. Sami Alfaraj, president of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies, went on to say that if Iran did acquire a nuclear bomb, Gulf states would appeal to Israel, as well as to the United States and Pakistan, to help ensure their security. Alfaraj, who advises the Gulf Cooperation Council secretary general and Kuwait's prime minister, Foreign Ministry and National Security Bureau, said a nuclear Iran would drag nations from far beyond the Persian Gulf into an arms race. Countries that could not build their own nuclear weapons would seek a "nuclear umbrella" - even if they had to appeal to Israel, he said. "I believe in something on the same Iraqi [Osirak reactor] model... We are assuming in the Gulf that Israel will take it out," Alfaraj told Reuters. In June 1981, the IAF heavily damaged the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. Also in Kuwait on Wednesday, a parliamentary bloc said it had expelled two of its Shi'ite lawmakers who took part in a ceremony eulogizing Mughniyeh, because they had disregarded the feelings of their fellow Kuwaitis. Describing the fugitive Lebanese militant as a hero has sparked public outrage in a country that holds him responsible for hijacking a Kuwait Airways flight and killing two of its Kuwaiti passengers 20 years ago. The two lawmakers remained in the legislature, although some deputies have said the two should resign from the 50-seat house. The Popular Action bloc, which includes prominent opposition members, said it "utterly rejects and condemns" the participation of lawmakers Adnan Abdul-Samad and Ahmed Lari in Saturday's eulogy, which "bloodied the hearts" of Kuwaitis. After the expulsions, the seven-member bloc is down to five members, including one Shi'ite deputy. Kuwait does not have official political parties, and political positions vary according to the issue being deliberated. At the eulogy, Abdul-Samad said there was no evidence Mughniyeh was involved in the Kuwait Airways hijacking. The cabinet in this Sunni-dominated country has condemned the glorifying of Mughniyeh and warned it could cause civil strife. It said Monday it was taking "legal measures that would safeguard national unity." Four lawyers have filed a complaint with the prosecution against the two parliament members, accusing them of endangering national unity and splitting Kuwaitis along sectarian lines. One of them, Dhaidan al-Mutairi, said the complaint also named other politicians who attended the eulogy gathering. Despite repeated tensions over the circulation of tapes and books seen as insulting to Shi'ites, this small ally of Washington in the Gulf has seen no major violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites, who make up around 30 percent of its 1 million citizens. In April, 1988, Shi'ite gunmen hijacked the jumbo jet en route from Thailand to Kuwait City. They diverted it to Iran, Cyprus and Algeria, demanding Kuwait free 17 pro-Iranian terrorists jailed for attacks in Kuwait. After a 16-day ordeal and the murder of two Kuwaiti passengers, hijackers freed the hostages and were allowed to leave Algiers.