Death of a terrorist

The life and death of Imad Mugniyeh says volumes about the jihadi front.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The life and death of Imad Mugniyeh says volumes about the jihadi front that has declared war on the West, and how and why it must be defeated. Mugniyeh was reportedly wanted in 42 countries. He was allegedly central to the 1983 bombings in Beirut of the US Embassy, and of the US Marines and French Paratroopers. He was indicted by Argentina for masterminding the 1992 and 1994 bombings of the Israeli Embassy and AMIA Jewish community offices. In explaining why Mugniyeh was on the US "Most Wanted Terrorists" list, the State Department web site notes his role in the 1985 hijack of TWA 847 en route from Athens to Rome. "US Navy diver Robert Stethem was brutally tortured and murdered during the hijacking, his body dumped on the tarmac of Beirut International Airport." An analysis, written before he was killed, by Magnus Ranstorp on Counterterrorism Blog describes his centrality to the international Islamist terror network: "The file for handling special operations [like the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers] is usually left to Imad Mugniyeh, the elusive terrorist mastermind for Hizbullah, who stands with one foot within Hizbullah (reporting to Nasrallah directly) and with one foot in Iran inside the architectures of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the al-Qods unit within the Iranian Pasdaran." Ranstorp continues: "Mugniyeh is strictly reserved for special occasions… and his primary mission over the last decade has been to forge qualitative 'military' guidance to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives inside Gaza and the West Bank." Mugniyeh operated against the US and Israel from Lebanon, had a hand in operations directly against both and in third countries like Argentina, shuttled between Beirut, Damascus and Teheran, and was central to training Hamas on Iran's behalf. This sort of networking puts the lie to the strangely persistent myth that Shi'ites and Sunnis don't work together. Just as Shi'ite Iran and Hizbullah, through Mugniyeh, have no compunctions helping Sunni Hamas, there is no reason to believe that these same terror centers are disconnected from al-Qaida, just because it is a Sunni group. Furthermore, Mugniyeh died, having evidently felt particularly safe in, the Syrian capital, Damascus. This should serve as a reminder, in case any was needed, that Syria remains a terror state par excellence. His death revives central questions in the battle against Islamist terror: What is happening with the endless UN investigation of Syrian assassinations in Lebanon, while Syria seems to keep adding to its hit list? What is happening with the Chapter 7 embargo against Hizbullah that Syria is rampantly violating. When will the UN Security Council take steps to enforce the weapons embargo imposed by Resolution 1701? Most importantly, when will UNIFIL be charged with helping the Lebanese government to prevent the weapons flow to Hizbullah across the Lebanon-Syria border? The death of Mugniyeh should also refocus attention on the danger posed by his real masters in Teheran. Every time the world contemplates a nuclear Iran, it must also contemplate the possibility that Mugniyeh's successors will be tasked with using that weapon in a way the bears no obvious fingerprints leading back to Iran, presents no clear address for retaliation, and therefore leaves the entire deterrence model in shambles. But Iran does not have to ever use a nuclear weapon, either directly or through proxies, for that weapon to have a profound impact on the level of terrorism in the world. If Iran goes nuclear, the mullahs will be able to greatly ramp up their support for the entire jihadi axis, including Hamas, Hizbullah and al-Qaida, while enjoying substantial immunity from Western retaliation. This Iranian freedom of action could quickly change the face of the region, substantially raise the price of oil and otherwise pummel Western economies, and destroy any prospects for Arab-Israeli peace. Standing with Ehud Olmert during his visit to Germany this week, Chancellor Angela Merkel sounded supportive on the need to tighten sanctions on Iran. But we are far beyond the stage of nuance and even saber-rattling. Germany remains Iran's largest European trading partner. Not only does this trade continue, but even government export credits subsidizing this trade are continuing at a reduced level. If Germany's oft-repeated "historic responsibility" is to mean anything, it must become a leader, not just a follower - or worse - in the Western campaign to force Iran to back down. The alternative is for the Imad Mugniyehs of the world to gain a nuclear sponsor, with devastating implications not just for Israel, but for free nations everywhere.