Commenting on the killing of Imad Mughnieh, the shadowy Hezbollah
operative who figured on the FBI's most wanted list and the U.S. State
Department's list of most dangerous terrorists, State Department
spokesman Sean McCormack said the world will be a "better place"
without the man he called a "mass murderer and a terrorist."
Mr. McCormack said he did not know who was responsible for the car bomb that killed Mughnieh in Damascus Tuesday night.
startling disclosure of Mughnieh's presence in the Syrian capital must
have embarrassed the government of President Bashar Assad. Damascus has
systematically denied supporting terrorists, claiming groups labeled
"terrorists" by the United States and Israel are considered liberation
movements by the Syrian government and by other Arab countries as well.
what if there is more to this assassination than initially thought? A
knee-jerk reaction would be to list the usual suspects and assume
Mughnieh was a guest of Syria. Just as a knee-jerk reaction would
presume Israel pulled the trigger that killed the man. It's not as
though the Jewish state lacked incentives to want him dead.
was on Interpol's most wanted list for his alleged participation in an
attack on an Israeli-Argentine target in which 85 people were killed
and nearly 300 wounded. Israel linked him to the 1992 bombing of the
Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people.
the United States, it too has good reasons to want him dead, and it
explains the sentiment expressed by the State Department spokesman.
intelligence believes Mughnieh to be implicated in the attacks on the
U.S. Marines compound in Beirut and against the U.S. Embassy in the
Lebanese capital. The first attack on the embassy killed a number of
CIA Middle East operatives, while the bombing of the Marine barracks
resulted in the deaths of 241 U.S. service personnel. He is also
accused of the kidnap and murder of Beirut CIA chief William Buckley.
And, it is believed he organized the hijacking of a TWA airliner in
Beirut in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed and his body thrown onto
The French want him for an explosion at a French
military position in Beirut that killed 58 French soldiers, moments
after the attack on the U.S. Marines.
But what if, as one Syria expert adviser to the U.S. government
hinted yesterday, things are not always as they first appear. "Think
outside the box," said the specialist, hinting that it is possible
Syrian intelligence put the finger on Mughnieh for assassins, obviously
with the government's blessing.
Why would Damascus do that? Why would Damascus facilitate the killing of one of the most wanted men on the U.S. terrorist lists?
knowing the grip Syrian intelligence services maintain on all foreign
operatives in the country, it is hard to imagine such an operation
could have been pulled off without the knowledge, if not the outright
cooperation, of the country's security services.
assassination operation would have required, first, positive
identification and knowledge of Mughnieh's location. He was known to
have been extremely security conscious, to have assumed multiple
identities and even to have undergone several plastic surgeries to
change his appearance.
It would have required continuous
surveillance of the target to establish a pattern or identify the
appropriate time and location for the hit. And it would have required
access to explosives and the means of putting it all together.
this means the Hezbollah operative with a $5 million bounty on his head
was "given" to those who wanted him dead, the question remains, why? If
there is any truth to that theory, what is Damascus to gain in return?
A deal on the Hariri affair? A greater say in Lebanese affairs with the
blessing of Washington and Paris? The possibilities are as many as they