Foreign Policy Blogs

The Death of Imad Mugnieh

Imad Mugnieh, mastermind of the 1983 attacks on American soldiers in Beirut, as well as a host of other Hezbollah atrocities, died when his car exploded last week- surely the closest he has ever had the chance to see one of his own hallmarks.    The immediate suspects were, of course, Israel and the US.    I disagreed with this- or at least didn't like the way it was immediately assumed.

 Both countries, of course, had motives to take him out.  Either one would have probably been morally justified.   But the timing seemed wierd.  Why now?  Was it a message to Iran, which supported Hezbollah?  Syria?   There didn't seem to be an immediate answer.  I believed that Syria was involved in the killing, or perhaps some kind of internecine Hezbollah skirmish.

 Oliver Guitta, in the Middle East Times, shares this belief (and backs it up with more than gut feelings).    He backs it up with ideas like this:

First, since Mughnieh, as a top Hezbollah operative working for both Syria and Iran, was suspected of having a hand in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, thus the Syrians might have found it convenient to eliminate him and in the process, sever any link to Damascus. Three years after Hariri's murder, it now seems as though the international tribunal established by the United Nations will finally be hearing the case.

And with rumors like this:

First, according to the well-informed Kuwaiti daily al-Seyassah, Mughnieh was reported to have attended a high-level meeting called by the head of Syrian security services and Syrian President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Chawkat. The other participants to that meeting included top Syrian leaders, representatives from Hamas (including its top leader Khaled Meshaal), Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. The purpose of that meeting was allegedly to select the potential targets to strike in Arab countries, if the latter refused to participate in the Arab summit set for the end of March in Damascus. It was purportedly during that meeting that Mughnieh's car was booby-trapped.

Now, after reading it, I am not entirely convinced.  I wanted to be, because it would have confirmed what I felt before.  I think there is a case here, but there is a lot of circumstantial “evidence” and just some vague ideas of what conspiracies could be lurking.    But I don't discount it, even if it is wrong.   It reminds us that not everything in the world is a US (or Israeli) plot, and that in the Middle East there are always at least three layers of conspiracy theories.  Even if none of them are true, the suspicion they engender plays at least as important a role in dictating events as does the truth.



Brian O'Neill

Brian O'Neill is a freelance writer currently based out of Chicago. He has lived in Egypt and in Yemen, and worked as a writer and editor for the Yemen Observer publishing company. He currently is an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation.