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April 23, 2006
The Terrorist State

According to the London Times, Iran has picked a wanted terrorist to head its defense operations in case of a Western attack on nuclear development sites. Imad Muguniyeh participated in the TWA hijacking in 1985 that resulted in the murder of Navy diver Robert Stethem and has been wanted by the FBI for over 20 years:

IRAN’S president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attended a meeting in Syria earlier this year with one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, according to intelligence experts and a former national security official in Washington.

US officials and Israel intelligence sources believe Imad Mugniyeh, the Lebanese commander of Hezbollah’s overseas operations, has taken charge of plotting Iran’s retaliation against western targets should President George W Bush order a strike on Iranian nuclear sites.

Mugniyeh is on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list for his role in a series of high-profile attacks against the West, including the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet and murder of one of its passengers, a US navy diver.

Now in his mid-forties, Mugniyeh is reported to have travelled with Ahmadinejad in January this year from Tehran to Damascus, where the Iranian president met leaders of Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

The meeting has been dubbed a “terror summit” because of the presence of so many groups behind attacks on Israel, which Ahmadinejad has threatened to wipe from the map.

Michael Ledeen, one of our own CQ community and one of my favorite columnists, gets quoted in the Times as confirming the connection between Ahmadinejad and Muguniyeh. Muguniyeh has more experience than Stethem's murder in killing Americans; he also participated in the torture and execution of CIA station chief William Buckley in 1984, one in a series of Western hostages taken by Hezbollah in the mid-1980s. He supposedly also took part in the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983 that sent the Marines home from Lebanon, and Israel reportedly suspects him of recruiting the bombers that killed Israelis and other Jews in a series of Argentina bombings in the 1990s.

The Hezbollah connection makes it clear that Iran has called in its chits with the terrorist groups it finances in order to gain some needed credibility to the deterrent threat it can offer to the West, especially the United States. Ahmadinejad has selected one man that has demonstrated success in terror operations against Western targets, especially against America and Israel. As part of this transaction, Hezbollah has given Iran control of the missiles in Southern Lebanon that they have aimed at Israeli cities, according to the Times, so that the Iranians have a more immediate military deterrent against Israel.

It's getting progressively more difficult to ignore the provocations of Iran in this game of nuclear chicken. The appointment of Muguniyeh and the Iranian presence in Lebanon present enough of a casus belli that the US may have to engineer a reason not to follow the Bush Doctrine in the war on terror to avoid using the military option. Ahmadinejad has pushed Teheran into a series of raises that may reflect a core bluff, but the United States may still be forced to call them with action rather than words. Israel will not long sit still with Iranian hands on missiles in Southern Lebanon, and any demurrals at that point would be rendered moot.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 23, 2006 12:39 PM

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