Western intelligence sources have told DEBKA-Net-Weekly that they are checking out signs that an Iranian Revolutionary Guards unit engineered the assassination of the young Lebanese Christian minister Pierre Gemayel on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at the behest of a group of ultra-radicals.
They conjecture that the deed was committed by a hard-core element of Hizballah, whose members were trained and indoctrinated in Iran and given instruction for the hit at a Hizballah base in Baalbek.
This base is in fact a RC facility which houses five commanders up to the rank of colonel for more than a thousand Hizballah commando fighters trained as terminators of politicians and senior public officials.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources report that the interest of some Western intelligence agencies was drawn to Iran by the method used to kill the Lebanese minister. Atypical of Syria, whose assassins specialize in bombings, shootings are commonly practiced by RC elite units in Iran and abroad. Gemayel’s car was blocked by two vehicles as masked gunmen jumped out and one fired shots into a side window of his vehicle. The murder and escape took no more than a couple of minutes. According to some witnesses, the killers did not use the cars that brought them to the scene of the crime but got away on motor bikes hidden nearby.
During the 1980s and 1990s, small Revolutionary Guards hit squads used the same method for liquidating opponents of the Islamic regime in Paris, Geneva, Rome and in Iran.
The men suspected of plotting the Gemayel murder are the RC commander, Yahya Rahim Safavi, his onetime assistant and current deputy interior minister, Mohammad Baqer Zolghadr, who is deeply involved in Lebanon, together with an extremist religious faction led by Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi and Hossein Nouri-Hamedani.
The plot may also have also involved veteran Iranian founders of Hizballah, Ali Akbar Mohtashami-Pour and Mohammad Hassan Akhtari, both former Iranian ambassadors in Damascus.
Their motives in setting up the assassination of the anti-Syrian Lebanese minister would have been:
1. Their deep concern over the reported American opening to Tehran. In the meeting that took place in New York last week, the Iranian UN ambassador Mohammad Javad Zarif assured the head of the Iraq Study Group, James Baker, that his government would be willing to extend a helping hand for stabilizing Iraq, and even encourage Syria to join the effort, provided the United States showed good will towards Tehran and eased up on its pressure for UN Security Council sanctions.
This sort of deal would appear near-blasphemy in the eyes of the ultra-radical elements of the Islamic Republic’s ruling caste, especially the people around the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This group holds that Iran should encourage the Americans and British to stay in Iraq and sink into a quagmire that would erode America’s deterrent strength and standing as the only world superpower. After this fiasco, the US would stop thinking about attacking Iran or scheming regime change in the Islamic Republic
2. The off-the-wall extremists of Tehran feel bound to frustrate any step, such as rapport between Tehran and Washington, with the potential for stalling Iran’s designs for Israel’s destruction and the establishment of a world Islamic regime in Jerusalem.
3. Tehran cherishes an ambition to generate chaos in Lebanon as a vehicle for bringing Hizballah to power. There is evidence that Iran has pondered the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora in the hope of the ensuing chaos opening up a power vacuum which Hizballah would quickly fill.
4. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian rulers have dreamed of sufficient control of the Mediterranean to completely encircle the Jewish state. There is even a secret Iranian plan to achieve this through the domination Syria by subverting its regime.