Damascus Seizes on Mughniyeh Killing for Lebanon Comeback
Syria is not waiting for its official investigation to wind up and expose the party responsible for killing Hizballah commander and Tehran’s terror tactician in Damascus on Feb. 13 – any more than Hizballah, when its leaders accuse Israel. Tehran, Syria and Hizballah have all threatened revenge against Israel within or outside its borders.
However, Bashar Assad’s strategists are not losing a moment to cash in on the abundant conspiracy theories surrounding the death, to plant one of its own: Mughniyeh, they say, was killed in their capital by their Lebanese enemies.
Therefore, it is feared in Washington and Jerusalem that, while plotting revenge on Israel, Hizballah, backed by the Syrian commando units, will launch attacks on Lebanese national intelligence and Druze targets in Beirut and Mt. Lebanon – they point a finger at Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Their immediate goal would be to overthrow the pro-Western, anti-Syrian government headed by Fouad Siniora and stir up a new civil war. The door would then re-open for Syria to make a comeback to the troubled country and move troops in for the first time since they were thrown out in 2005, in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions.
Syria’s machinations give substance to Director of US National Intelligence Mike McConnell’s assertion to Fox TV Sunday, Feb. 17, that, while Hizballah is blaming Israel, “…there’s some evidence that it may have been internal Hezbollah. It may have been Syria. We don’t know yet, and we’re trying to sort that out.”
“It is a serious threat, and it’s primarily against Israel,” said the US intelligence director. “But …let me just mention about Mughniyeh… (He was) responsible for more deaths of Americans and Israelis than any other terrorist with the exception of Osama bin Laden. So this man over time had lots of enemies. Remember, he’s a Shia, and oftentimes his targets could be Sunni as well as against Israel.”
Last week, the FBI placed counter-terror squads on alert in the US against attacks on synagogues and other potential Jewish targets. In July 2007, McConnell referred to Hezbollah sleeper cells in the United States waiting for orders to spring into action. Our sources report they are part of the trans-continental network which Mughniyeh himself established on behalf of Hizballah and Tehran.
Meanwhile, in Beirut, debkafile‘s Middle East sources report sporadic clashes already erupting in Beirut in the last few days between pro-government and pro-Hizballah adherents.
Sunday, Feb. 17, unidentified gunmen shot up a Lebanese army unit near the Sabra district in south Beirut, killing one person and injuring others. Barricades and manned positions have gone up ominously in the Lebanese capital and no-go zones set up between flashpoint districts.
Syrian sources promise the results of their finished inquiry will cause an earthquake in the Arab world and Middle East when they are published Saturday, Feb. 22.
Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah has scheduled another of his broadcast speeches for the same day – this one to mark the anniversary of his predecessor Abbas Musawi’s death in 1992, which was also attributed to Israel.
The two events are feared by US and Israeli officials to have been coordinated on the same day to flash the signal for the Syrian-Hizballah plan to start unfolding.
debkafile outlines the case Syria has begun putting together to incriminate its Lebanese enemies:
1. A large Mossad spy-cum-terror ring was allegedly uncovered in Damascus and Beirut. Its mission was to keep tabs on Syrian commanders, Hizballah heads and Palestinian leaders before liquidating them.
2. The ring comprised Lebanese members as well as collaborators from a key Arab intelligence body, possibly Saudi or Jordanian.
debkafile sources report that Damascus, increasingly isolated in the mainstream Arab world over Lebanon and its ties with Tehran, has no qualms about confronting Saudi Arabia and Jordan and accusing their intelligence agencies of being in league with Israel to destroy the “Arab resistance movement.”
Saudi Arabia has indicated that its chair will be empty at the forthcoming Arab League summit in Damascus at the end of March.
3. Syria claims to have found evidence that two Lebanese intelligence agencies are involved in the Mossad ring.
One is the research branch of the Lebanese General Security Service, whose director, Capt. Wissam Eid, was murdered in a car bomb attack in Beirut on Jan. 25. Capt. Eid was deeply involved in gathering evidence for the Hariri assassination case and uncovering The Syrian leadership’s criminal involvement.
Our intelligence sources note that success by a Syrian undercover team in immobilizing this service would not only deprive the Fouad government of its primary security shield, but also bring the investigation into the three-year old assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister to a halt – just when the international tribunal is preparing to start work in the Netherlands.
The second clandestine Lebanese agency which Syria stigmatizes as part of the Mossad network is the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s private intelligence service.
Syria claims to have exposed the personal involvement of its director, Hisham Nasser e-Din. This charge would justify the targeting of the Druze leader and his domain on Mt. Lebanon. Jumblatt, whose father was assassinated on orders of Bashar Assad’s father, is marked as the Syrian president’s most implacable Lebanese foe.
4. The Syrian investigators are seeking to prove that Mughniyeh was killed while walking on foot from the house where he was staying in Damascus to the Mitsubishi SUV and that the vehicle was in fact rigged as a bomb car which detonated on his approach. They further claim that more explosive devices were planted along his path in case the first one missed its mark.
This is important to support the Syrian case, because they claim to have tracked down the vehicle’s Lebanese owner and fixed the time when he entered Syria.
5. They say the explosive was laced with 3,000 steel nails, which killed the targeted Hizballah commander and pockmarked surrounding buildings.