The small bomb which blew away Imad Fayez Mughniyeh in the upscale Damascus Kafar Soussa neighborhood Tuesday night, Feb. 12, blasted a hole in the clandestine exploits of the longest-running and most secretive of Islamist master-terrorists.
Suddenly, his most spectacular bombings, hijackings, kidnappings and murders over a quarter of century, were brought to popular attention.
As a Shiite extremist in the service of Khomeinist Iran, the master terrorist singled out America and Israel as the targets of his most savage works, but 42 governments all told hold confidential dossiers on his crimes against their nationals.
During his 46 years, Imad Mughniyeh evolved from a lowly recruit in Yasser Arafat’s Force 17 to master of Hizballah’s world-wide intelligence-cum-terror network, a powerful and dangerous Iranian tool with a clandestine presence as far afield as the United States’ backyard, Latin America.
As such, he ran more terror fronts against America than Osama bin Laden. Before 9/11, Mughniyeh topped the Washington’s most wanted terrorist list.
Throughout his career, he kept Israel within his sights. He died in the midst of preparing the Lebanese Shiite militia for its next war against Israel. After the 2006 conflict, Tehran made him Hizballah’s military chief in place of Hassan Nasrallah, whose performance was found wanting.
An adept at his destructive trade, Imad Mughniyeh found open doors in the highest reaches of the nether world he inhabited, including Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahri and every Palestinian terrorist chief.
Close friend of Moqtada Sadr
Their absolute trust and high regard only reached the public domain in the eulogies they delivered after he was dead. None, however, touched on Mughniyeh’s most ambitious covert venture: Laying the first logistical and organizational foundations for the Iraqi insurgency which later erupted against the US Army.
His early mission therefore embodied the early date of Iran’s steps to counter the US invasion and turn the Iraq War against the invaders.
A small keyhole opened up when Iraq's Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr on Thursday condemned the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus and declared three days of mourning in all Sadrist offices.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals that the two Shiite radicals were friends. The Lebanese terrorist helped the Iraqi Shiite organize his Mehdi Army militia and make it an effective fighting machine supported by the infrastructure he created. Their ties continued for years. In 2006, US officials discovered 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from the Mehdi Army and other Shiite militias had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon, one of the projects arranged by Mughniyeh.
Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, the official said.
Mughniyeh’s DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror experts traced the first visit to Iraq by the shadowy servant of Tehran to April 2003. He spent six months crafting the infrastructure of command centers, hideouts, supplies, arms and equipment which were to support the Shiite, Sunni and al Qaeda anti-US campaigns at three levels.
The Baghdad-Ramadi-Falluja-Anbar framework: The al Qaeda and Iraqi Sunni groups of this network did their brutal worst from 2004 to 2006 and came close to bringing the US army to defeat in those dark days of the Iraq War.
The logistics framework: A well-oiled machine used by elements of al Qaeda and the Syrian government to smuggle fighters, arms, equipment and money from Lebanon’s Hizballah via Syria with Iranian funding, to nurture the Iraq insurgency.
Hizballah still runs Iraq’s insurgency’s support system via Syria
This support system was, and still is, run by Hizballah and, according to DEBKA-Net–Weekly’s Middle East sources, made the ruling elite of Damascus rich.
The Assad clique rakes off a commission on every shipment and service Syria supplies this network – which goes far to explain why President Bashar Assad was consistently unmoved by Washington’s appeals and threats to seal his border with Iraq.
The Iranian espionage-subversion network: Established in southern Iraq, this network has spread across the country with cells in every Shiite town and village, Tehran’s tentacles reaching out to dominate the Iraq state and bring it into Iran’s sphere of influence for the long term.
Imad Mughniyeh brought his finest handiwork to bear on the Iraq enterprise as a joint project of Iran, al Qaeda and Hizballah, making it the high point of his career.
The question is: Why did US intelligence and its military fail to go after him in Iraq and nip his depredations in the bud? The answer, quite simply, is that in 2003, the early days of the Iraq war, America’s civilian and military war leaders were certain that victory was in the bag and had no ears for alerts about his activities – even when they came from Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Least of all, they heeded DEBKA-Net-Weekly, the only publication at the time to report that the Lebanese terrorist had arrived in Iraq to set up the machinery for hostile elements in Iraq and the Middle East to fight the American army in Iraq with the fire of terror.
The Iraqi episode is one of the hidden chapters of the epic war on Islamist terror – and probably not the only one.