New Iranian Defense Minister – Mughniyeh’s Controller, Israel Affairs Expert
Mostafa Mohammad-Najar, brigadier general in the Revolutionary Guards, has packed a lurid, blood-spattered biography into his 49 years, according to the profile of Iran’s new defense minister sketched here by debkafile‘s exclusive intelligence and Iranian experts.
Last week, the Iranian majlis automatically approved the new cabinet tailored by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to conform with the ultra-conservative policies of the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Of the 21 new ministers, 18 hail from the Revolutionary Guards and the dread secret police, forming a war cabinet par excellence.
Mohammad-Najar’s credentials stand out enough – even in this company – to attract the attention of watchers in Washington, Jerusalem and most Middle East capitals. They mark him out as one of the most brutal products of Iran’s secret services and therefore, by definition, a high-ranking and seasoned terror master.
debkafile names him in fact as the longtime senior controller of Imad Mughniyeh, one of Washington’s most wanted terror masters, who currently serves as chief of the Hizballah’s special security apparatus and Tehran’s go-between with al Qaeda.
The new defense minister is notorious for his role in the earliest terror attacks on US targets in the Middle East. The first was the October 23, 1983, suicide bombing of US Marines headquarters in Beirut which killed 241 Marines. The second was the Khobar Towers blast in eastern Saudi Arabia on June 25, 1996. This was a joint Iranian intelligence-al Qaeda operation targeting the facility housing American fighter pilots and air force crews guarding the Dharan oil fields. The death toll of that atrocity was officially put at 19 with 200 injured, but was certainly much higher.
In 1982, after the Iran-Iraq war, Muhammad-Najar was placed at the head of the Revolutionary Guards Middle East department which controls Iranian intelligence bodies in the region, including Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates, and runs clandestine projects for the “export of the Islamic revolution” to these countries. He quickly proved himself an able organizer and operations chief. He forthwith planted 1,500 Revolutionary Guardsmen in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley. Their transit through Syria was approved by the Damascus government. This Iranian outpost established the first recruiting center for the new Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization calling itself Hizballah.
Right from the start, Muhammad-Najar worked closely with a rising star in the Islamic terrorist firmament, Imad Mughniyeh, who debuted with spectacular abductions of foreigners, mostly American and British hostages. The two became firm friends in this period. In February 1988, the pair organized the kidnapping of Colonel William R (Rich Higgins, the most senior American intelligence officer in Lebanon. He was tortured to death by Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen and Hizballah operatives on an unknown date.
Later in the 1980s, when Lebanon became too hot for him, Mughniyeh fled the country ahead of American pursuit. His Iranian friend and future Iranian defense minister arranged for Iranian intelligence to protect him and smuggle him to safety in Tehran.
Muhammad-Najar also has a history of deadly strikes against Israel. More than one account ascribes him a role in the suicide bombings of Israeli army command posts in the southern Lebanese towns of Tyre and Sidon in 1983.
After his 1985 appointment as head of Iran’s Military Industries Organization under the aegis of the Revolutionary Guards, he kept up his connections with the Iranian terrorist machine including the Hizballah. One of his jobs was to develop weapons adapted to terrorist warfare outside Iran. He took a personal interest in developing the 230mm Iranian super mortar that was supplied to the Revolutionary Guards’ al Quds battalion and the Hizballah for use in the Middle East and also in Europe.
The new defense minister is also credited with organizing the 12,000 Katyusha short-range rockets Hizballah has positioned on the Lebanese-Israeli border as a deterrent against Israeli attacks on Iran and itself.
In October 2000, a month after the outbreak of the Palestinian suicide terror war against Israel, Muhammad-Najar took a hand in the Hizballah’s kidnap of three Israeli soldiers, Adi Avitan, Benny Abraham and Omar Suweid. At the end of 2001, he helped prepare the 50-ton illegal weapons cargo for loading at Kish Island aboard the Karine-A smuggling ship. Vessel and cargo were seized by Israeli commandos on the Red Sea before they reached Arafat’s terrorist squads in the Gaza Strip.
In nearly five years of the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the new Iranian defense minister stayed in close touch with the Hizballah’s 1800 Unit, which interacts with the Palestinian terrorist organizations and whose agents are actively present in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and among dissident Israeli Arabs.
Ahmadinejad picked him as defense minister in appreciation of his expertise as an intelligence and terror mastermind with long experience of violent covert operations against American and Israeli targets in such places as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and his work in conjunction with Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist organizations. Muhammad-Najar’s presence in a key position in the Iranian government is bad news above all for the United States and Israel. They see him as an omen of the imminent stepping up of Iranian involvement in Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist campaigns across the Middle East.