Twin US Goals: Topple Assad, Capture Mughniyeh
The Bush administration is waiting for Lebanon to end its four-part parliamentary election on June 19 and for Syria’s Baath party election to take its course before turning the heat up on president Bashar Assad.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources report that US officials have already timed their next steps in conjunction with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
1. Damascus is to be condemned by the UN Security Council for failing to comply with all clauses of Resolution 1559 requiring all Syrian troops to depart Lebanon. (See last week’s issue: Syrian Agents Back in North Lebanon).
To provide chapter and verse, the Americans offered to use their own intelligence resources to collect the names of the Syrian military intelligence officers and their locations in Lebanon.
2. Washington and leaders of the European Community are agreed on a further postponement of the signing of the EU-Syrian trade agreement, thus building up more economic pressure on Damascus.
3. A number of US-sponsored radio and television stations will beam direct broadcasts to Syria, for a broadcasting offensive like the one that preceded the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Washington also has plans for Lebanon. As soon as a new government is installed in Beirut, the Americans will demand –
A. The handover of prominent terrorists still at large in the country. A list has been prepared and will be submitted to Beirut.
B. Surrender of the terrorists involved in the two 1983 bombing attacks on the US embassy in Beirut.
C. Handover of the terrorists involved in the hijack of the TWA flight from Athens to Beirut.
Should the Lebanese government refuse to hand over these terrorists, the Bush administration has drafted another Security Council resolution that will impose sanctions of Lebanon until it complies.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources note that the US administration is keen to lay hands on all these terrorists with whom America has a long reckoning. But most of all it wants Imad Mughniyeh, the arch-terrorist and hostage-taker with the longest record of all in harming Americans and a key figure in al Qaeda’s operational machine and Iran’s terror networks. Gaining custody of Mughniyeh would be a major American triumph and the first chance ever of getting to the bottom of the links between Tehran and al Qaeda.
Mughniyeh spent six to eight months in southern Iraq in 2002, returning to Lebanon in September. US counter-terror experts believe that this slippery international terrorist used that time to organize the Iranian-Hizballah terror and intelligence networks in Iraq and also headed north to help Saddam Hussein’s minions organize their guerrilla war against US forces.
The Americans have been after Mughniyeh for 25 years.