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Saturday, May 21, 2011
Declassified State Department Cables On Hezbollah's Imad MughniyahDeclassified documents reveal that the Bush administration was prepared to deal with Hezbollah as a political party if it abandoned the use of violence.
The new documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by INTELWIRE for State Department cables relating to Hezbollah's terrorist mastermind, Imad Mughniyah, reportedly killed in a car bombing in 2008.
Mughniyah is believed to have killed hundreds of Americans during his terrorist career and is believed to have been responsible for the 1983 terrorist bombings of U.S. targets in Lebanon, among many other attacks. A recent lawsuit also alleges Mughniyah helped facilitate the September 11 attacks (memorandum, PDF).
The new documents also point to Mughniyah's involvement in a host of attacks, including a March 12, 2002, bombing that killed six Israeli civilians in northern Israel, which had not previously been attributed to him.
The cables also seem to represent overtures toward Hezbollah made through diplomatic contacts with Syria in the wake of September 11, although Mughniyah remained a sticking point.
A February 2005 cable supporting an EU effort to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization stated:
[The] U.S. is opposed to Hizballah's use of terror and violence not Hizballah as social/political/religious party in Lebanon. But there should be no recognition of Hizballah as legitimate party until all involvement in violence ceases. There should also be no distinction between the so-called "military" and "political" wings of Hizballah.
The cable went on to indicate that Hezbollah could not be treated as a political party unless its popular leader, Hassan Nasrallah, were to step down and the organization were to cut ties Mughniyah.
Another cable dated May 10, 2002 described a meeting between former U.S. Ambassador Theodore Kattouf and former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam:
The Ambassador interjected that the U.S. was not concerned about Hizballah's past resistance activities inside Lebanon. Although we strongly disagree with Hizballah's aims, we did not take issue with it playing a social and political role in Lebanon. But Hizballah was implicated in the 1996 Khobar Tower bombings in Saudi Arabia, something the ambassador knows firsthand, since he was the charge, and in bombings in Argentina in the early 90s. Beyond this, the U.S. would neither forget nor forgive Imad Mughniyeh and his associates for their attacks on U.S. personnel in Lebanon during the 1980s.
But a January 2002 cable seemed to indicate intelligence suggesting Mughniyah had already pulled back from involvement with Hezbollah in favor of Iran, stating:
French information indicated that Imad Mughniyeh and his external security organization had distanced themselves from Hizballah proper and were taking more and more of their direction from Tehran.
The documents also describe Mughniyah-related plots to attack French, American and Israeli targets in the Ivory Coast during the 1980s.
Click here to read the cables (PDF)
Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.
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ISIS: THE STATE
Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger co-author the forthcoming book, "ISIS: The State of Terror," from Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book, which will debut in early 2015, will examine the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, its potential fall, how it is transforming the nature of extremist movements, and how we should evaluate the threat it presents. Jessica Stern is a Harvard lecturer on terrorism and the author of the seminal text Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. J.M. Berger is author of the definitive book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy, and editor of Intelwire.com.