Commentary Magazine


Topic: 1983 Marine barracks bombing

Remembering the 1983 Marine Barracks Bombing

If there’s such a thing as a Teflon nation, Iran is it: No matter how much terror the Islamic Republic perpetrates or sponsors against the United States, the regime manages to escape any significant accountability. Thirty years ago today, an Iranian-sponsored terrorist drove a truck bomb into the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut. Most of the Marines—on a peacekeeping mission—were asleep; 241 perished. James “Ace” Lyons, the deputy chief of Naval Operations at the time and truly a national treasure, has an important piece in today’s Washington Times recalling the episode:

The National Security Agency issued a highly classified message dated Sept. 27, 1983, which contained the instructions that Iranian Ambassador Ali Akbar Montashemi in Damascus had previously received from Tehran and then gave to Husayn al-Musawi, the leader of the Islamic Amal. Those instructions directed the terrorist group to concentrate its attacks on the Multi-National Force but take a “spectacular” action against the U.S. Marines.

I was deputy chief of naval operations at that time, and I did not receive that message until Oct. 25, two days after the bombing. That same day, I was called out to the CIA’s Langley headquarters because CIA Director William Casey wanted to see me. At the meeting, Casey asked me whether I would develop plans to take out the perpetrators if he discovered who they were and where they were located. I readily agreed.

President Reagan had the opportunity to hit the perpetrators and planners almost immediately, but Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger objected.

Read More

If there’s such a thing as a Teflon nation, Iran is it: No matter how much terror the Islamic Republic perpetrates or sponsors against the United States, the regime manages to escape any significant accountability. Thirty years ago today, an Iranian-sponsored terrorist drove a truck bomb into the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut. Most of the Marines—on a peacekeeping mission—were asleep; 241 perished. James “Ace” Lyons, the deputy chief of Naval Operations at the time and truly a national treasure, has an important piece in today’s Washington Times recalling the episode:

The National Security Agency issued a highly classified message dated Sept. 27, 1983, which contained the instructions that Iranian Ambassador Ali Akbar Montashemi in Damascus had previously received from Tehran and then gave to Husayn al-Musawi, the leader of the Islamic Amal. Those instructions directed the terrorist group to concentrate its attacks on the Multi-National Force but take a “spectacular” action against the U.S. Marines.

I was deputy chief of naval operations at that time, and I did not receive that message until Oct. 25, two days after the bombing. That same day, I was called out to the CIA’s Langley headquarters because CIA Director William Casey wanted to see me. At the meeting, Casey asked me whether I would develop plans to take out the perpetrators if he discovered who they were and where they were located. I readily agreed.

President Reagan had the opportunity to hit the perpetrators and planners almost immediately, but Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger objected.

Fast forward 13 years: Iran dusted off its playbook and ran a similar operation in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, this time targeting American airmen. The FBI concluded that Iran was behind that attack but President Clinton ordered their report withdrawn and destroyed so as not to undercut his hope for diplomacy and a “dialogue of civilizations.” That dialogue went nowhere, and simultaneous to it, Iran accelerated its covert nuclear program and, during that dialogue, began experimenting with nuclear triggers.

There was more, of course. The September 11, 2001 attacks were chiefly an al-Qaeda operation but, according to the 9/11 investigation, Iran had provided assistance to many of the 9/11 hijackers in their transit to and from their Afghan training camps. Iran never paid the price for that either.

Lyons concludes his piece by noting:

At the time of these “acts of war,” President Obama was still a student at Columbia University and later at Harvard. He was probably more involved in absorbing the wisdom of the leftist agenda than on the tragic events carried out by Iran against our military. However, he is certainly aware today of the thousands of our military personnel who have died as the result of Iran’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also must realize that Iran has provided material and training support to the September 11 hijackers. Iran was found guilty of providing such support by Judge George B. Daniels of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in December 2011. Previously, Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found Iran guilty in the Marine barracks bombing.

Iran remains the world leader in state-sponsored terrorism. It is a rogue regime that will do anything to ensure the survivability of the corrupt theocracy. The mullahs have not spent billions to build underground nuclear facilities, as well as absorbing crippling economic sanctions, to simply negotiate away their nuclear weapons objectives. In August 1995, Russia offered to provide Iran with a 10-year supply of fuel for their nuclear plant at Bushehr for only $30 million. Iran adamantly rejected the proposal because Russia insisted that Iran return the spent fuel rods to Russia for reprocessing. Case closed. Iran, with enough oil and gas to last at least a few hundred years, doesn’t need nuclear capability for electricity.

With Mr. Obama’s eagerness to negotiate with Iran, it has been reported that he is weighing the possibility of unfreezing billions in Iranian assets in response to “potential” concessions by Iran. Such a move would be nonsensical. If Mr. Obama were to unfreeze billions of Iranian assets, then the money should not go to Iran, but to the surviving families of the Marine barracks bombing, as well as to the surviving families of the September 11, 2001, atrocity, as our courts have mandated.

Let us hope that Obama is listening and that he does not believe that sophistication requires sacrificing justice and accountability.

Read Less

Rouhani’s Cabinet Isn’t “Moderate” Either

When new leaders want to appear moderate in the Middle East, there are generally three ways to do so: table the hate speech, surround themselves with a balanced cabinet, and show a history of restraint on matters of interstate violence. (Note: These rules do not apply if you are Benjamin Netanyahu, who has followed them carefully and is still described in more extreme terms than his Palestinian counterpart by the media.)

So it remains a mystery why the Western press thinks anyone will fall for the idea that new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is a moderate. As Jonathan has noted, Rouhani has not tabled the hate speech, even since his election. As Sohrab Ahmari pointed out, Rouhani spent part of the 1990s on a government committee that oversaw the assassination of enemies of the state, so he cannot pretend he has a history of peaceful conduct. And now he has put quite the cabinet together, the latest controversial addition to which has a fairly notorious incident on his resume.

Read More

When new leaders want to appear moderate in the Middle East, there are generally three ways to do so: table the hate speech, surround themselves with a balanced cabinet, and show a history of restraint on matters of interstate violence. (Note: These rules do not apply if you are Benjamin Netanyahu, who has followed them carefully and is still described in more extreme terms than his Palestinian counterpart by the media.)

So it remains a mystery why the Western press thinks anyone will fall for the idea that new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is a moderate. As Jonathan has noted, Rouhani has not tabled the hate speech, even since his election. As Sohrab Ahmari pointed out, Rouhani spent part of the 1990s on a government committee that oversaw the assassination of enemies of the state, so he cannot pretend he has a history of peaceful conduct. And now he has put quite the cabinet together, the latest controversial addition to which has a fairly notorious incident on his resume.

The Washington Free Beacon reports that Rouhani has selected Hossein Dehghan as his defense minister. Dehghan “was implicated in the 1983 bombing that killed 241 American servicemen in Lebanon, according to an Israeli intelligence official.” That official is retired IDF Brig. Gen. Shimon Shapira, who is now with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Over the weekend, Shapira explained the background:

After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 1982, Dehghan was sent to Lebanon. He served as commander of the training corps of the Revolutionary Guard, first in Syria and soon after in Lebanon. This role made him responsible for building up the military force of Hizbullah, which also was established at that time. After most of the Revolutionary Guard force returned from Lebanon to Iran, and the force’s commander, Ahmad Motevasselian, was kidnapped along with three other Iranians in the summer of 1982 by the Christian militia – the Lebanese Forces, Ahmad Kanani was appointed commander of the Revolutionary Guard force in Lebanon.

About a year later Hossein Dehghan replaced Kanani in that position. One of his first goals was to set up a central command for the Iranian force, which at that time was scattered among small towns and villages in the Baalbek region. At the beginning of September 1983, Hizbullah, with the help of the Revolutionary Guard headed by Dehghan, took over the Sheikh Abdullah barracks, which was seized in the course of a procession led by three Hizbullah sheikhs: Abbas Mussawi, Subhi Tufayli, and Muhammad Yazbek. It had been the main base of the Lebanese army in the Beqaa Valley and now became the Imam Ali barracks, the main headquarters of the Revolutionary Guard.

It was from this headquarters that Iran controlled Hizbullah’s military force and planned, along with Hizbullah, the terror attacks on the Beirut-based Multinational Force and against IDF forces in Lebanon. The attacks were carried out by the Islamic Jihad organization, headed by Imad Mughniyeh, which was actually a special operational arm that acted under the joint direction of Tehran and Hizbullah until it was dismantled in 1992.

That does not appear to be an exception to the rest of the cabinet. As Ali Alfoneh of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explains, in selecting his cabinet Rouhani hasn’t exactly emboldened the reformers:

Rouhani chose his cabinet nominees under pressure, but not from the quarter the Kayhan editor warned against. Rather than reflecting the wishes of the Green Movement, Khatami-era reformists or Rafsanjani’s network, some of the new president’s nominees were imposed upon him by even more powerful quarters:  Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani (Judiciary head), Ali Larijani (Speaker of the Majles) and the former’s brother, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Ali Teyyebnia, economy and finance minister, is a selection of the Supreme Leader, and so was Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s new intelligence minister. Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi, Rouhani’s health minister, and Abd al-Reza Rahmani Fazli, the next interior minister, were imposed by the Larijani brothers. Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, justice minister, is a selection of Sadeq Larijani, but also the Supreme Leader. Hossein Dehqan, defense minister, is the IRGC’s man in the cabinet, and Ja’far Mili Monfared, science minister, is believed to be closer to the Larijanis than to the reformist camp.

Now, it can be argued that Rouhani can’t really prove his moderate credentials without full control of his appointments. After all, the point Alfoneh is making is that Rouhani’s most important deputies were preselected. And further, the subtext of Alfoneh’s post is that Rouhani would never be viewed as being in charge of his appointments no matter who he picks. If he appointed reformists, he would be viewed as being the puppet of the reformists. Instead, his cabinet is a reformist’s nightmare–but no one believes he acted independently.

But that is really the point that Rouhani’s skeptics have been making from the beginning. The “give Rouhani a chance” chorus tried to argue that the doubters were being ungenerous in reading the election of the more moderate candidate as a farce set up by Khamenei and his fellow backseat drivers. Now that Rouhani’s cabinet is conforming to the expectations of his Western critics, expect his boosters in the press to begin making a version of the very same argument about a powerless stooge and a meaningless election.

Read Less

Delaying Justice in Benghazi

President Obama has been getting unwarranted criticism for over-reacting to a terrorist threat by closing U.S. embassies across the Middle East last week (all but the embassy in Yemen have since reopened). Actually, if leaks are accurate about how the NSA intercepted a conference call among senior al-Qaeda leaders, the administration acted prudently to disrupt their plot. The administration also is right to step up drone strikes in Yemen to try to further degrade al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate organization that was allegedly going to carry out the attack on U.S. interests in the Middle East.

I’m more worried not about administration over-reaction but about its under-reaction to the last successful attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission–the one in Benghazi almost a year ago, resulting in the death of the U.S. ambassador and several of his colleagues. Justice still has not been done because of the administration’s puzzling insistence–lost amid all the controversy over the talking points about whether it was a terrorist attack or not–to treat this as a criminal offense, not what it was: an act of war. The New York Times reports today, buried deep in a long story:

Read More

President Obama has been getting unwarranted criticism for over-reacting to a terrorist threat by closing U.S. embassies across the Middle East last week (all but the embassy in Yemen have since reopened). Actually, if leaks are accurate about how the NSA intercepted a conference call among senior al-Qaeda leaders, the administration acted prudently to disrupt their plot. The administration also is right to step up drone strikes in Yemen to try to further degrade al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate organization that was allegedly going to carry out the attack on U.S. interests in the Middle East.

I’m more worried not about administration over-reaction but about its under-reaction to the last successful attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission–the one in Benghazi almost a year ago, resulting in the death of the U.S. ambassador and several of his colleagues. Justice still has not been done because of the administration’s puzzling insistence–lost amid all the controversy over the talking points about whether it was a terrorist attack or not–to treat this as a criminal offense, not what it was: an act of war. The New York Times reports today, buried deep in a long story:

Investigators have made only halting progress on the case, leading some F.B.I. agents in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, to voice frustration that there have been no arrests so far, the officials said. Capturing the suspects will most likely require significant negotiations between the State Department and the Libyan government over who will conduct any raids and where the suspects will be tried. The military’s Joint Special Operations Command has drafted plans to capture or kill the suspects, but for now that option has been set aside, Pentagon officials said.

This is repeating the same mistake the Reagan administration made after the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and that the Clinton administration and Bush administrations made after the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. There are always arguments for inaction, some of which look compelling at the time. But failing to retaliate effectively for attacks on U.S. targets overseas inevitably comes back to haunt us because it sends a message of American weakness. It is well past time for the administration to unleash JSOC to capture or kill the men responsible for killing an American ambassador and destroying an American diplomatic post.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.