Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah Commander, Assassinated in Damascus

See interesting discussion of who may be behind the murder, here

Hezbollah Commander, Wanted by U.S., Killed in Syria (Update 3)
By Massoud A. Derhally
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601116&sid=a5Jk5Qabmo9k&refer=africa

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) — Imad Mughniyeh, a commander of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia wanted by the U.S., was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, the Shiite Muslim group said.

“The martyr Mughniyeh was killed late yesterday evening'' in the Syrian capital, Ghalib Abu Zainab, a member of the Political Council of Hezbollah, said in a telephone interview from Beirut today.

Mughniyeh was indicted in the U.S. for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA Corp. airliner, during which an American Navy diver was killed. Israel has accused him of involvement in the 1990s bombings of the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish center in Argentina that killed more than 120 people.

The U.S. also wanted Mughniyeh for the April 18, 1983, bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut, al-Arabiya television said. Seventeen U.S. officials, including Robert Ames, the Central Intelligence Agency's top Middle East analyst, and other CIA staffers were among the 63 people who died in that attack.

In a statement, Hezbollah said Mughniyeh was killed “by the Israeli Zionists.'' His funeral will be held tomorrow, it said. Mughniyeh was 45, according to al-Arabiya.

“There are so many countries and intelligence organizations that had an account to settle with this guy that it could be a great many people,'' Yossi Alpher, a former official with Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and one-time adviser to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, said in an interview today. “Anybody who has an interest in stopping global terrorism should be satisfied that he's removed from the scene.''

Israeli Denial

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said in a pager message, “Israel rejects the attempts being made by terrorist groups that try to tie Israel to the incident.''

Mughniyeh, who also went by the name of El-Haj Radwan, was on the FBI most-wanted terrorists list, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture or conviction.

“It's a big blow and very significant blow no matter who did it,'' Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, said in a telephone interview from Beirut.

“This was done in Damascus,'' he said, adding that, if the Hezbollah commander was killed by Syria, “then it's enormously significant and, if not, then who was able to penetrate Damascus so coolly and comfortably?''

Mughniyeh was a hard target and his killing could be part of a deal between the U.S. and Syria, Salem said. “He was one of the figures that was always asked for by name by the U.S. If, and it's a big if, it's part of a Syrian agenda, it means that the U.S. and Syria must be making progress and there is some deal- making on Lebanon.''

`Unrealistic'

Abdel Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president and once a right-hand man to late President Hafez al-Assad, said he doubted the likelihood of such a deal.

“Such a deal is unrealistic in this day and age,'' Khaddam said in an interview today from his home in Paris.

The site where Mughniyeh was killed is in a security area, in close proximity to an Iranian school and the offices of the Syrian intelligence services and military intelligence unit, Khaddam said.

Mughniyeh's death comes before a rally tomorrow that is expected to draw tens of thousands of Lebanese to central Beirut to mark the third anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

United Nations investigators said Lebanese and Syrian intelligence officials, including the brother and brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, were implicated in the truck bombing that killed Hariri. Syria has denied any involvement.

`Asserting Authority'

“There seems to be a steady attempt to push Syria, and right now the United States and the West has very little leverage over Syria, and I think this is frustrating everybody in Washington as they see Syria asserting its authority in Lebanon,'' said Josh Landis, a specialist on Syria and director of the Center for Peace Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “They've run out of tools and the only thing Bush can say now is that he's going to get a fully funded investigation'' into Hariri's assassination.

The fact that Mughniyeh was killed just before Hariri's anniversary “means that there could be demonstrations by Hezbollah supporters today and tomorrow,'' Ted Karasik, senior political scientist at the Rand Corp. consulting company, said in an interview today. “He was killed in order to ignite confrontation on streets.''

Lebanon has been without a head of state since Nov. 23, when Syrian-backed Emile Lahoud left office at the end of his term. The dispute over the post has threatened to ignite civil strife in the country. The crisis is the worst since the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. Lebanese lawmakers have failed to elect a president on 14 occasions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Massoud A. Derhally in Amman, Jordan, at mderhally@bloomberg.net .

Profile: Imad Mughniyeh
13 February 2008
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008. All rights reserved

Hizbullah's latest 'martyr' has been on the FBI's most wanted list since the 1980s and is accused by Israel of masterminding the 2006 war in Lebanon

Imad Mughniyeh, killed by a car bomb in Damascus on Tuesday night, was a top military leader of the Lebanese Hizbullah organisation, which is mourning him today as a "martyred" hero of its 20-year campaign against Israel and the US.

Mughniyeh has been on the FBI's most wanted list since the 1980s, long before al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden became bywords for terrorism. Working with a shadowy Shia group known as Islamic Jihad, he was blamed for the kidnapping of western hostages in Beirut – including the Briton Terry Waite – and a 1983 bombing that killed 240 US marines in the Lebanese capital.

In 1984, Mughniyeh was said to have been behind the kidnapping and killing of the CIA station chief in Beirut, William Buckley. From the start he was linked closely to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, still Hizbullah's strategic partner. He spent much of the 1990s in Tehran. He was indicted in the US for the 1985 hijacking to Beirut of a TWA airliner in which a US navy diver was killed.

Western intelligence agencies have described Mughniyeh as head of the jihad council within Hizbullah's ruling shura council.

Israel saw him as the terrorist "mastermind" behind the planning for Hizbullah's July 2006 war with the Jewish state, which began with the audacious cross-border kidnapping of Israeli soldiers the organisation hoped to swap for Lebanese prisoners.

It was no surprise that Hizbullah blamed Israel's Mossad secret service for the killing, nor that the Syrian government, doubtless embarrassed by the attack in the heart of Damascus, remained silent.

If Israel was behind the assassination – and it has strongly rejected any involvement – it will be seen as a deliberate signal that it could target leaders of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has offices in the Syrian capital.

Another possibility is that the bombing was the work of agents linked to the pro-western Beirut government, which is at odds with the Shia organisation and its Syrian backers. The CIA has been pursuing Mughniyeh for years.

The killing electrified Beirut, already tense on the eve of Thursday's mass rally commemorating Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, whose assassination three years ago was widely blamed on Syria.

Israeli leaders were furious last month when Hizbullah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, made the macabre boast that the group was holding the body parts of several Israeli soldiers. Nasrallah has always claimed that Hizbullah won the 2006 war, taunting the Israelis at every opportunity.

"Israel had an account to settle with Mughniyeh," Eyal Zisser, an Israeli academic expert, told al-Jazeera TV. But he noted that the Lebanese fugitive was wanted by 42 other countries. Israel killed Nasrallah's predecessor, Abbas Musawi, in 1992.

Mughniyeh, aged around 46 and reportedly known to his followers as Haj Radwan, was rumoured to have had plastic surgery and to have been living underground in Beirut's southern suburbs, Hizbullah's stronghold.

Mughniyeh's brother was killed in a similar attack in Beirut in 1994, though reports at the time suggested Imad was the real target.

In this murky area hard facts are more difficult to come by than speculation and misinformation, but some reports have suggested Mughniyeh was in charge of Hizbullah's operations abroad, including attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets in Latin America in the 1990s.

Comments (71)


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51. Akbar Palace said:

Nothing that Israel will not like … it is based on the same settlement that they almost finalized with Prime minister Rabin before he was shot… based on UN resolutions.

Alex –

The Syrian-Israeli talks did not break down due to Rabin’s murder.

You can drop that “straw man” as fast as you created it (link below).

The rejectionists and the terror supporters had their chances with Jimmy Carter, Bush Sr. (Baker), and eight years of Clinton. That’s a sizeable “data point”. In return, we got hostages in Iran, a first attempt to blow up the WTC, the successful planning of the same, a Iraqi madman threatening the entire region, a Libyan WMD program, a huge Syrian grip over Lebanon and massive rebuilding of the Hezbollah, and no peace with the Palestinians.

I’m afraid another 4 years of a liberal US administration will not “change” things for the better for the US. My prediction (based on recent history) is that things would bode for the worse. Unfortunately, there are too many Americans who aren’t aware of this.

With all that, I remain optimistic. If Americans want to forget 9-11 and its implications, they will soon find out again what happens when you let down your guard in the face of Islamic extremism, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.

http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/meast/01/10/mideast.talks.01/index.html

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February 14th, 2008, 12:48 pm

 

52. majedkhaldoun said:

few says ago we heared that there was an earthquake in Syria, today major one south of greece , power 6.7.it looks there are more to come.
Lebanese leaders,making very loud speeches, Marjaleh type, at the end of the day wisdom prevailed.
there are many people will loose sleep in the future, some east , and some south of Lebanon.

Major changes are long overdue,in the middle east.

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February 14th, 2008, 2:11 pm

 

53. Qifa Nabki said:

Isn’t it just a little bit suspicious that Imad Mughniyya was assassinated by “Israel” two days before the Feb 14 rally? Isn’t that just a little bit too convenient, for Hizbullah? The result was that everyone in Lebanon felt bad for HA, and it stole the thunder away from Hariri’s commemoration.

Hmmm…..

Wait a minute!! This must mean that Hizbullah is responsible for cannibalizing itself!

Just kidding; sounds ridiculous, no? (hint hint, IDAF) 😉

(Maybe Syria was also responsible for the rain, which suited Mughniyya’s somber funeral, but totally washed out the M14 rally).

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February 14th, 2008, 2:45 pm

 

54. Atassi said:

offended
Your apology excepted. Please keep in mind, rebutting is the best tool used by this discussions group, invalidating with disrespect never worked. Thanks

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February 14th, 2008, 3:15 pm

 

55. Alex said:

Poor Amin Gemayiel … he was disoriented (the rain? .. the winds?) .. he said something like:

“we will not stop until we elect our hero .. General Michel Aoun”

Total silence in the crowd

“I mean General Michel Sleiman”

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February 14th, 2008, 3:50 pm

 

56. Qifa Nabki said:

HA! That’s priceless.

Meanwhile, across town, Sheikh Na’im Qassem said:

“And noooowwwwww, ya ikhwaaaaaaaan, put your hands together for the one, the only, the pride of the divine resistance, Sayyid Nasraalllllaaaaahhhh Sfeir!”

oops

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February 14th, 2008, 3:54 pm

 

57. Observer said:

Just a question for the bloggers: No body peeped anything when the square building was bomber on the Euphartes river September 6 2007. No comment from anyone. Yet, immediately after a car explodes in Syria with one body removed quickly by the internal security services, HA declares that Mughniah was killed and are threatening retaliation against Israel. Was he really killed? Why announce his death immediately and not keep it a secret? Especially since he was killed in Damascus not in Lebanon. After all, the authorities in both Syria and in collaboration with HA could have kept the whole incident under wraps. They could have blamed Salafists, criminal gangs, whatever. Can someone explain to me why the immediate advertisement.

Does this bombing conicide with the Jumblatt rethoric incidental or is it part of a new offensive? Are the new US sanctions against unnamed Syrian authority figures part of a new coordinated offensive or just part of the course of things? Does this play into the Arab Summit in March?

If the killing is truly that of Mughniah then this represents a significant breach of security for both HA and the Syrians. Knowing that the HA have better and more secure system, I would assume that the breach occured through the Syrian side due mainly to incompetence.

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February 14th, 2008, 4:01 pm

 

58. Alex said:

Alright .. here is the moment we were all waiting for.

Al-Syassa just published its version of what happened.

Enjoy … and learn.

Syria Behind Mughniyah Assassination – Kuwaiti
2008-02-14 11:16 (New York)

Text of report by Kuwaiti newapaper Al-Siyasah website on 14 February

[“Exclusive” report: “Asif Shawkat Meets Mughniyah Shortly Before Kfar
Susah Blast”]

Al-Siyasah has learned from very confidential sources that a secret
security meeting was held at the Iranian School in Kfar Susah area in Syria where the blast took place last Tuesday [ 12 February]. The meeting was attended by Military Intelligence Chief Major General Asif Shawkat and a number of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad leaders, in addition to Imad Mughniyah and Khalid Mish’al. The meeting was intended to plan for striking at several targets in some Arab states should the Arab leaders refuse to attend the next Arab summit in Damascus.

The sources did not rule out that the meeting was a cover-up for a
trap set to target and assassinate Imad Mughniyah and dispel suspicion that the Syrian intelligence was behind the incident, especially since remarks made by circles close to the [Syrian] regime said that Asif Shawkat, who was slightly injured, was the target. This baseless allegation aimed at distancing the Syrian regime from being behind the liquidation.

It is worth noting that the assassination occurred days after a group calling itself Hurras Suriyah [Syria’s guards] issued a statement in which it warned the forces of the Syrian-Iranian axis against continuing to insult the Lebanese and Syrian peoples. This group also announced that it will lie in wait for any behaviour by the ruling clique in Damascus and will seek to secure justice for the Syrian people if the international community fails to do its duty or endeavours to strike a deal with the dictator regime that upholds terrorism.

Originally published by Al-Siyasah website, Kuwait, in Arabic 14 Feb
08.

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February 14th, 2008, 4:22 pm

 

59. Qifa Nabki said:

Robert Baer, ex-CIA agent, according to Sy Hersh “”was considered perhaps the best on-the-ground field officer in the Middle East”, and is regularly cited on SC as a knowledgeable and trustworthy source.

He has this to say about Mughniyya:

“An old friend of mine. Friend may not be the word. Anyhow the Israelis persuaded him to set off a car bomb in a Damascus bus station. He used the Guardians of the Cedars, paid them something like $200,000. Bomb went off as requested. Point two is Syria these days is completely corrupt, you buy what you want.”

FLC

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February 14th, 2008, 5:38 pm

 

60. MSK said:

Dear QN-

The square was pretty packed, but we’ll have to wait a day or two to get reasonable numbers. I highly doubt the organizers’ claim that 1 million were on the square and another half million in the surrounding streets. But the turn-out was still massive & definitely larger than last year.

Most of us in Beirut are quite happy about the rain as it all but guaranteed that there would be no clashes. In addition, the army was deployed everywhere. I am still impressed by how nice and good-natured the Lebanese soldiers are. Today, friends of mine needed to go from Ashrafieh to Hamra and while they were in a Service they had to go through loads of checkpoints and take detours – and the soldiers were always smiling and polite. And on the square, even in the middle of pushing and shoving crowds, the security people never became hostile. What a difference to, say, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi, the Gulf or, yes, Syria.

As for the washout – everyone stayed until the beginning of the speeches & then started to leave. That’s always the case at M14 rallies, though. Most people don’t stay for the speeches. And while people started leaving from the square, others kept arriving …

–MSK*

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February 14th, 2008, 5:40 pm

 

61. Qifa Nabki said:

MSK,

Thanks for the on-the-scene reporting. The rain was a blessing.

And yes, the soldiers, they are salt of the earth.

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February 14th, 2008, 5:43 pm

 

62. majedkhaldoun said:

Hariri said Syrian regime is product of Israel.
Nasrallah said M14 bosses are puppets of Israel.

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February 14th, 2008, 6:18 pm

 

63. MSK said:

Dear QN-

Actually, the weirdest thing for me is still seeing previous enemies standing next to each other – like the shabab with Fatah kuffiyat walking through Gemmayzeh on their way to the square, along walls plastered with LF posters and along hundreds of LF supporters with Geagea & Bashir Gemayel pictures, or PSP next to LF etc.

Of course, the ones always taking the cake are the Murabitoun – big Nasser placards in 2008 are just … too Monty Python to be taken seriously.

–MSK*

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February 14th, 2008, 6:44 pm

 

64. Enlightened said:

Alex Said:

Poor Amin Gemayiel … he was disoriented (the rain? .. the winds?) .. he said something like:

“we will not stop until we elect our hero .. General Michel Aoun”

Total silence in the crowd

“I mean General Michel Sleiman”

Qifa Nabki said:

HA! That’s priceless.

Meanwhile, across town, Sheikh Na’im Qassem said:

“And noooowwwwww, ya ikhwaaaaaaaan, put your hands together for the one, the only, the pride of the divine resistance, Sayyid Nasraalllllaaaaahhhh Sfeir!”

oops

I missed the whole thing last night was too tired and slept, thanks for the comedy guys, I laughed hard! I thank god the Rain came it was a cleansing and sober experience by all your accounts. You just have to say that these politicians take themselves way too seriously.

I saw a comic sketch on the 10 last things that Imad Mugniyah said just as the explosion went off in his car on the net yesterday, I thought it might be too provocative to paste it hear.

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February 14th, 2008, 10:01 pm

 

65. Ford Prefect said:

Enlightened, what worried the crowd the most about Amin Gemayiel’s speech was not his slip of the tongue. People were seriously concerned about his hair being messed up in the rain.

No one will ever want to be next to Sheikh Amin when he is having a bad hair day.

Jumblatt and Ja3ja3, meanwhile, were wondering what the heck is all this fuss about? Their hair was just fine.

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February 14th, 2008, 11:06 pm

 

66. offended said:

Well FP, the situation is quite hairy indeed. ; )

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February 14th, 2008, 11:25 pm

 

67. Ford Prefect said:

LOL! It sure is – no amount of burnt sugar will ever clean it up 😉

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February 14th, 2008, 11:32 pm

 

68. Enlightened said:

FP, Offended;

“Yes quite interesting just as well Gegegea and Jumblatt do not wear Toupees , that would have been quite funny, I didnt miss the Monty Python bit about the Maribitoun!

Looks like they making a comeback? Whats their status in the political arena for those that know?

All we need is a John Cleese type of figure to turn this charade into a “Life of Brian ” type of satirical sketch”

Any photos of “Pierre gemayel displayed” (The founder of Kataeb)?

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February 14th, 2008, 11:43 pm

 

69. Friend in America said:

I regret the time zones between the ME and America are so many. I always seem to be late. My conversations today have yielded nothing to what has been reported, so my contribution is only some thoughts.
Who is behind the assasination? Two hypotheses suggested here are of note: Stevenson’s reasoning on his blog, suggesting an Isreal-U.S.-Lebanon joint effort (a better expression than conspiracy). This hypothesis has problems, one of which is the difficulty to keep a political secret in each of these countries and another a possible over estimation of the capacity of Lebanonese intelligence.

The second hypothesis is the remarkable Al-Syassah story published in Alex’s comment at 4:22 PM, which I interpret as putting the finger on Syrian operatives. There are credibility problems here also: would Iran/Syria really commit violence in various Arab countries simply for not attending the Damascus meeting? That is too far fetched (unless the leaders in the other Arab countries already fear something sinister at the Damascus summit). Is this story is a false lead meant to divert attention away from the real actors? Maybe. And, why would these “plotters” go after Mughniyeh?

There is a third hypothesis, no stranger than the first two. Consider: the car bomb has the footprint of Al Quada; Bin Laden’s letter last fall stated an intention to become more active in Palestine and neighboring countries; there have been concerns in 2007 in Lebanon about Al Quada operatives in that country and Syria also; a significant number of Palestinian and Lebanese men were trained in northwest Pakistan in 2007 – where are they now? Now that the war in Iraq has been lost for Al Quada Bin Laden’s attention has turned elsewhere.
How does this assassination fit into the scenario? Bin Laden needs a militarist base for terrorism in Palestine and Israel. Hezbollah is unsuitable because it is Shia and will stick with Iran. Who else? The Islamic Jihad is a good start. This group has a history of bold strokes of terrorism, but now it is small and severely weakened; it is vulnerable to offers of money and training, increased its ranks with fighters and becoming inspired to rejuvenate its jihad, first against Hamas, then against Israel. To gain control Mughniyeh had to be removed. This creates turmoil and a leadership crisis.

Let me be clear – I have no evidence to corroborate this hypothesis, But ever since Bin Laden’s letter there has been speculation as to how he will get a “foothold” in the Palestinian scene. This is one way. Leave this on the table together with the other hypotheses until more reliable information is made public.

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February 15th, 2008, 3:40 am

 

70. Alex said:

Qifa Nabki said:

“Asad can’t keep waiting for a new dealer; he needs to play a card or two before they are burned. This waiting game is going to backfire if Lebanon goes under, and Bashar should know now that Damascus will not be spared. One by one, we could see Syria’s “cards” go up in smoke — Mughniyya, Mishaal, others perhaps, just like we saw M14’s roster start shrinking. He needs to take his foot off the brakes, and make a move.”

The regime’s cards are not “mashaal” but half the Palestinian people who support Hamas … Israel can not take out that “card”.

Same with Hizbollah and all the Lebanese Shia or other admirers of HA… that’s the card, not the one person assassinated in Damascus yesterday.

And, while I understand your point, but … the Syrian regime is not motivated to make any move or goodwill gesture.

I’ll explain why…But first take a look at the example of Al-Syassa’s “coverage” of the Assassination story in Damascus.

In half a page, they managed to accuse the Syrians of:

1) Betraying their Hizbollah allies and selling them …etc.
2) planning with HA and Hamas fellow thugs to put car bombs in Arab capitals until their leaders accept to attend the Damascus summit!

And if that was not enough, they tried to motivate the Syrian people (I.e. the fundamentalists) with encouraging “news” about Hurras Suria (Guards of Syria) who will liberate the country from the Alawite dictator if the international community fails in doing the job right.

So … Bashar learned some time ago (by mid 2005) that it is totally useless to try to communicate positively to the alliance which has been obssed with regime change in Damascus for the past few years.

No matter what Bashar says or does, Jumblatt and Geagea, and As-Syassa, and Asharq Al-Awsat,a nd Almustaqbal, and George Bush, and the London times (Murdoch owned) …. Will spin it to their faithful readers and followers … and Bashar’s gesture will be turned into one or more signs that he is weak and evil simultaneously … not to mention that he is an Iranian puppet.

As long as the Druze still trust Walid 100% and hate Bashar with passion … Bashar can not communicate with them.

If he talks they will start thinking conspiracy theories … Bashar the weak, sneaky evil doctor must be setting up some trap for them.

It is a bit depressing, I know … because you are absolutely right … we don’t know if Lebanon can survive the next 6 months until this administration is practically out of business.

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February 15th, 2008, 5:54 am

 

71. Shai said:

Alex,

So what has to happen in Lebanon now to make things more stable? Is it all tied to the current U.S. administration? What does that say about the future of Lebanon?

(p.s. I sent you a note a few days ago…)

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February 17th, 2008, 7:36 pm

 

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