Mughnieh: Liberator of Lebanon or Opportunistic Terrorist ?

Hizbullah leader’s death in Syria could trigger retaliation
By Nicholas Blanford | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
February 14, 2008

Beirut, Lebanon
A shadowy senior Hizbullah commander, thought to have masterminded spectacular terrorist attacks in the 1980s, was killed Tuesday in a Damascus car bombing that will almost certainly trigger a retaliation from the militant Shiite group.

Imad Mughnieh’s legendary militant credentials, which are thought to include attacks on the US Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, made him a prime American and Israeli target for decades and a significant figure in the arsenal of Hizbullah, the Islamist political and guerrilla force that Washington calls a terrorist organization. Analysts say that with Mr. Mughnieh out of the picture, Hizbullah has lost a key asset in its ability to strike in Lebanon or the region.

“This is as big a blow as it gets for Hizbullah security. It’s even bigger than killing [Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan] Nasrallah,” says Magnus Ranstorp, a Hizbullah specialist and research director at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.

Mughnieh, in his mid-40s, was accused of killing more Americans than any other militant before the 9/11 attacks, and the bombings and kidnappings he is alleged to have organized are credited with ending American intervention in Lebanon under the Reagan administration.

He is believed to have overseen the April 1983 suicide bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut and, six months later, the twin suicide truck-bomb attacks against the US Marine barracks and the French paratroop headquarters in Beirut, acts that killed nearly 400 people.

As of Wednesday morning, no one had claimed responsibility for his death. But many in Lebanon and Syria blamed Israel, who is believed to have carried out these sorts of targeted assassinations in Beirut and Damascus before.

The late-night blast Tuesday tore apart Mughnieh’s car, which was parked near an Iranian school in the Damascus suburb of Kfar Soussa. Syrian authorities have only confirmed that one person died in the blast.

Mohammed Habash, a Syrian Islamist lawmaker, said that Damascus needed more time to conduct an investigation before commenting publicly. “Israel is always aggressive and doesn’t respect international laws and norms and it has proved in the past that it doesn’t respect countries’ sovereignty, whether in Palestine, Lebanon, or Syria.”

Hizbullah confirmed Mughnieh’s death early Wednesday morning. “With all due pride, we declare a great jihadist leader of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon joining the martyrs,” said a statement carried by Hizbullah’s Al Manar television channel.

“This is a personal loss for Nasrallah,” says Robert Baer, an ex-Central Intelligence Agency officer who tracked Mughnieh in the 1980s. “[Nasrallah and Mughnieh] are basically the ones who made Hizbullah, in the sense of driving the West out [of Lebanon] in the 1980s, then turning that power against the Israelis” occupying south Lebanon.

Israel denied responsibility for Mughnieh’s death, but Israeli officials greeted his demise with joy. Danny Yatom, former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, called the assassination “a great achievement for the free world in its fight against terror.”

Analysts say that a retaliation from Hizbullah is inevitable. When Israel assassinated Sheikh Abbas Mussawi, then Hizbullah leader, in February 1992, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was blown up a month later, killing 29 people in a revenge operation alleged to have been planned by Mughnieh himself.

“This is something that Hizbullah cannot let pass. Mughnieh was too much of a symbol,” says Timur Goksel, lecturer on international relations in Beirut and a former United Nations official in south Lebanon. “I don’t think Hizbullah will go for a big bombing, probably an assassination of a high profile target.”

Mughnieh’s death comes amid rising tensions in Lebanon as the country prepares to mark the third anniversary of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination in a Valentine’s Day truck bomb blast in 2005. Hizbullah is organizing a large funeral for Mughnieh Thursday afternoon, even as a huge turnout is expected in Beirut to commemorate Mr. Hariri’s death.

While Israel and the US top the list of suspects behind Mughnieh’s death, some Lebanese were quick to point a finger of blame at Damascus.

“It could have been the Syrians,” says Walid Jumblatt, an outspoken member of the anti-Syrian March 14 parliamentary coalition. “Damascus is well protected, and I don’t think somebody else could do it.”

Some analysts suggest that Damascus may have seen advantage in delivering up Mughnieh to his enemies to curry favor with the US at a time when Syria is under intense international pressure. While America’s $25 million reward for Mughnieh is a potential motive, the imminent establishment of an international tribunal to judge Hariri’s killers also may have spurred Damascus’s leadership to cooperate with the Americans over Mughnieh. Syria is widely suspected of involvement in Hariri’s death.

Mughnieh was born in 1962 in the southern Lebanese village of Teir Dibba. He grew up in Beirut’s southern suburbs where as a teenager he joined Force 17, the elite unit of the Fatah faction headed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

After Israeli forces expelled the Palestinians from Beirut during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Mughnieh joined a group of Shiite Islamists then coalescing under Iran’s guidance in the Bekaa Valley. The group became Hizbullah and Mughnieh, despite his youth, was considered one of its most capable figures.

In addition to the 1983 attacks in Beirut, in 1985 Mughnieh led the hijacking of a TWA airliner in Beirut in which a US Navy diver was killed. He is also alleged to have run the networks of kidnappers who snatched dozens of foreigners in Beirut in the mid- to late 1980s.

“The man was a murderer and murdered people who had nothing to do with Lebanon,” says Mr. Baer, the former CIA officer. “But at the same time, he believed he was fighting an anti-Colonial war. He was a disciplined soldier in a manageable war, unlike Al Qaeda, which is completely unmanageable.”
  • Julien Barnes-Dacey contributed reporting from Damascus, Syria.

Imad Mughniyah, who was assassinated Tuesday in Syria, was a man of the Middle East's shadows. He was a terrorist mastermind behind political causes. For him, though, it was as much about the fight as the cause. He shunned the light. He never gave public speeches or lectures. He is not known to have given any press interviews, not even to sympathetic or politically aligned journalists. Western reporters who sought the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hizballah's help to arrange a rendezvous were politely but sternly advised not to go there.

So, did the CIA or some other American intelligence agency finally do Mughniyah in? Everyone, including some of his friends, may have had a motive.

U.S. officials told TIME today that Mughniyah had traveled to Iraq to train the Shi'ite warlord Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Mughniyah, says one American official, was Hizballah’s "chief of external operations" and "considered the key to their military activity." U.S. officials acknowledge that American spy agencies had intensely been tracking Mughniyah the past five years as he moved between Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut.

Apart from his ties to Hizballah, Mughniyah was also believed to have worked closely with Iran. A U.S. official confirmed reports that in 2006, Mughniyah accompanied Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a trip to Syria and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In the 1980s, he had been accused of everything from bombing the U.S. embassy and U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut to the kidnappings of American journalists, academics and the Beirut CIA station chief. More recently, some have claimed that Mughniyeh collaborated with Osama bin Laden. After al-Qaeda's top guns, Mughniyah has the highest price on his head of any terrorist wanted by the FBI — $5 million.

Hizballah immediately blamed Israel for Mughniyah's assassination in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday night. Israel's Mossad spy agency is a reasonable suspect, given Israel's determination to bring him to justice for his alleged involvement in the 1990s bombings in Argentina of the Israeli embassy and a Jewish cultural center. Israeli intelligence has a good history of eliminating terrorist masterminds, even when they are located in unfriendly Arab capitals.

A U.S. official told TIME that Mughniyah had been linked to the 2002 discovery of 50 tons of weapons by Israeli Navy commandos who intercepted a freighter called Karine A in the Red Sea. More recently, said the U.S. official, Mughniyah was connected to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers that led to the July 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

The Israeli Prime Minister's office issued a statement denying any involvement in Mughniyah's killing. A senior ex-intelligence official told TIME: "The Americans wanted him, so did the Saudis and the Lebanese Christians. We weren't the only ones." Still, the former official, who asked not to be identified, has been hunting Mughniyah for over 20 years and described him as "a fanatical killer." "It was as if a big stone had been removed from my heart," he said.

In the John Le Carre world of Middle East terrorism and politics, however, it's impossible to rule out the wildest of conspiracy theories, including that Mughniyah's friends in Syria or Iran may have found his continued existence to be an inconvenience. Or, they may have believed it was politically useful to demonstrate that they can be relied on to control terrorism in the Middle East — as long as the U.S. doesn't try to go after the regimes in Damascus or Tehran. With reporting by Aaron J. Klein/Jerusalem

Imad Mughniyeh: Hezbollah's Phantom Killed


….Born in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, in July 1962, to farmer parents, Mughniyeh grew up with two brothers, Jihad and Fouad, and later moved to the capital’s southern suburbs, where he attended school. He spent a year studying at the American University of Beirut.

Mughniyeh later joined “Force 17”, a special military unit that was tasked with protecting Fatah’s leadership in Lebanon (Yasser Arafat, Abu Jihad and Abu Iyad) and became a veteran sniper. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Mughniyeh oversaw the transfer of weapons from Fatah and the PLO to the nascent Lebanese resistance, represented by Amal and Hezbollah.

Following the three-month siege of Beirut and the PLO’s departure from Lebanon to Tunisia, Mughniyeh joined the Amal movement and later Hezbollah, at the same time as the party’s current leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Anis Nacchache, a Lebanese who had led a failed assassination attempt on the former Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris, in 1980- after he announced his opposition to Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime- first introduced Mughniyeh to senior officials in the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

According to Abu Wafa, a former leader in the revolutionary guards, Mughniyeh stood out from other enthusiastic young men. On his first trip to Iran, in the early 1980s, Mughniyeh proved his military capabilities and excelled in his training. After three months of basic training, he traveled with other Lebanese Shiaa young men to the Iranian front and took part in several daring operations behind Iraqi lines, according to Iranian military leaders.


Imad then joined Hezbollah and was appointed by, Ahmad Motevaselian, a leader in the revolutionary guards in Beirut at the time, as the Party of God’s intelligence chief. His leading role in three operations made Mughniyeh’s name on the top of most-wanted lists in the United States and France: the bombing of the US embassy in the Lebanese capital in April 1983, in which 63 US and Lebanese individuals were killed, the bombing of the US Marines barracks in Beirut, in which 241 died and the bombing of the French barracks in the Bekaa Valley, which killed 58 French soldiers.

Mughniyeh was also tasked with protecting the life of Sheikh Hassan Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, but with his exceptional abilities in field command and leadership, he became the head of the party’s special operations branch.

Mughniyeh disappeared from view for two years and re-emerged on board a kidnapped TWA flight in Beirut international airport in 1985, where he killed one of the passengers, a US Marine.

That same year, a car bomb exploded in front of Fadlallah’s house, killing 62, including Imad’s brother Jihad.

Mughniyeh also participated in the attempt to release a relative who was part of a group known as “Dawa 17” imprisoned in Kuwait after attacks on the US and Kuwaiti embassies. The men were released after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He later kidnapped several westerners and released some of them, in the wake of secret negotiations with the Reagan administration.

According to an Iranian source, who met Mughniyeh on more than one occasion in Iran, the elusive figure had undergone plastic surgery to change his facial features in 1990. He then returned to Beirut incognito, under a new name and a false identity, with an Iranian diplomatic passport. Using several forged Lebanese, Syrian, Iranian and Pakistani passports, Mughniyeh successfully planned and executed a number of terrorist operations in Argentina in the mid 1990s, including the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 85.

During his constant traveling, Mughniyeh met Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri in Sudan, where al Qaeda’s leader had established training centers in farms, while the revolutionary guards were also active in the country, under the guise of “Jihad for construction” organization, which was responsible for building roads and installations. When Mughniyeh’s cover was blown, he returned to Iran where he underwent a second operation and completely changed his look.

Between 1997 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Mughniyeh traveled between Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan and northern Iraq, and assisted al Qaeda leaders to cross from Afghanistan to Iran. He then played a role in moving fighters loyal to bin Laden from Afghanistan to Iraq, through Iranian territory, by exploiting his relationships with the revolutionary guards, al Zawahiri, Saad bin Laden and Mohammed al Islambouli, whose brother assassinated the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.


In 2005, he was tasked with organizing relations between the different Shiaa armed factions in southern Iraq. Mughniyeh then became the field supervisor of the revolutionary guard’s intelligence bureau in the region. That same year, he traveled to Lebanon through Syria, accompanied by Iranian officials, under the name of Sayyid Mehdi Hashemi, an Iranian national with a diplomatic passport.

In early 2006, reports indicated Mughniyeh had been seen in the city of Basra, where he is alleged to have been facilitating the entry of Mehdi army fighters into Iran, to take part in military training. In April, Mughniyeh was said to have returned to Lebanon where he held senior positions in Hezbollah's intelligence services and, according to Israeli sources, planned the operation to kidnap Israeli soldiers, based on orders from Iran’s revolutionary guards.

Analysis: Duet in Damascus – is it déja vu?

"Gathering intelligence in Shiite neighborhoods is complex, of course, the nature of the neighborhood almost didn't allow them to walk around on foot and look at things, neither were they able to drive around in a rented car. One of the buildings in the street matched the description given to them in an intelligence briefing by a local agent. After several turns in the area at different hours of the day, a car that was also seen at his office was noticed parked outside the building on the residential street. The next day, when they waited for him to leave the neighborhood in the early morning hours, they identified the man himself and his car. Now was the time to move. He finished assembling the bomb quickly and lifted it carefully – nobody enjoys walking around with a kilo of explosives in his hands. He quickly moved towards the car and crawled underneath it, took out the tools from his pocket, and placed the bomb under the chassis." (Duet in Beirut, Mishka Ben-David, 2002)

Mishka Ben David
Photo: Courtesy

No need to wait for the book on Imad Mughniyeh's demise in Damascus. It may already have been written.

Duet in Beirut by former Mossad operative Mishka Ben-David is a work of fiction, but owes its wealth of detail to the author's intelligence experience. Published in Hebrew six years ago, it describes a Mossad hit team traveling to Beirut, stalking the head of Hizbullah's foreign terror department and assassinating him in a car bombing. Perhaps unfortunately for Mughniyeh, it was not translated into Arabic; had he read it, he might have taken greater precautions. ….. (Continue)

From Ford Prefects news archive of 1995.

U.S.: Saudis Blocked Effort to Catch Suspected Terrorist
BYLINE: Jim Mann; Ronald J. Ostrow, Los Angeles Times
The Washington Post
April 21, 1995, Friday, Final Edition

Saudi Arabia thwarted American efforts two weeks ago to seize a man authorities believe is one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, U.S. officials said yesterday.

The man they had hoped to arrest had been hunted for a decade for his reputed roles in the 1983 car-bombing that killed 241 U.S. troops in Lebanon and for a 1985 Trans World Airlines hijacking in which one American died.

FBI officials were secretly sent overseas to prepare to take custody of the suspect, a leader of the militant Muslim group Hezbollah, on a stopover in Saudi Arabia during an April 7 Middle East Airlines flight headed from Khartoum, Sudan, to Beirut.

But before they could carry out this operation, Saudi Arabia decided not to cooperate and refused to allow the plane to land.

The Clinton administration this week delivered a formal diplomatic protest to Saudi Arabia for its unwillingness to help the FBI. The incident underscored the limits of cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which admitted American troops onto its soil in 1990 to help defend the kingdom following the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait.

The suspect sought by the FBI, who was secretly indicted in the United States in 1985, is said to have been the Hezbollah security chief in Lebanon who was in charge of American hostages taken in the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome. One American, Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem, was killed during that hijacking.

Although authorities refuse to give the suspect’s name, he is believed to be Imad Mughniyah, whom a top FBI official described several years ago as “the single most dangerous terrorist at large today.”

Mughniyah is said to have been one of the masterminds not only of the TWA hijacking but also of the 1983 suicide bombing that killed 241 U.S. military personnel in Beirut. And he allegedly was a leader in the abduction of a series of American hostages in Lebanon in the early 1980s.

Although there is no evidence that the aborted U.S. move against the Hezbollah leader had any connection to this week’s bombing in Oklahoma City, the episode demonstrated the global scope of the war against terrorism. As deadly bombings come home to America, the FBI has been intensifying the scope of its anti-terrorism campaigns overseas.

The dispute reportedly touched off a flurry of contacts at high levels between the Clinton administration and Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials did not respond to repeated phone calls seeking an explanation of the April incident.

However, U.S. officials confirmed that in early April, the FBI had tried and failed to seize in Saudi Arabia a major Hezbollah leader wanted for, among other things, the hijacking of the TWA flight. And they acknowledged that the reason for the FBI’s failure was the Saudis’ refusal to cooperate.

In 1994, Israeli forces managed to kill Mugniyah's brother, but Mugniyah himself for years remained elusive

Copyright 1995 The Washington Post

Bush orders sanctions against Syrian officials
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush, stepping up pressure on Syria, ordered new sanctions Wednesday to punish officials in Damascus for alleged efforts to undermine stability in Iraq and meddle in Lebanon's sovereignty and democracy.

Bush, in an executive order, said he was expanding penalties against senior government officials in Syria and their associates deemed to be responsible for — or to have benefited from — public corruption. The order did not specifically name any officials.

Bush signed the order a day after Imad Mughniyeh, one of the world's most wanted and elusive terrorists, was killed in a car bombing in Syria nearly 15 years after dropping from sight. The one-time Hezbollah security chief was the suspected mastermind of attacks that killed hundreds of Americans in Lebanon and of the brutal kidnappings of Westerners.

"The world is a better place without this man in it," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "One way or the other, he was brought to justice."

The White House said Wednesday's executive order built on one Bush issued in May 2004 that banned all U.S. exports to Syria except for food and medicine. His earlier action followed long-standing complaints that the Middle Eastern nation was supporting terrorism and undermining U.S. efforts in Iraq.

The 2004 order also banned flights to and from the United States; authorized the Treasury Department to freeze assets of Syrian nationals and entities involved in terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, occupation of Lebanon or terrorism in Iraq; and restricted banking relations between U.S. banks and the Syrian national bank.

The U.S. had complained that Syria was supporting militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and failing to stop guerrillas from crossing the border into Iraq.

A White House statement on Wednesday said Syria was undermining efforts to stabilize Iraq and allowing Syrian territory to be used for that purpose.

Syria's government "continues to pursue other activities that deny the Syrian people the political freedoms and economic prosperity they deserve, and that undercut the peace and stability of the region," according to the statement.

"Syria continues to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty and democracy, imprison democracy advocates, curtail human rights and sponsor and harbor terrorists," it said. "The United States will continue to stand with the people of Syria and the region as they seek to exercise their rights peacefully and to build a brighter future." Lebanon is gripped by turmoil as Syrian-supported Hezbollah struggles for power with the U.S.-backed government.

Just last June, Bush signed a proclamation barring U.S. entry to people it says are undermining the stability of Lebanon and its government.

Syria held political and military sway in tiny neighboring Lebanon for some three decades. Besides armed troops on Beirut streets, Syrian intelligence forces were often a shadowy but pervasive force in Lebanese daily life.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments (125)

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101. Honest Patriot said:

T – You speak as if you were an authority or an accreditation body whose “pegging” of bloggers represents an official certificate. If you think QN is “not too bright” then, my friend, that’s just fine b/c the last thing QN needs or should care about is your blessing. QN’s intellect speaks for itself to anyone past a minimum threshold of education. Nor is your attempt at humor anything but a revelation of your benign and simplistic mind colored as it seems by some obsessive (probably youthful) thoughts. And if indeed your raising of “a whole new line of controversy on the blog” is not an attempt at humor, but a serious claim, then, young fella, you have serious problems of immaturity.

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February 16th, 2008, 9:41 am


102. Qifa Nabki said:


Roads, airports and hotels do not suffice to heal the wounds of the war. He did not undesrtand that: his moto was let’s erase everything and build a business and tourist city…

Beirut was a tourist and business city long before Hariri came along. As for Versace and Armani, yeah, those stores are annoying, and the downtown is a little too chic for my taste. But what are we supposed to do? Mandate that storefront no. 17 on Shaari3 al-Masaarif has to be a falafel joint, and no. 26 has to be a cobbler, and no. 52 has to sell mna2eesh? Come on, this makes no sense. We’re living in a different time. Cities are changing, the region is changing. Downtown is prime real estate, and if people are going to pay top dollar, then what are we supposed to do, tell them to go to hell? Certain areas are going to become high-class, and other areas are going to become popular. We should be happy that Hariri actually did set out to recreate the district as it existed in the late 19th/early 20th century. They restored the Ottoman-era architecture, and even went to the old French factory which produced the street lamps, dug up the old dies, and made the same lamps again. Other politicians would not have bothered doing this.

There are other areas of Beirut that have taken the place of the old Aswaq district, in terms of the social mingling that you talk about (e.g. Hamra, the Corniche, both of which received major renovations, also thanks to al-Hariri).

As for ghettoizing the city, this is exaggerated criticism on your part. Beirut (and Lebanon as a whole) has always been sharply divided in terms of class and religion. Why do you blame Hariri for this?

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February 17th, 2008, 2:22 am


103. Qifa Nabki said:

T said:
I pegged you accurately early on and will stick with my appraisal. You are a waste of time and not too perceptive or bright and trite.

Now hold on a second, T. I thought I was only supposed to work on being funny. You want me to be funny, and perceptive and bright, all at the same time?

My friend, I don’t think I can manage that. Or at least, I can’t promise that my efforts won’t be a waste of your time.

What are your thoughts, by the way, about a solution to the M14/Hizb crisis?

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February 17th, 2008, 3:16 am


104. Honest Patriot said:

QN – Run for President of Lebanon, we’ll all vote for you. Yalla, shoo natir ?

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February 17th, 2008, 3:29 am


105. Qifa Nabki said:


I’m trying to run for president, but these stupid politicians can’t agree. Hariri and Jumblatt are whispering in my left ear, and Aoun and Berri are whispering in my right ear, but they all talk about my being the real consensus candidate. Yeah right.

Gen. Michel Suleiman

I mean, Qifa Nabki.

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February 17th, 2008, 3:41 am


106. T said:

Honest Patriot,

Why dont you mind your own business and let QN stand up for himself? Does he need you to run to? Anyone discussing ME politics and Syria in 2008 who doesnt know who AIPAC is and their influence, is none-too brite- (QN was clueless on this issue) and is not truly “well-informed”. No matter what his SAT scores or status university may be.

I mean that is- well- really, really unbelievable.

Why dont you return to Lebanon and help build your country over there?

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February 17th, 2008, 2:11 pm


107. Qifa Nabki said:

Anyone discussing ME politics and Syria in 2008 who doesnt know who AIPAC is and their influence, is none-too brite- (QN was clueless on this issue) and is not truly “well-informed”.

T, let me explain something to you.

I don’t know who you are or where you are from, but based on things you have said, it seems that you are American, and that you’ve had military experience.

You remind me of quite a few such specimens who, at some point in their life, come upon the realizations that … (gasp):

a) AIPAC wields a huge degree of power upon American foreign policy…
b) Israel handles American intelligence gathering in the ME
c) The American-Israeli love affair, coupled with the imperialistic designs of America, are the causes of most of the systemic problems of the region.

You are subsequently so blown away by these revelations becaues you’d never heard them before! You make it your neverending quest to view every issue through this singular prism. The reason that these revelations were so powerful to you in the first place was because they were very likely the direct opposite of what you were taught while growing up in America. You think that you have discovered the truth that nobody else knows except for the elite few and that you must speak it to power.

Let me tell you something, T. While few in America might be aware of these great revelations of yours, they are our bread and butter in the Middle East. I was taught to say “@!#% Israel!” and “The Jews control the world” and “America is the great satan” before I could say ga-ga goo-goo. This great insight that you claim to be bringing to my attention is something that is ingrained in my subconscious, got it? I don’t need some American ex-grunt to enlighten me. While you were pledging allegiance to the flag, eating Cheerios, and playing football on Thanksgiving, I was watching my neighborhood getting bombed by huge shells from the USS New Jersey while the Israelis were bombarding West Beirut.

Don’t tell me about AIPAC.

But I have news for you, T. There is life after this great revelation! There are possibilities for analysis that go beyond America America America Israel Israel Israel AIPAC AIPAC AIPAC. It’s time you started listening instead of preaching.

And you never answered my question.

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February 17th, 2008, 4:19 pm


108. Honest Patriot said:

T, you said to me “Why dont you return to Lebanon and help build your country over there?” and “Why dont you mind your own business and let QN stand up for himself?”

For the second question, QN clearly doesn’t need me one teensy wheensy bit to defend him and/or otherwise explicate any of his arguments. I have no pretenses there and hope I didn’t come across as such. I was simply commenting on my perception of your post. The transparency of your approach angle begged for articulating my reaction — which I’m certain is shared by many a reader of this blog.

As far as returning to Lebanon and help build my country over there, I’m afraid the very specialized skill set I have is of no use to Lebanon, at least at this time. I had tried to stay in my youth but ran through so many incidents (while being 100% neutral and uninvolved in hostilities), one of which almost took my life, that I had no choice but to seek survival elsewhere and await – if it ever happens – a chance to either return and serve, or be supportive in other ways. In any case “my country” is now the U.S. and my patriotism includes voting for the right people who can advance the cause of peace and separation of religion-and-state in the ME while redressing the wrong that was inflicted on the Palestinian people who, regrettably, have managed to persistently make the wrong choices in defending their cause. This redress need not include the elimination of Israel. While you “discovered” AIPAC and their influence, remember that they play by the rules and compete through intelligence and prowess. The Arabs need to know to play the same game and make their case through persuation and competence, not through terror.

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February 17th, 2008, 5:01 pm


109. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sorry to see QN that even you think that Israel and the US are the MAIN problem. I didn’t take you to be in denial also. The problem is not Israel or the US. It is Arab society and the way it is organized.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it can never lead to solutions. The Arabs need to change themselves but as long as they point fingers at others and never at themselves, why do it?

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February 17th, 2008, 5:02 pm


110. Honest Patriot said:


I didn’t read QN’s post the same way you did. He never claimed that “Israel and the US are the MAIN problem.” [Re-read his last paragraph].

On the other hand, my persistent criticism of the terrible choices that Israel makes by continuing to build settlements in occupied territories is one that you don’t seem to want to address. That makes us sorry to see. Giving peace a chance should involve more than just waiting.

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February 17th, 2008, 5:11 pm


111. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


Perhaps I read too much into his point C:
“c) The American-Israeli love affair, coupled with the imperialistic designs of America, are the causes of most of the systemic problems of the region.”

In retrospect after the six day war, Israel should just have left the West Bank and Gaza and the Sinai unilaterally. But in fact it was impossible to do.

First, the Arabs made the major mistake of agreeing on the “three nos” in Khartoum. That threw Israel into a several year spin. Imagine yourself an Israeli politician, what do you make of that? The concept of unilateral withdrawal was not yet imagined and all Israel wanted to do was discuss new arrangements and even this was impossible. And notice, that there were NO settelements then and the Arabs refused to discuss ANYTHING.

Second, emotions always lead to trouble and it was not possible for any Israeli government to give back East Jerusalem. Nobody could forsee the Messianic Judaism aspect that the six day war created and that was at the heart of the settlement movement. You have you crazies, we have ours and in many cases they are the most motivated and it is difficult to stop them, especially in Israel in which most governments are coalitions of several parties and concessions need to be made to small parties.

Which brings us to the situation today. The main problem is the right of return and not the settlements. Since we cannot agree on the right of return, why bother with the other issues?

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February 17th, 2008, 5:27 pm


112. Honest Patriot said:

“Since we cannot agree on the right of return, why bother with the other issues?”

Hmm, AIG, that doesn’t quite compute. Even the US administrations have consistently asked for a stop to the settlement movement, in the same breath that they reassure Israel that they will “never” abandon it by agreeing to the right-of-return to Israel proper.

There sure are “crazies” on both sides. However, the moderate Arabs need help to widen their support among the masses, and the settlements sure don’t help but instead play into the hand of the “crazies.”

As far as point “c” in QN’s post, I have to believe that it is not necessarily a point he is adopting but more of a reflection of what the perception is. But, lest T gets on my case again, I should refrain from interpreting further other folks’ posts and stick to expressing my own opinion. I still think that, in a broad view of the whole situation (across many decades), it is now the turn of an Israeli “Sadat” to create a breakthrough. I have a hunch this is bound to happen sooner rather than later. But that’s just a hunch.

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February 17th, 2008, 6:35 pm


113. Qifa Nabki said:


The main problems in the Arab world today cannot be fully addressed by the regimes that control the region. And they are huge, structural, systemic problems… mostly having to do with the legacy of colonialism disrupting the natural evolution of Middle Eastern societies. (Contrary to all those who argue that there is something inherently “Arab” or “Muslim” that is antithetical to democracy, modernity, etc.)

I think I’ve said before that our primary problem is not Israel. In fact, here’s a quote from a response to Abraham, a couple weeks ago.

I disagree with you that Israel is our biggest problem. Our biggest problems are the following (in no particular order):

1. Economic stagnation
2. Unemployment
3. Poverty
4. Illiteracy and educational backwardness
5. Censorship and limits of free speech
6. Police states
7. Religious extremism
8. Lack of opportunities for our huge youthful populations
9. Etc.

But in the near term, Israel and America are most definitely our biggest problems, simply because they occupy 90% of the emotional life of Arabs and Muslims worldwide. As long as there is an unjust occupation in Palestine supported by the world’s only superpower, there will be people who are willing to die fighting it and regimes happy to take advantage of it. And as long as America is not serious about thinking creatively and strategically about how to solve the region’s problems by truly understanding them and pressuring its allies to address them, then yes… America and Israel are our biggest problems.

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February 17th, 2008, 7:09 pm


114. Shai said:


I never read/heard your take on the idea of peace between Israel and Syria prior to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which, as you correctly state, seems to be the root of the problem between the US/Israel and the Muslim world. It is my personal belief that Israel should now back off and even declare a “time out” on formal talks with the PA. The Palestinian people now have to work out their own issues, and when they are united again, we should resume talks (possibly even with Hamas). But until then, can we not reach a peace agreement with Syria? Will that not trigger similar agreements with Lebanon, Saudi, etc., which might actually produce “positive” pressure on the Palestinians to once and for all decide on their demands vis-a-vis Israel (and decide what compromises they’re willing to live with, and what ones they’re not)?

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February 17th, 2008, 7:47 pm


115. Qifa Nabki said:


If you were in “prep” in the mid-90’s then what makes you think you’re older than me? While you were enduring the abstract Israeli strangulation of the US (?) I was enduring the very real Israeli strangulation of Lebanon. Maybe this is when my vision became so limited.


I enjoy debating with you, even if I have to endure your insults in every post. You dig up interesting things.

And I’m starting to understand why you’re so defensive; people calling you crazy, idiotic, foolish, etc. That’s not cool.

Keep up the good work. (And remember, we’re on the same side)

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February 17th, 2008, 7:52 pm


116. T said:

Its not being called idiot for being wrong or mistaken that I mind. That is fair & square. Its being called idiot even when I’m on target that bugs me.

Do you understand the frustration of years of being scammed by the Israelis- only to have them use those American bombs that we pay for to kill Americans in Lebanon in 2006? No concern about if US citizens got out alive during that war?

Israel’s ugly exhibition of disloyalty and ingratitude for years of American largesse was irrefutable. They are a nightmare.

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February 17th, 2008, 8:13 pm


117. Qifa Nabki said:

Do you have figures on Americans killed in Leb 06?

I know many who tried to leave, without much luck, but no stories about actual casualties.

Of course, Bourdain was there, but he was lounging by the pool in a hotel near Jounieh… waiting for the Marines to bail him out.

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February 17th, 2008, 8:22 pm


118. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Sorry, that is too much double speak for me. You start by saying the US and Israel are not the problem, and then end up saying they are. And most importantly, you do not see the regimes and PEOPLE as responsible to solving the problems but again say it is the US and Israel’s responsibility.

It is an Arab problem that Israel occupies 90% of the emotional space. It is not an Israeli or US problem. How about by starting to reduce the size of Israel in the emotional space to less than 50%?

What colonialism are you talking about? The Ottoman one? Certainly it is not the western one since before it the Ottomans made sure that the Arab world remain extremely backward.

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February 17th, 2008, 8:35 pm


119. Qifa Nabki said:

Hi Shai,

Nice to hear from you again. The reason you’ve not heard my take on the idea of peace between Israel and Syria prior to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is because it is a sensitive subject. : ) Coming from a Lebanese, any talk of pursuing a separate peace is automatically suspect, especially to my dear Syrian friends on this blog. Such talk reeks of wishy washy nationalism, insufficient regard for the Palestinians, and a self-serving approach to the problem.

But not everyone thinks this way. Alex, for example, does not. And I mostly agree with him. Syria needs to lead rather than follow. And Lebanon will be able to easily surmount its obstacles and follow suit. The Israelis (and Syrians) need to be given a taste of what an effective peace is like, because that will create the incentive to pursue (on both sides) a just solution for the Palestinians. If the Syrians are visibly rewarded for effectively “moderating” Hamas and Hizbullah (and if both the average Syrian and average Israeli sense this reward), then this will create something for both sides to lose. It is important to create this sense of “something to lose”, in any such conflict. This is, in fact, the problem in Lebanon today; the Shi`a have nothing to lose, and everything to gain from challenging the corruption-infested ways of the political class.

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February 17th, 2008, 8:38 pm


120. Qifa Nabki said:


I’m sorry I don’t fit into the box that you put me in. : ) I never said that the US and Israel “are not the problem”; I literally said “I disagree… that Israel is our biggest problem.” Nor did I ever say that it is the “US and Israel’s responsibility” to solve the problems. Again, I literally said: “As long as there is an unjust occupation in Palestine supported by the world’s only superpower, there will be people who are willing to die fighting it and regimes happy to take advantage of it.”

The responsibility to solve our problems is our own. But it is extremely difficult to turn our attention to these issues in a serious way while the Arab-Israeli conflict lies at the center of political life. For every ‘liberal’ who can see past this monolith, there are 10,000 others who can’t.

As for colonialism, I was referring to both the European colonialist project and the Wahhabi intellectual colonialism of the 20th century. The Ottomans can be blamed for many things, but they did not disrupt the basic social, economic, and legal structures of the pre-modern Islamic world in the way that the Europeans did. Nor did they annihilate a centuries-long tradition of Sufism as the Wahhabis did. Both these developments have had major repercussions on contemporary Arab life.

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February 17th, 2008, 8:59 pm


121. Honest Patriot said:

QN – time to fess up: how old are you? and what is your (I guess academic) practice?

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February 17th, 2008, 9:41 pm


122. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Are the settlements a problem in getting to peace? I don’t think so. In 67 there were no settlements and peace could not be discussed. If all the settlements were removed, there would still not be peace because the right of return issue cannot be solved.

The settlements are just a reminder to the Arabs what happens if you don’t negotiate peace early. You may lose more land.

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February 17th, 2008, 9:42 pm


123. Honest Patriot said:

AIG, the settlements are not THE problem in getting to peace but they ARE an obstacle (sort of a blocking agent, or “anticatalyst”) freezing any thaw that begins to develop.
They do send a direct as well as an indirect message regarding rights to the land and submission to the Israeli extremists’ agenda. The ARE a problem. I’m not saying dismantle them now, but stop expanding. I’m sorry you don’t see how negative an impact they have on those of us who are either moderates or true supporters of a just peace.
Study carefully QN’s posts.

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February 17th, 2008, 9:47 pm


124. Qifa Nabki said:


I told you already, I’m a general in the Lebanese army, trying to become the president of Lebanon!

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February 17th, 2008, 9:54 pm


125. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I believe you when you say the expansion of the settlements has a negative impact on you specifically and on moderates generally.

Israel even agreed to freeze settlements as part of the road map. I think only the ones in the Jerusalem are, which Israel does not consider settlements are being expanded. This makes sense as these settlements will not be returned or be part of the Palestinian state. If Olmert stops building those, his government will fall.

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February 17th, 2008, 10:18 pm


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