February 14, 2008

Imad Mughniyeh: Who Killed Him?

Imad Mughniyeh is set to be buried today in Beirut. It's funny: last night, Abu Muqawama got a call from a friend of his wondering if he should cancel his business trip to Beirut and another call from a journalist friend who had just booked her flight to Beirut and wanted some advice of a different nature. ("How much should I pay for a taxi to the Dahiyeh?") There's a lesson here: if you are a normal, sane individual and you're on a flight someplace with a bunch of war correspondents -- who, by the way, get off on war way more than any soldier Abu Muqawama knows -- don't pass through customs on arrival. Just board another plane and leave wherever it is you have just landed. These people are nuts.

Thank God for Nick Blanford, though, at times like these. Nick, Abu Muqawama thinks, writes better about the military side of Hizbollah than anyone else writing in the English language. This is his offering from today's Christian Science Monitor.

But it doesn't stop there, oh no. For one thing, Spencer has this piece in the Washington Independent on Mughniyeh, and we haven't even gotten to the Beirut newspapers, stories of which we'll link below. When Abu Muqawama woke up this morning, he looked at the front page of al-Akhbar, a newspaper in Beirut that sympathizes with Hizbollah and its allies, and there was this picture of Imad Mughniyeh's elderly father and grandfather crying. Abu Muqawama kinda felt sorry for Abu Imad. One of his other sons -- who was an apparently innocent guy who ran a car shop -- was killed after being mistaken for Imad in the 1990s. And now this. But then, don't you think he must have known it would have ended like this? How many people wanted Imad Mughniyeh dead?

That brings us to something Kip said yesterday -- and Abu Muqawama apologizes, Kip, if you were going to post on this later -- about how Imad Mughniyeh was thought to be responsible for all the planning behind the 12 July operation and how he may have been thought a bit of a loose cannon by Iran and others within Hizbollah. After all, he was responsible for blundering Hizbollah and a country of approximately 3.4 million people into a disastrous war with Israel. Yes, Hizbollah "won," but with any more victories like those...

So that got Abu Muqawama thinking about the way in which Hizbollah -- an organization with pretty great information operations -- immediately blamed Israel for the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. Immediately. And many others wondered yesterday how complicit Syria was in the assassination, assuming Syria was acting in concert with a western state or with Israel in exchange for something. But what if Syria was acting in concert with either Hizbollah or Iran to get rid of a rogue operative, someone who -- in the current power struggles at the top of Hizbollah, if we are to believe reports -- might have grown troublesome?

Abu Muqawama realizes this sounds like the muwamarat you hear in coffee shops in Cairo and Syria, but still, it bears thinking about. If Syria was really working on behalf of the U.S. or Israel, would the U.S. have imposed new sanctions on Syria the exact same day of the assassination? And yes, Israel doesn't ever admit they had a role in any assassination. But they also don't usually go to such lengths to deny involvement either. Hmm...

Now that we've stirred up that hornet's nest, here is a round-up of Mughniyeh stories from today's newspapers:

as-Safir (Beirut, Arabic)

Daily Star (Beirut, English)

L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut, French)

Guardian (London, filed under "Israel and the Palestinians" for some reason)

Washington Post (Anthony Shadid)

Analysis from Ha'aretz (Israel, English)

More from Ha'aretz (Israel, English)

Update: Dave Schenker asks many of the same questions we just did in response to Andrew Exum on the MESH blog.
Update II: Pro-March 14th Naharnet has an MBM update from Martyr's Square.