Last weekend both Newsweek and the Washington Post published long investigative pieces on the assassination of a senior Hezbollah figure in Damascus seven years ago– February 2008. Lots of folks are wondering, why now? As the Jerusalem Post notes, “Whoever leaked the details… to two US publications… did not do so capriciously.”
The two publications say the cold case is news because it was long assumed that the Hezbollah leader,pieces carried a simple new message: the United States was in on it too. Newsweek:
[A former CIA operative said,] “It was an Israeli-American operation. Everybody knows CIA did it—everybody in the Middle East anyway.”
Newsweek’s piece is by the very reputable Jeff Stein. Stein attributes the timing to the fact that the CIA wants credit in an era of grisly terror attacks.
“That was us,” said a former official who participated in the project, on condition of anonymity to discuss the operation. “The Israelis told us where he was and gave us logistical help. But we designed the bomb that killed him and supervised the operation.”…
The CIA’s authorship of Mugniyah’s bloody death, [a former intelligence] operative said, should have been told long ago. “It sends the message that we will track you down, no matter how much time it takes,” he said. “The other side needs to know this.”
The Jerusalem Post also says the leak was generated by the US security establishment: it’s an American warning to Israel and its prime minister, you need the U.S.
Most likely, someone wanted to send the following message to the people of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: You need us.
Look at the extent of the cooperation between our intelligence communities, which risks being damaged due to the discordant policies of your prime minister.
Annie Robbins (who helped me on this post) and I favor a different theory: the story is an effort to entwine the U.S. with Israel and its war with its neighbors just as the United States is showing signs of separating itself.
Beginning in 2003, Hezbollah, with the assistance of Iran, began to train and arm Shiite militant groups in Iraq, which later began attacking coalition forces, according to Matthew Levitt, who recently wrote a book about Hezbollah and is director of the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli intelligence boss, is blunt about the Iranian connection in speaking to the Post: “[Mughniyah] was the agent of the Iranians.”
By the way, just a year ago Levitt was blaming Syria’s Assad for the Mughniyah assassination:
“[B]oth Hezbollah and Iran privately suspected that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad may have played a role in Mughniyeh’s death.”
Now Levitt says it was the U.S. playing a role in the international killing of an Iranian agent.
The piece is getting picked up all over: 128 articles.
Marcy Wheeler also has a post on the story, and observes:
Newsweek had this story longer than WaPo, but was willing to heed CIA’s request not to publish. WaPo did and now CIA’s in a snit again.
Timewise, I think it likely to make an Iranian deal harder. I think it’s probably meant to fuck with any pushback about Israel assassinating Iran’s IGRC general in Syria.
Meantime, the Iranian president says that a deal with the west over nuclear operations is getting closer. Not so fast, Mr. Rouhani!