Secrets of the 1983 Beirut Bombings: The role of Iran’s IRGC

The 1983 double bombing in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, left 241 American service members, 58 French military personnel and six civilians killed, alongside hundreds of others injured.

21 years later in 2004 Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) unveiled a “monument” in “honor” of that terrorist attack.

This “memorial” column, installed in a section dubbed “Martyrs of the Islamic World” in Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery, carried a very vivid message: Iran’s IRGC was behind the 1983 blast targeting the peacekeeping force in Beirut.

34 years have passed since that attack and today the IRGC has been designated a terrorist organization by the US Treasury Department. Such a measure deserves praise, yet is long overdue.

On October 23 of that year a suicide bomber drove a water tanker into the U.S. Marines barracks and detonated around 1,000 kilograms of explosives (equal to 15,000 to 21,000 pounds of TNT), transferred with large trucks into buildings where the Multi-National Forces in Lebanon were stationed.

The United Nations was involved in a broader peacekeeping mission to bring an end to the Lebanese civil wars. The Islamic Jihad, an Iranian offspring terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Background

In line with its pillar policy of exporting terrorism and warmongering across the Middle East, one of Iran’s first objectives was to launch a central command base for the IRGC and its local mercenaries in Lebanon. These elements were initially dispersed in towns and villages of the Baalbek area in eastern Lebanon near the border Jordan.

In 1980, coinciding with Tehran paving the grounds to ignite the Iran-Iraq War, then Iranian regime leader Ayatollah Khomeini dispatched former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaee to Lebanon to blueprint possible terrorist attacks and hostage taking measures in this country, considered Iran’s “strategic depth.”

(R-L) Mohsen Rezaee, Anis al-Naqqash, Mohamed Salih al-Hosseini and Mohsen Rafighdoust – Beirut, 1980. (Supplied)

On September 10, 2003, Iran’s state-run Mashreq daily published a photo imaging Rezaee, former IRGC logistics officer Mohsen Rafighdoust, former IRGC foreign relations officer Mohammad Saleh al-Hosseini and Lebanese terrorist Anis al-Naqqash, said to be behind the first assassination attempt targeting former Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in 1980.

With support provided by the IRGC and under the command of former defense minister Hossein Dehghan, the Lebanese Hezbollah took over the Sheikh Abdullah Base in early September 1983. This site was the main center of the Lebanese Army in Bekaa Valley, and was later renamed Imam and transformed to become the IRGC’s main command center in Lebanon.

From this very site the IRGC controlled Hezbollah militia units and directed the Beirut bombings alongside senior Hezbollah commanders, most specifically the known terrorist Imad Mughniyah.

The orders for the Beirut bombings were first issued by the IRGC to Ali Akbar Mohtashemipour, Iran’s then ambassador to Syria. He then relayed the orders to IRGC units stationed in Beirut under Dehghan’s command.

The Islamic Jihad organization was in fact a special ops branch. Until its final days in 1992 this entity was jointly commanded by the Lebanese Hezbollah and IRGC.

Following the Beirut bombings France began aerial attacks in the Bekaa Valley targeting IRGC-linked bases. The US responded to these terrorist attacks by planning raids on the Sheikh Abdullah Base where the IRGC was training Hezbollah militias.

On July 20th, 1987, Iran’s Resalat daily wrote the Beirut bombings citing Rafiqdoust, “… both the TNT and ideology behind the attacks that sent 400 American officers and soldiers to hell in the U.S. Marines command base in Beirut came from Iran.”

34 years have passed since that attack and today the IRGC has been designated a terrorist organization by the US Treasury Department. (Supplied)

On August 14th, 2005, World Net Daily wrote in this regard: “…Two years ago, a US federal court order identified the suicide bomber as Ismail Ascari, an Iranian national.”

Tehran expressing joy

There should be no feeling of positivity in response to terrorist attacks, no matter where in the world. Terrorism is terrorism.

Yet the Iranian regime follows no such standards.

The state-run Rasekhoon website posted a piece literally praising the Beirut double attack.

“…Two massive explosions, six minutes apart, levelled the U.S. Marines command center and the interventionist French forces command base … The heroic reaction… against US and French bases in Beirut delivered a heavy blow to Western powers and forced them to leave Lebanon in a humiliating manner.”

The legal war

“A US federal judge has ordered Iran to pay more than $813 million in damages and interest to the families of 241 US soldiers killed in the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Lebanon,” according to Agence France-Presse.

“After this opinion, this court will have issued over $8.8 billion in judgments against Iran as a result of the 1983 Beirut bombing,” Judge Royce Lamberth, presiding over this case, wrote in the ruling.

In late April of last year Iran’s state-run Javan daily, said to be affiliated to the IRGC, wrote:

“In 2003 relatives of the U.S. Marines killed in Lebanon’s terrorist bombings 30 years ago, successfully gained the opinion of a U.S. appeals court to receive compensation from Iran. Four years later, in 2007, a U.S. federal court issued an order demanding this payment be extracted from Iran’s frozen assets.”

In September 2013 a US federal court in New York presided by Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in favor of the families of the Beirut bombings victims.

In July 2014 an appeals court in New York turned down a request filed by Iran’s Central Bank and ordered $1.75 billion in compensation from Tehran’s frozen assets be distributed amongst the victims’ families. This ruling was issued by a three-judge panel of the 2nd branch of New York’s federal appeals court.
That same year Iran’s Central Bank filed for an appeal, arguing this ruling is in violation of US’ obligation according to accords signed back in 1955. With their notion turned down, Iran’s Central Bank referred the case to the US Supreme Court.

On April 20th, 2016, America’s highest court ordered $2 billion dollars from Iran’s blocked assets to be extracted and used to pay the families of the Beirut bombings victims. Enjoying 6 votes in favor in the face of two against, this order was adopted despite Iran’s Central Bank request for an appeal.

The status quo

For more than thirty years the curtains have gradually fallen and the true face of Iran’s IRGC, as a source of support for terrorism, has become crystal clear. Rest assured the footprints of this notorious entity will be found in more crimes inside Iran, around the Middle East and across the globe.

This is further proof of the necessity of strong measures against the IRGC as the epicenter of Iran’s war machine.

Utter belligerence has been Tehran’s offspring for four long decades. The time has come to say enough is enough.

The victims of the 1983 Beirut double bombings, and literally the millions of others who have perished due to Iran’s policies, should know their blood was not shed in vein.

Is Iran’s enhanced ballistic missile capability a calculated move?

As the North Korea nuclear standoff and the future of Iran’s nuclear deal has absorbed an all-too enormous amount of international attention, a more important prism on Iran’s regional hostility must not go neglected.

During the United Nations General Assembly the controversial nuclear pact, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), took center stage once again. All the while Tehran has throughout the years overtly and covertly pursued a massive campaign hinging on meddling and extending its lethal ideology of Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East.

The rendered atrocities can be witnessed across the region, especially in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. This threatens the very fabric of the Middle East populace and bears the potential of plunging this flashpoint region into an abyss of proxy wars resulting in nothing but infernos of carnage.

Broken promises

As the Obama administration sought to sell the JCPOA to the American people, US allies and the international community, they claimed a different Iran would emerge as a responsible member of the global neighborhood and the Middle East would be the first region to enjoy the boasted outcome. Some even claimed Iran would become this region’s Japan.

“Regrettably, since the agreement was confirmed, we have seen anything but a more peaceful, stable region,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the sidelines of his UNGA meetings. While Iran has enjoyed a rift between Europe and the US, Berlin made remarks sinking deep into the minds of those sitting on the throne in Tehran.

“The Americans are right: Iran is still not playing a constructive role in the Middle East, be it in Yemen or Lebanon,” said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in a statement. The Green Continent has also welcomed the idea of cooperating with Washington with the aim of containing Iran’s Middle East thirst, especially considering growing concerns over Iran’s dangerous role in Damascus, Baghdad, Sanaa and Beirut.

This train of thought also bears backing amongst Middle East states. “Two years have passed since Iran’s nuclear agreement with no sign of change in its hostile behavior; it continues to develop its nuclear program and violates the letter and spirit of that agreement,” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahayan said during his UN General Assembly speech.

Yemen: The strategic state

Despite being a very poor country, the geostrategic importance of Yemen is undeniable. This is the very reason why al-Qaeda sought to establish a major foothold in Saudi Arabia’s back yard and now Iran vehemently continues its support of the Houthis in destabilizing this country and the vital international waters adjacent to its shores.

Tehran is continuing its efforts of smuggling illicit weapons and technology to prolong the Houthis’ campaign, according to Vice Admiral Kevin M. Donegan, the top US Navy commander in the Middle East. These measures stoke civil strife in Yemen and enable the Houthis to launch more precise and longer ranged missiles into its northern neighbor.

The Houthis are also receiving an “increasingly potent arsenal of anti-ship and ballistic missiles, deadly sea mines and even explosive boats that have attacked allied ships in the Red Sea or Saudi territory across Yemen’s northern border,” reported The New York Times citing Donegan’s remarks.

While there has been significant success in the initiative against Iran’s meddling in Yemen, the continuing crisis resembles the lethal potential of Tehran’s influence across the Middle East and its current focus on strategic junctures, such as this country’s influence over imperative shipping lines.

A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location, Iran, March 9, 2016. (Reuters)

Iran’s growing reach

Further grounds of Iran not changing habits following the JCPOA signing are found in its violation of a related accord, the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, by continuing to test launch a range of ballistic missiles.

As recently as Friday Iran unveiled a new ballistic missile as Rouhani increased his rhetoric against Washington through repeating the claim of this regime only seeking its defensive interests. In an even more provocative measure, the medium-range Khorramshahr missile was successfully test launched on Saturday. As claimed by the semiofficial Tasnim news agency, this new weapon has a range of 2,000 kilometers (nearly 1,250 miles) and enjoys the capability of carrying multiple warheads.

This raised strong responses across the board, including US President Donald Trump questioning the JCPOA altogether and accusing Tehran of colluding with Pyongyang. In line with such concerns, Francealso called on the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to deliver a full report on the recent missile test.

Rouhani’s emphasis on seeking to boost Iran’s ballistic missile capability is a completely calculated move. All the while it needs understanding that such rhetoric from senior Iranian officials are aimed at maintaining a straight face back home, and not appearing to give in to pressures raised by the international community.

Iran is also busy exporting weapons to the Lebanese Hezbollah and a slate of other terrorist and proxy groups. This conglomerate of violations reached the point of Team Obama alumni Samantha Power, former US envoy to the UN, felt obligated to highlight the cases. This is probably Rouhani’s definition of being a “moderate.”

Electing vetted candidates

Of course, this is the same individual who back in May, after reaching a second term through a process dubbed as an “election” carried out amongst vetted candidates said, “We are proud of our armed forces, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the Basij and the security forces.”

The IRGC is the godfather of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile drive, in charge of quelling all forms of domestic dissent, and exporting the regime’s so-called “Islamic Revolution” abroad. For this very purpose, Iran has for decades fostered the rise of proxy offspring armies including the likes of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Obama’s JCPOA and windfall of billions also provided Iran the opportunity to continue fueling terrorist groups across the region and even marshalling foot-soldiers from as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan to Syria to help maintain Syrian dictator Bashar Assad remain on his throne.

As a train of thought has remained intact from Obama’s flawed policies, there are voices who have gone as far as describing Iran being a “major diplomatic, military, and economic player throughout the Middle East and even into Central and Southwest Asia.” Unfortunately, this plays into Tehran’s hands and upgrades the dogma practiced vis-à-vis Tehran for the past four decades, rendering nothing but escalating death and destruction.

If Iran enjoys “considerable influence” in countries across the region it is not due to its righteous cause. Tehran, in fact, owes a great deal of gratitude to West for its tireless policy of rapprochement. Iran must be isolated, and this is not tantamount to a call for a new Middle East war. Imagining this regime can be a party to be constructively reckoned with is in fact naïve.

Broken promises

It has become crystal clear that the JCPOA has not lived up to its promises. The Middle East has evolved into a mess due to Iran’s meddling, leading to Europe leaning toward US’ position of pressuring Tehran to bring an end to its regional carnage.

For far too long Iran has taken advantage of its nuclear program and ambitions to advance its Middle East influence. This must come to an end, parallel to increasing international pressures on its nuclear/ballistic missile drive, support for terrorism and human rights violations at home.

For nearly four decades Tehran has utilized the engagement approach by the West based on the mistaken perspective on playing “nice” with Iran to encourage change. This has resulted in a Middle East engulfed in war, death and destruction, cloaked by the international brouhaha Iran has launched through its nuclear program.

All of the Iranian regime’s animosities deserve due attention in parallel fashion. Its regional meddling and support for terrorism should be top priority. One such solution was recently provided by Walid Phares, former Trump foreign policy advisor, for Washington to use the Arab coalition and Iranian opposition as means against Tehran.

ANALYSIS: How to tackle Iran’s Middle East bellicosity

Thanks to years of Western appeasement in the face of Iran’s belligerence across the Middle East, evidence of Tehran’s dangerous footprints are now visible in several countries across the region, including even Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

The Trump administration, however, has made it quite vivid its adoption of a firm approach. This stance, signaled in the historic May conference in Riyadh, is long overdue and should be enhanced by Washington supporting the Iranian people’s desire for regime change.

A history of devastation

Iran has a long record of hostility against neighboring countries and US interests in the Middle East. The 1983 bombings targeting the US Embassy and barracks in Beirut, the Khobar Towers attack in 1996, all climaxed in the support Iran provided for Shiite proxies and the Sunni Taliban in their campaign against US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In parallel form, the Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas, two known terrorist groups, have for over 30 years enjoyed contributions from Tehran to fuel sectarianism throughout the Middle East and carry out terrorist attacks.

The Obama administration handed Iraq over to Iran in a silver plate through a strategic mistake of prematurely pulling out all US troops. This paved the path for Iran to further export its “revolution” through a convenient medium of extremist proxies.

The West can literally be accused of standing aside and watching Iran’s aggressive policy. This has rendered a slate of countries, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen feel threatened and/or left utterly devastated from Iran’s meddling on their soil.

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (top-R) attends President Hassan Rouhani’s swearing-in ceremony in Tehran, on August 5, 2017. (AFP)

Troubling activities

Of late, Iran has been reported to send further weapons and narcotics to Yemen’s Houthis. These drugs are sold to provide income for Iran’s supported militias on the ground in the flashpoint country south of Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s archenemy in the region.

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are present in Yemen also to instruct and guide the Houthis in assembling weapons smuggled into the country by Tehran.

“For the last six months the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has begun using waters further up the Gulf between Kuwait and Iran as it looks for new ways to beat an embargo on arms shipments to fellow Shi’ites in the Houthi movement,” Reuters cited Western and Iranian sources.

“Using this new route, Iranian ships transfer equipment to smaller vessels at the top of the Gulf, where they face less scrutiny. The transshipments take place in Kuwaiti waters and in nearby international shipping lanes, the sources said.”

The Iranians are also taking provocative measures against the US Navy in the same region recently, viewed by analysts as actions to learn the limits of US President Donald Trump. On July 26th an armed Iranian patrol boat closed within less than 150 meters of the USS Thunderbolt, yielding back only in response to warning shots fired by a US Navy ship.

Such developments are reasons why Trump contacted his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron “to explore how to increase cooperation in addressing the ongoing crises in Syria and Iraq and countering Iranian malign influence,” according to a White House readout.

Positive steps forward

Despite the utterly wrong decision of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini visiting Tehran for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration, the Trump administration is sending push-back signals and making Iran learn its aggressions will not go without cost.

This is a necessary and welcomed shift in Washington’s foreign policy.

President Trump has signed into law a strong bipartisan Congressional initiative imposing strict sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea. The IRGC is now considered a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group. Considering the Guards’ control over at least 40 percent of Iran’s entire economy, this raises the stakes for companies considering doing business with Tehran.

It would be wise to reconsider investing in Iran’s $400 billion economy and ponder placing one’s bets in other regional countries, or say, the United States’ $19 trillion establishment.

And in news that most certainly raised eyebrows in Tehran, Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr visited Saudi Arabia recently and called for the controversial Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units in his country to be dissolved now that the Islamic State has been defeated.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, speaks in the official endorsement ceremony of President Hassan Rouhani, right, in Tehran, on Aug. 3, 2017. (AP)

The nuclear deal

High hopes were placed in the nuclear deal sealed between the P5+1 and Iran, which Obama hoped to leave behind as his foreign policy legacy.

Two years down this road it has become vivid that Iran’s behavior has not changed, to say the least. In fact, Tehran’s support for Hezbollah and other extremist entities have escalated. Iran’s role in the Middle East, namely Syria, Iraq and Yemen have been horrifically destructive.

The Trump administration can lead the international community in instituting the first real and effective initiative against the Iranian regime.

Any trade with Tehran should hinge on:

– the regime halting all executions and human rights violations,
– withdrawing their forces from Syria and Iraq, and severing any ties and support for terrorist groups,
– completely stopping missile activities, especially ballistic missile production and tests,
– ending all nuclear initiatives and providing true “anytime, anywhere” access to all suspected sites, including military facilities.

Moreover and parallel to recent sanctions, which must be executed immediately and without any loopholes, the Iranian people’s organized opposition, resembled in the National Council of Resistance of Iran, should be recognized. This will pave the path for regime change by this coalition without war or military intervention.

Failure in this regard is tantamount to aiding Tehran’s regime.

ANALYSIS: Is Iran plunging the Middle East into another war?

The days of ISIS are numbered and voices are heard about the entire region being forced into a far more disastrous conflict. Various parties, mainly the US and Iran, have begun jostling, seeking to inject their influence onto what the future holds for Syria.

As Iran has also wreaked havoc in Iraq and Yemen, concerns are rallying on Tehran going the distance to pull the US full-scale into the Syria inferno. Such a mentality results from misunderstanding the nature of what is known as the Iranian regime.

Escalating tensions

After establishing a foothold in the strategic town of al-Tanf near the Iraq-Jordan-Syria border, US forces designated a buffer zone to provide protection for their own troops and resources, alongside their allies of anti-Assad opposition rebels.

1) On three different incidents Iran-backed militias have made advances into the buffer zone, only to receive warnings and eventually be attacked by US warplanes.

2) Raising the stakes, on two occasions Iran-made pro-Assad drones have been downed by US-led coalition forces.

3) And maybe the ultimate incident came when a US F/A-18 fighter jet shot down a Syrian Sukho-22 warplane after the latter dropped bombs on US-backed Kurdish forces north of Raqqa, the self-declared capital of ISIS.

An Iranian soldier stands guard in front of the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Behesht Zahra cemetery, south of Tehran February 1, 2016. (Reuters)

Tehran’s habit

Understanding its conventional and non-conventional forces stand no match against the classical armies of the US and the unity of its Arab allies, Iran has for the past 38 years resorted to tactics of its own.

Terrorist attacks across the region through proxy groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah have proven successful. The 1982 Beirut bombings of US and French barracks led to the American pullout of this highly fragile country. As a result, Tehran has used this method ever since to send its message. Following the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran yet again resorted to paramilitary and proxy methods to advance its interests in the region.

Seeing no strong response only emboldens Iran in its pursuit of wreaking havoc. Witnessing the disastrous and premature withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and Obama’s refusal to live up to his own red line after Assad resorted to the extreme low of gassing his own people in 2013, Iran came to a conclusion such actions will continue unabated.

The language of force

There have been cases otherwise, however, including Operation Praying Mantis on April 18th, 1988 when the US Navy launched a campaign against Tehran’s naval fleet in retaliation for the Iranian mining of the Persian Gulf during the Iran–Iraq war and the subsequent damage to an American warship.

The attack came as a major wake-up call for Iran as the mullahs in Tehran only understand the language of force. The 59 cruise missiles the US used to target the Syrian regime airfield used to launch a chemical attack on Homs earlier this year also rose eyebrows not only in Damascus, Moscow and Tehran, but the world over.

The recent incidents in Syria are further serious signals for Iran that such belligerence no longer will go tolerated, especially considering a new US administration in Washington adopting a far different perspective and strategy than its predecessor.

Iranian air force’s US-made F-4 Phantom fighter jets perform during a parade on the occasion of the country’s Army Day, on April 18, 2017, in Tehran. (AFP)

Solution

What needs grave understanding is the fact that Iran is the last party that seeks a full blown war in Syria, Yemen or any other region of the Middle East. The Iranian regime is seeking a win-win solution, enjoying an open hand in meddling across the region to such extent to prevent any major international community retaliatory action.

Has Iran been successful? To this day, mostly it has, unfortunately, thanks to the West’s highly flawed belief in adopting a policy of engagement with Iran to tame the mullahs and enjoy short-term economic gains.

The tides, however, are changing for the better. Iran’s Achilles Heel must be the main target as seen in the recent US Senate resolution imposing sanctions on the regime’s ballistic missile program, support of terrorism and human rights violations.

Tehran may kick, scream and threaten to abandon the Iran nuclear deal in retaliation. Yet rest assured the mullahs will not make such a grave mistake, triggering the automatic re-imposition of sanctions under six previous United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards lies at the heart of the mullahs’ illicit activities both inside the country and abroad. This entity also controls around 40 percent of the country’s already fragile and highly corrupt economy.

To this end, there is no need for another war in the region. Iran knows better that such an outcome would only accelerate developments against its interests. The US and Arab world can and should lead the international community by designating the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization.

This will be a complementary measure to the abovementioned Senate resolution, and bring Tehran to its knees. Such an initiative will place the international community alongside the Iranian people in their struggle against the ruling mullahs’ regime.

This is especially true after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to Washington’s support for domestic forces seeking peaceful regime change in Iran.