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.

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ANALYSIS: Revisiting Iran’s 9/11 connection

16 years have passed since that tragic day, September 11, 2001, when over 3,000 innocent people lost their lives in the “the largest mass casualty terrorist attack in US history.” The course of modern history changed as we know it.

For more than 15 of these past years the policy of appeasement has withheld the international community from adopting the will needed to bring all the perpetrators of this hideous crime to justice.

Iran has a history of fueling foreign crises to avoid responding to its own domestic concerns. 9/11 provided the window of opportunity to derail world attention to other states and buy Tehran crucially needed time.

Unfortunately, the regime ruling Iran has been the main benefactor of the 9/11 aftermath. As a result of two wars in the Middle East the entire region has been left wide open for Tehran to take advantage of and spread its sinister ideology and sectarianism.

It is hence necessary to highlight Iran’s role in 9/11 attacks and demand the senior Iranian regime hierarchy involved in blueprinting and implementing this attack to be held accountable before the law.

Warmongering history

For the past four decades Iran has been ruled by a clerical regime that is simply incapable of providing the society’s needs and demands. To this end, Tehran has resorted to a policy of exporting the “Islamic Revolution” by meddling in neighboring and distant countries to create havoc.

History has recorded how Iraq invaded Iranian territories and caused the beginning of the devastating eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War. Several months before Iraq launched its military attack, Ayatollah Khomeini, accused of hijacking Iran’s 1979 revolution, described then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as a “hypocrite” and a “threat for the Iraqi people.”

Khomeini went as far as calling on the Iraqi people to “place their entire efforts behind destroying this dangerous individual” and the Iraqi army to “flee their forts” and to “rise and destroy this corrupt individual, and appoint another individual in his place. We will support you in this regard.”

Fast forward more than two decades, and again with Iraq in its crosshairs, Iran began what has been described as a very complicated effort to literally deceive the US intelligence community.

Ahmad Challabi, dubbed as “The Manipulator” by The New Yorker, was Iran’s front man in feeding the US false information regarding Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction to justify Washington’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. The war ultimately eliminated the main obstacle before Iran’s hidden occupation of Iraq and full blown meddling across the Middle East.

Looking further west in the region, Iran ordered Bashar Assad in Syria and former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to facilitate the escape of thousands of al-Qaeda prisoners. This development, parallel to the ruthless crackdown of the two countries’ Sunni communities, led to the rise of ISIS.

This entire episode provided Iran the necessary pretext to justify its presence in Iraq and Syria, especially through tens of thousands of proxy forces.

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Eyad Allawi (picture) says the current Iraqi government is backed by Iran and the United States. (Al Arabiya)

The 9/11 facts

bipartisan commission in Washington investigated the 9/11 attacks reported strong evidence exists showing Iran “facilitated the transit of al-Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.”

Up to 10 of the 14 hijackers involved in 9/11, and specifically behind obtaining control of the four aircrafts, were allowed passage through Iran from October 2000 to February 2001. Reports indicate Iran has a history of ordering certain instructions to not harass transiting al-Qaeda members.

Such documents also show Iran’s offspring, the Lebanese Hezbollah, trained alongside al-Qaeda members during the 1990s, leading to the former possibly adopting the latter’s suicide bombing tactics.

“…al-Qaeda may have collaborated with Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers, a key American military barracks in Saudi Arabia. Previously, the attack had been attributed only to Hezbollah, with Iranian support,” according to TIME report.

Evidence shows that five years later, “Iran and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah being involved ‘firsthand’ in the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” an Al Arabiya feature said.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with Revolutionary Guard commander Mohammad Ali Jafari on May 20, 2015. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File)

Facilitation and execution

In early 2016, Judge George Daniels of New York “condemned Iran for facilitating the execution of the terrorist attacks that hit both New York and Washington.” This lawsuit provided an in-depth look into nearly 300 cases of Iran’s involvement in funding terrorism and collaborating with terror organizations, including al-Qaeda.

“The trial revealed that bin Laden, current leader of al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri, Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh – assassinated in 2008 – and other Iranian attaches had met in Sudan to establish an alliance supporting terrorism,” the piece adds.

To those who may argue Shiite Iran would never support a Sunni al-Qaeda, it is hardly unprecedented to find such backing by Tehran for non-Shiite terror groups. Sunni terrorists that share Iran’s goals, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, alongside those who target US interests, have for long enjoyed Iran’s support.

As mentioned above, “Iran also played an important role in supporting al-Qaeda in Iraq, the progenitor of ISIS. As Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan noted in their 2015 book ‘ISIS: Insider the Army of Terror,’ AQI head Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was ‘based in Iran and northern Iraq’ for ‘about a year’ after fleeing Afghanistan following the arrival of US-led coalition forces in Operation Enduring Freedom,” according to The Washington Times.

As cited earlier, Iran also stands accused of having “foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks,” according to a 2011 court filing quoting two Iranian intelligence service defectors. These individuals were “in positions that gave them access to sensitive information regarding Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism,” the piece continues.

The court went on to demand damages due to Iran’s “direct support for, and sponsorship of, the most deadly act of terrorism in American history,” according to The New York Times. The suit also contends that in addition to facilitating the 9/11 hijackers training and travel, Iran and Hezbollah played an important role in the escaping of numerous al-Qaeda operatives by providing safe haven inside Iran.

“… 9/11 depended upon Iranian assistance to Al Qaeda in acquiring clean passports and visas to enter the United States,” the NYT cited Thomas E. Mellon Jr., a former lawyer for the 9/11 victims’ families, saying by quoting ten specialists working on Iran and terrorism.

“I am convinced that our evidence is absolutely real—that Iran was a participant in the preparations for 9/11,” Mellon said in another interview with The Daily Beast.

“Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the agreement, and they have to do that,” Trump said. (AFP)

Lack of will

Iran would have every interest in facilitating the 9/11 attacks to divert international attention onto its rivals, while providing the opportunity for its forces and proxies to take full advantage of rendering mayhem across the region. A glance of the current status in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon proves this point.

For too long investigations have failed to shed the necessary light into Iran’s role into the 9/11 attacks. Even the Commission, accused of never properly grappling the question of Iran’s knowledge prior to 9/11, nearly neglected very important facts gathered by the US National Security Agency about Tehran’s deep involvement in this regard.

The Commission “failed to delve into the files of the National Security Agency, where the Iran intelligence was waiting to be discovered, until the final stages of the commission’s inquiry,” according to Philip Shenon’s The Daily Beast article.

“… my suspicions are that the Iranians were probably much more involved than we are led to believe,” Middle East political scientist Dr. Joseph A. Kéchichian said to Al Arabiya.

Staffers formerly working for the 9/11 commission have complained that much of the remaining NSA’s pre-9/11 terrorism database has gone un-reviewed to this very day. This goes as far as suggesting a long slate of 9/11 secrets may have remained hidden for the past 16 years. Do we not owe more to the 9/11 victims and their families?

There is promise seen in the new US administration as it continues to turn up the heat on Iran. Yet until a lack of will prevents the launching of a new genuine inquiry into Iran’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks, it is up to us writers and journalists to dig deep and expose Tehran’s relations with terror groups across the globe, especially those involved in the horrific acts that changed our world 16 years ago today.

All this becomes ever so necessary as Tehran covertly pursues its nuclear weapons drive and overtly seeks payload delivery capability through ballistic missiles. We must learn from the mistakes made in regards to North Korea and go the limits to prevent a rogue regime such as Iran from going down the same path.

New Light On Iran’s Human Rights Violations

Two of the major crises the international community is currently engaged with are terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Iran, in particular, is negatively involved in both fields, being known as the central banker of international terrorism, and suspicious for its own controversial nuclear program at home parallel to its nuclear/missile collaboration with North Korea.

As these subjects are of significant importance and deserve even more attributed attention, what must not go neglected is the fact that Iran is taking advantage of such circumstances to continue an equally important campaign of belligerence against its own people. The scope of human rights violations carried out by Tehran is continuously on the rise, with the ruling regime interpreting the mentioned international crises as windows of opportunity to extend its domestic crackdown.

And yet, a promising report issued from the United Nations has shed very necessary light on a specific dossier Iran has gone the limits throughout the past three decades to cloak. In 1988 the Iranian regime carried out an atrocious massacre sending tens of thousands of political prisoners to the gallows. Unfortunately, the world has until recently remained silent in this regard.

Twenty nine years after the atrocious carnage, Asma Jahangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, issued a report on September 2nd for the first time referring to the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

This document, coupled with a note by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and presented to the UN General Assembly, has for the first time specifically attributed a number of articles to the 1988 massacre. Thousands of men, women and juveniles were sent to the gallows, and buried in mass, unmarked graves, all according to a fatwa, or decree, issued by the deceased Iranian regime founder Ayatollah Khomeini.

Raising the stakes to a level Tehran has sought to avoid through the years, this damning UN report has called for an independent and thorough inquiry into these crimes to unearth the truth of the atrocities carried out in the summer of 1988.

Activists and the Iranian Diaspora have for 29 years focused their measures on presenting evidence of the killings. This has finally been acknowledged in this UN report.

“Between July and August 1988, thousands of political prisoners, men, women and teen-agers, were reportedly executed pursuant to a fatwa issued by the then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. A three-man commission was reportedly created with a view to determining who should be executed. The bodies of the victims were reportedly buried in unmarked graves and their families never informed of their whereabouts. These events, known as the 1988 massacres, have never been officially acknowledged. In January 1989, the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, expressed concern over the “global denial” of the executions and called on Iranian authorities to conduct an investigation. Such an investigation has yet to be undertaken.”

The atrocities, of such grave nature, rendered a major rift amongst the regime’s leadership and highest authorities. The late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, then Khomeini’s designated successor, expressed his opposition to the killings and the massacre came back to haunt a presidential hopeful in the most recent such election held back in May.

“In August 2016, an audio recording of a meeting held in 1988 between high-level State officials and clerics was published. The recording revealed the names of the officials who had carried out and defended the executions, including the current Minister of Justice, a current high court judge, and the head of one of the largest religious foundations in the country and candidate in the May presidential elections. Following the publication of the audio recording, some clerical authorities and the chief of the judiciary admitted that the executions had taken place and, in some instances, defended them.”

The mentioned “head of one of the largest religious foundations” is none other than conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, said to be groomed by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to replace the incumbent Hassan Rouhani as president. Khamenei, battling with cancer, sought this as a launching pad in Raisi’s rise to succeed him as the regime’s leader.

However, a nationwide campaign led by the network of PMOI/MEK-associated activists inside Iran exposed Raisi’s past and raised immense emotions and opposition amongst the Iranian population. This development left Khamenei no choice but to place his blueprints aside and allow another term for Rouhani as his regime’s president.

The UN report also refers to Raisi’s candidacy in May’s election.

“During the period of candidate registration, a total of 1,636 individuals, including 137 women, submitted their names as candidates for president. However, in April, the Guardian Council, a body of six clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader that oversees the electoral process and vets the candidates, announced that the candidatures of only six men (0.37 per cent of the applicants) had been approved. Among them was Ebrahim Raisi, who reportedly had served on a committee that had ordered the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.”

The 1988 massacre victims’ families have throughout these years desperately sought to find the final resting places of their loved ones. All have been provided next to no information by the regime’s authorities and left to search and grieve amongst the dozens of mass graves sites checkered across the country.

“In March, families who visited a mass grave located in the city of Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan Province, where up to 170 political prisoners are believed to be buried, reportedly discovered that the previously flat area had been covered with soil to create a raised mound over the grave. In mid-May, bulldozers were reportedly seen working on a construction project directly alongside the mass grave site at Ahvaz, located on a barren piece of land 3 km east of Behesht Abad Cemetery, where the remains of at least 44 people killed during the summer of 1988 are believed to be located. The plan is reportedly to ultimately raze the concrete block marking the grave site and build a “green space” or commercial development over the site.”

After decades of endless efforts by Tehran to keep a lid on the 1988 massacre, this UN reports demands dignity for the victims and their families.

“Over the years, a high number of reports have been issued about the [1988] massacres. If the number of persons who disappeared and were executed can be disputed, overwhelming evidence shows that thousands of persons were summarily killed. Recently, these killings have been acknowledged by some at the highest levels of the State. The families of the victims have a right to know the truth about these events and the fate of their loved ones without risking reprisal. They have the right to a remedy, which includes the right to an effective investigation of the facts and public disclosure of the truth; and the right to reparation. The Special Rapporteur therefore calls on the Government to ensure that a thorough and independent investigation into these events is carried out.”

The Iranian regime has considered the international community turning its back on this crime against humanity as a green light to continue its rampage of domestic crackdown and human rights violations.

The so-called “moderate” Rouhani has a dismal report card of over 3,000 executions during his first tenure, over 100 executions in July and at least 55 such cases in the month of August, according to reports.

The regime also has no tolerance for even the slightest protest by political prisoners in its own jails. Nearly two dozen such inmates in Raja’i Shahr (Gohardasht) prison of Karaj, a town west of Tehran, are continuing their hunger strike for well over a month. They are protesting their illegal transfer to a section of the facility placed under 24/7 audio and visual surveillance, even in bathrooms and showers.

As Iran’s other bellicosity have rightfully raised international concerns in recent years, it is vital to understand that human rights violations are this regime’s chink in the armor. No matter what their position, all ranks and files of the Iranian regime involved in the 1988 massacre must be held accountable in an international tribunal and face justice.