Hidden-Hand Behind Beirut Bombing
A devastating double-suicide bombing targeted the Iranian embassy in Beirut, which also happens to be located in a Hezbollah stronghold of the city. The bombing was even more cynical than your average suicide attack since it included a first small motorcycle-bomb which drew rescuers to the scene, and was followed by a much larger car bomb designed to ensure maximum lethality. Twenty-six people were killed including Iran’s cultural attaché and the personal security officer guarding the ambassador. 146 people were injured, some severely. This attack follows two other lethal bombings in Hezbollah strongholds over the past few months.
There are elements to this incident that are clear and other elements not as clear to the naked eye, but evident nonetheless. What is clear is that these bombings are “payback” for Hezbollah’s increasing presence in the Syrian civil war on behalf of Bashar al-Assad’s government. Syrian rebels, largely composed of Sunni fighters, some of whom support Al Qaeda, understand that Hezbollah has provided major support for Assad and especially at a critical juncture when government forces appeared to be crumbling. The Sunni fighters have determined that the best way to undermine Hezbollah’s commitment is to hit them “where they live.” That is, in the Shiite heartland of Beirut (or those city neighborhoods in which Shia and Hezbollah predominate). The bombers figure if they can kill enough Shia, they might rattle the conviction of Hezbollah, or at least peel away local supporters who didn’t bargain for a guerrilla war in their own backyard.
There is also a certain dark irony in suicide bombs being used against Hezbollah strongholds since the Islamist movement is alleged to have used this weapon to such potent effect historically. It has been accused of the assassination of Rafik Hariri and the bombing of the 1983 Marine barracks among others.
The bombers must also believe that the more mayhem they can sow in the region, the more pressure they bring to bear on the international community to intervene and get rid of Assad. My sense, though, is that this strategy will fail. If Beirut were Berlin it might be different. But (and this is a cynical calculation I concede) very few western nations want to take on the insoluble issues involving either Syria or Lebanon right now.
Now I want to take on that less evident element I mentioned above. Is there a hidden hand at work here? This series of bombings, especially the one today, was bold, ambitious, and extraordinarily lethal. Could the Syrian rebels have organized this on their own? Though there have been massive bombings inside Syria which were undoubtedly the work of the rebels, I can’t help believing that much of the know-how for the most sophisticated of them comes from outside. Who else would have the expertise, financing and motivation to do this? Only one nation stands out: Saudi Arabia.
Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz (Hebrew):
The open question is whether the [Abdallah Azzam Brigades] could’ve carried out such an attack by itself or whether it was aided by a foreign country…The principle supporter of the Sunni extremist forces in Syria is Saudi Arabia; and it has invested an extraordinary effort in persuading the international community to continue pressuring Iran on the nuclear issue…
The most important issue to analyze is the Saudi motivation for carrying out such a campaign of terror. Every observer of the Middle East knows of the Saudis’ disenchantment, nay rage at developments concerning Iran. They and Israel are the two most adamant opponents of a nuclear deal. What better way to hit two birds with one stone than to attack both Hezbollah AND Iran in Lebanon? As the chief arms supplier and financier of the Syrian rebels, Saudi Arabia has a clear motive to attack Hezbollah for its role there. As Iran’s chief rival in the Gulf region, and one frightened about the prospect Iran might develop WMD, the Saudis would have every motive to attack Iranian interests wherever they could find them.
Israel is denying it was the author of the bomb attack. My own Israeli source confirms this (he says even indirect involvement is unlikely). But there’s a related concern: Saudi Arabia is coordinating its strategy regarding both Syria and Iran very closely with Israel. As I’ve reported, there have been at least two meetings between Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo and Prince Bandar. The only question is whether they discussed this terror campaign. Even more concerning: are they doing more than just discussing? Is Israel offering its extensive Lebanese intelligence assets in planning and executing attacks like the one in Beirut?
Israel too has every motive to involve itself in this campaign. Hezbollah is its arch-enemy on the northern front. Most every Israeli officer knows Israel will fight another war before long there. What better way to tweak your future enemy by hurting him “where he lives?” In addition, Israel’s covert operations inside Iran have assassinated nuclear scientists and sabotaged missile bases. So of course Israel would have no compunction with participating, even in a surreptitious way, in a terror attack against Iranian interests.
Both Iranian enemies know that Iran is now in no position to retaliate for such bombings. Its primary priority is completing a nuclear deal and lifting sanctions. To respond tit for tat would give all the Iran-skeptics the opening they’re looking for in saying that it cannot be trusted to honor any agreement it makes. That leaves Bandar, and perhaps Pardo, grinning like the cat that swallowed the canary.
If my suppositions are true, both the Saudis and Israelis (if they’re involved) are playing a very dangerous game. Terror never wins. It only destroys. But it never constructs. It will not avert a nuclear deal with Iran nor will it topple Assad. If Saudi Arabia’s allies can’t bring down Assad on the battlefield, they have even less chance of impacting the fight through acts of terror.
They also run the risk of driving away allies like the U.S. and other western states which have supported Saudi and Israeli interests up till now. Can the west ultimately afford alliances with Middle East states that use acts of terror in pursuit of state policy? Not to mention, that when the world finally fingers them for these deeds, they too (like Nasrallah and Assad) may end up in the dock in the Hague for war crimes.
38 thoughts on “Hidden-Hand Behind Beirut Bombing – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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A very disturbing event indeed. Thank you for excellent coverage and leaving a few options on the table.
Both the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB) and its leader Saudi Saleh al-Qurawi were added to the US list of terrorists nearly two years ago. From reports, Saleh al-Qurawi was severely injured in a US drone attack in Waziristan in 2012. A deal was made between Saudi Kingdom and al-Qaeda to transport him to a hospital in Saudi Arabia. After his recovery with missing parts of his limbs, al-Qurawi was “arrested.” Perhaps he was granted pardon and released by intelligence chief Prince Bandar to fight the jihad in al-Sham.
I wrote a diary yesterday and added further information.
The Saudis and other Gulf Arab states want Lebanon to be a
centre of Arab economic life as it once was. This will never happen
as long as Hezbollah or the neighbouring Assad regime is in a
position to prevent it. So I think Saudi motive might be compatible
with Israel’s, but they are not the same. The Saudis and Qataris
want Lebanon back, and that’s a major part of their grudge against
Assad as well as Iran. I don’t think Israel really wants a more
unified and prosperous Lebanon, but they want a Lebanon without
Hezbollah and Syrian influence and once that was achieved it’d
actually be difficult to prevent Lebanon from healing its other
wounds and divisions. One factor common to most factions in the
Syrian civil war, is that they are running out of money to fight
with. Hezbollah in Lebanon is where a lot of the money is coming
from, to sustain the fighting. That’s probably the most important
target for the bombs.
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Richard. How come Rehmat can post this shit, while I get
I agree with you on this one.
@ Pip, this is tikun olam, if you are a supporter of Israel
you are damaged beyond repair and will be moderated. If you are
anti-Israel everything is allowed.
@ Joe Black: I’m a supporter of Israel. So I’ve just disproved your hypothesis!
@ Pip: neither of you can post freely. You’re both moderated.
There’s not actually any shame in being moderated.
Is there a future for the Future Movement? Saad Hariri stands alone in the face of the multiple crises. His royal Saudi patrons no longer back him like they used to, with some suggesting that he is not “the Sunni’s sole representative in Lebanon.” What role played the assassination of Wissam al-Hassan in 2012.
○ Rafik Hariri’s Legacy: All That Remains
I see this as an extension of the ongoing sectarian violence spillover that has been going on all summer. This double bomb tactic was first used in Iraq during the insurgency and we know without a shadow of a doubt that fighters are flooding into Syria via Iraq.
This tactic was used years before it was used in Iraq,
against Israelis, by Islamic Jihad, Hamas and …Hizballah… who
else, in the 90’s.
@ Hasbarist Settler: Don’t forget the times Israel has used car bombs to kill its enemies in Lebanon, Iran & various other places. Funny you should forget that…
I was referring specifically to the dual suicide bomber tactic that was used yesterday where an initial suicide bomber detonates their bomb in an effort to open a barrier/attract a crowd and then shortly afterwards, a second suicide bomber detonates their (often times more powerful) device in the (twisted) hopes of inflicting maximum damage. However, you are correct that the origin of the modern terrorist suicide bomber tactic is traced back to the early 1980s group Islamic Jihad that is widely speculated (in the Western world) to be a front for Hezbollah.
I was referring to the exact same thing, that’s why I used your words “this tactic”. The double bombing (which RS called here “…more cynical than your average suicide attack…”) was introduced to the world in the Beit Lid massacre in 1995 by Islamic Jihad and was adopted by other organizations. A good friend of mine died in such an act in Lebanon in 96 while he went to help the injured of the 1st of two detonations.
@ Hasbarist settler: Though Israel too engages in acts of savagery and state-terror, it generally doesn’t need to do so. If it wants to kill Arabs en masse it just invades a country and a thousand or two civilians are killed. Pretty nifty & so much easier than organizing a complicated terror plot requiring complicated logistics, planning, surveillance & timing.
@ Ari Greenfield: Are you daft? Islamic Jihad, a Sunni Islamist group is a “front” for Hezbollah, a Shia Islamist group? Really??
You are confusing Palestinian Islamic Jihad which was founded by Fathi Shaqaqi & Ramadan Shalah, with a Lebanese organisation by the same name who’s leader was Imad Mughniyah. The Lebanese Organisation took responsibility for the US Marine Barracks incident, the French Peace observers force and the american embassy in Beirut. Both organizations were founded sometimes in the 70’s.
Was that necessary? To answer your question, no, I am not daft and I do not appreciate the personal attack. Given the subject we are discussing (Hezbollah & Lebanon), I assumed people would know I was not referring to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
In Lebanon, Islamic Jihad was a Shia group that operated in the 1980s and early 90s & was widely speculated to be the terrorist arm of Hezbollah. They were the group that claimed credit for the kidnapping and execution of CIA station chief William Buckley among several other high profile terrorist attacks during the mid 1980s. This is fairly well known information to people familiar with 1980s terrorism in Lebanon.
@ Ari Greenfield: Considering that the only Islamic Jihad that almost anyone today knows is the one in Gaza, I’m not sure why you expected me to understand you weren’t referring to it. But if there was such an earlier group, I was mistaken in criticizing you.
,Double bomb attacks started at least before 1969. I beleive way before 1948.
I read long ago that it was used by the resistance during ww2.
On my first visit to Israel in 1969 on a tour group for 14 year olds we received a security briefing.
One aspect dealt with double terrorist explosions. The first to kill and draw responders and the second to kill the responders.
The instinct of kids to hear the boom and go look and see what’s happening that’s why we were warned.
That’s why responders scoop and scoot with the victims.
The lead bomb tech at the Boston Marathon had recently taken in service training with an Israeli bomb tech who specifically taught them how to deal with bomb scenes immediately after the explosion. No robots,no ballistic protective suits no bomb blankets. Hands,wire cutters, and a sharp knife to enter things like backpacks,bags etc in a indirect way and look for the wires.
The article I read said the first double vehicle suicide bombing terror attacks took place during the Iraq insurgency. I wasn’t very clear about the vehicle part above. It’s also possible the report was incorrect.
Double bombings were certainly IRA practice for many years.
As were “warnings” designed to get crowds evacuated towards the
bomb. see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omagh_bombing Some
foresters culling Roe Deer (before they and the Fallow Deer eat
Essex) have found that if they stay still for a few minutes after
shooting one deer, another will appear to see what the noise was. I
suspect that anyone with experience in this area might have thought
of the double bomb technique, so it’s probably as old as
The tactics might be more cunning than simply two bombs:
This shows militia in Syria examining a BIG bomb constructed using identical explosive materials to that seen in several helicopter-dropped “barrel bombs” used by Syrian government forces. See further link below.
They are fishing detcord boosters and so on out of a steel tank full of raw (and partly caked) TNT powder. Then you discover that this steel tank is the water tank in the back of a small fire engine…
Obvious tactic: small bomb to start fire in secure area, fire engine drives up grateful guards speed it through…
Could be a thousand pounds to a ton in there. The barrel bombs are filled with TNT like this, in this instance it’s a powder, sometimes caked, which is what is normally supplied to ordnance factories to be moulded into cast charges or pressed into blocks or sticks. Powder obviously helps fill a square container through a small hole.
It could well be that what was used in Beirut was a device like this, originally captured in Syria, or a copy thereof.
Someone who can translate the dialogue fully might want to post a comment here:
Where there are now links in the comments to several videos with dialogue that’s describing the construction of barrel bombs and the like.
Most of us who have followed the bombings in the Middle East consider Israel behind the terrorist activities there. One thing that should be clarified for sure, is that there is zero evidence that Hezbollah committed the attacks on the U.S. barracks in 1983 in Beirut. Hezbollah wasn’t even formed until 1985, but Mossad has been around since the inception of the terrorist state of Israel long before 1948, in one form or another.
You always have to say, “Who has the most to gain by doing these things?” Then point your fingers in the right direction, in this case, Israel and Saudi Arabia
I am saddened by your comment,both Israel and Saudi Arabia have little to gain but a lot to lose by increased tensions in Lebanon.Israel does not want or seek another war with Hezbollah, but if Hezbashaytan (Hezbollah) finds itself in a tight spot due to rising tensions, it will certainly consider starting a war with Israel to divert attention from itself to the convenient scapegoat that is Israel and invoke a knee-jerk reaction from it’s detractors.
Similarly, Saudi Arabia is painfully aware of how Hezbollah turned the tide in favor of Assad at Qusayr and has no wish to enrage
Hezbollah before the battle over Qualamun where Hezbollah involvement is feared.Let the battle weary members of Hezbollah lick their wounds in peace and quiet.Why give them any reason to believe that a foreign war in Syria is their war.
@ Daniel F.: Israel doesn’t want a war with Hezbollah?? You’re not reading the Israeli press. Articles are published regularly quoting generals & pols saying that the next war is inevitable & only a matter of time. Jodi “Loves a Man in IDF Uniform” just profiled Israel’s northern commander saying there will always be wars with Hezbollah.
You reflect the typical liberal Zionist view that attributes malevolence only to Arabs, but not to Israel.
I’m aware that you will not agree with this but there is ample evidence of Iranian and Hezbollah involvement in the 1983 Barracks Bombing. When Hezbollah was “officially” announced as an organization is a matter of semantics- the players were the same.
In 1983 there were at least three Shiite dominated militias and they were not under a central command. Hezbollah came into existence in 1985 so it is just not correct to attribute the Marine barracks bombing to them. It is still not clear who carried out that attack though one can speculate that those who did later became part of Hezbollah. This would be like accusing Israel of carrying out the King David Hotel terrorist attack though we all know today that those involved later moved on to become leaders in that enterprise.
I was careful myself not to attribute anything to Hezbollah but to say they’d been accused of being involved.
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@ Greta Berlin: “Most of us” is an awfully broad statement. I don’t know who “you” are but I can guess. And that isn’t necessarily most of those who follow these matters.
Israel is guilty of many sins & you’ll find many of them catalogued here. But blaming it for much of the bad acts in the region is extreme.
Poor Greta must be getting lonely. She must have noticed your recent post mentioning your exclusion from electronic intifada. It was Ali Abunimah if I recall that effectively purged one Greta Berlin from the Palestinian solidarity movement. Maybe she is seeking allies along the lines of the enemy of my enemy theory of politics.
RE: “Hidden-Hand Behind Beirut Bombing”
MY COMMENT: It would not surprise me if the the MEK (trained by the U.S. and Israel) provided logistical support!
If the point of the bombing was just to punish, it could be called successful, because punishment was dealt. If the point of the bombing was to cause Hizbullah to abandon Syria, the bombers have another think coming. Let’s assume it was Saudi Arabia, since for decades, when Israel wanted to challenge Lebanese resistance, it drove through the front door, as it were, in tanks, etc. Hizbullah and its associate ‘rebels’ have weathered a succession of ground attacks of enormous ferocity since the 1980s. Each time it seemed that Hizbullah would surely collapse from such force, something akin to the PLO quitting the fight. But Hizbullah has, each time, only dug in stronger. Syria is defended for strategic reasons. Hizubullah has no strategic reason to abandon Assad and tolerate some kind of Sunni mish mash that might look like Libya.
If Hizbullah could not be brought to heel by Israeli attacks by massive ground and air assault, it has no reason to give an inch because of a handful of jihadi punks slip in a few car bombs.
The Saudi performance is nothing short of an embarrassment; or let’s say that for Sunni Muslims world wide, below the level of the monarchs and dictators, the idea of Muslims making back room agreements with Israelis is a disgrace. I do not believe the ambition to crush Iran, or even to crush Assad in Syria, dips below the surface of the monarchs, Sunni or not. It was not that long ago that Iranian resistance to the west was admired by Muslims in general. This is about the fear of the Arab spring type uprisings, and the rise of Shia in Iraq, and so on. It is too bad that Iran and Syria and Hizbullah have to pay the price for the weakness of backward and useless Sunni monarchs. I would include Egypt’s newest dictator, al Sissi, in with that gallery of failures. They must be failures if they need to come, cup in hand, for assistance to Israel.
Maybe the Iranians are …. problematic. At least they fight their own battles. Hizbullah and Iran, whatever their imperfections, typically go against the odds, they hold to their values — and among those values are al Quds, and the Palestinians. Which of the other regimes has lifted a finger for those causes in the last decade? Egypt and Saudi are the most obvious places where support for the Holy sites and for the Palestinians should be found, and they just have walked away from the cause. And make a deal with Israel? Ever?
Hi Richard, Also informative: