Wednesday, February 13, 2008
i'm on the hunt i'm after you:
As promised, that Imad Mughniyeh story. Here's where I have to stunt a little bit. Everyone else today in the press did the who-is-Mughniyeh-who-killed-him-and-what-does-this-mean story. And, yeah, OK, that's cool, that's necessary, I get that. But after talking to sources in the intelligence community this morning, I figured that wasn't the real story. The real story is that U.S. intelligence analysts figure Hezbollah is going to clap back -- at the United States. So that's the story I reported:
One of the world’s most notorious terrorists met a violent end late Tuesday night when a car bomb killed Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh in the Syrian capitol of Damascus. Until 9/11, Mughniyeh was responsible for more American deaths than any other single terrorist, including the 1983 attack in Beirut that killed 241 Marines. And while many in the counterterrorism community cheered Mughniyeh’s death as a victory against jihadism, some in U.S. intelligence circles now fear potential reprisal attacks from Hezbollah against U.S. targets. ...

But current and former U.S. intelligence officials say they fear that Mughniyeh’s killing may trigger a new wave of anti-American violence from Hezbollah. "If they think the Israelis did it," said John E. McLaughlin, the deputy director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004, "and I have no idea if they did, but typically the assumption in the Middle East is that they wouldn’t have done it without our acquiescence." McLaughlin added that he did not know who was responsible for Mughniyeh’s death.

Immediately after the killing—for which Israel promptly denied responsibility—Hezbollah blamed the "Zionist Israelis" in a statement read on its television station, al-Manar. But Hezbollah went further, claiming "the right to retaliate anywhere in the world and in any way it sees fit." Asked about the mood at one U.S. intelligence agency, an analyst who requested anonymity replied that there is "more concern about possible retaliation than anything else."

Other analysts also predicted that Hezbollah will not allow Mughniyeh’s death to go unanswered, and will likely lash out at Israeli or U.S. targets. "I think that’s absolutely correct," said a terrorism analyst who also requested anonymity. "It could be against whomever—targets of opportunity. The sooner [Hezbollah] does it, the better [from its perspective], so there’s a clear sense of linkage. That group tends particularly to go for revenge."

McLaughlin could not say what the likelihood of a Hezbollah attack on the U.S. is, but he did say that he is convinced Hezbollah is, at the least, considering one. "Hezbollah is probably calculating the merits and downsides of retaliation," he said. "I think this crosses a big line with Hezbollah. ... For years, they have carried out operations with a professionalism and skill that you don’t see from practically any other terrorist group—including al-Qaeda. They have a record of casing targets for future consideration.

"At this point," McLaughlin continued, "they’d have to be weighing the pros and cons of doing any of that, probably in some consultation with Iran. The main message, then, is that people need to now be on guard for retaliation."
--Spencer Ackerman
An attack on the US? Maybe. But unusually, your piece is hardly convincing. Just one unnamed source's pure speculation.
Blogger Unknown | 8:34 AM

Sorry. Named source. But still seems weak. Love your blog.
Blogger Unknown | 8:37 AM