Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Iran's Defence Minister has ties to the deaths of our Brothers!

Iran Focus

London, Aug. 14 - The nomination of a veteran commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as the new defence minister has been greeted with calls for an investigation into his possible ties to the suicide bombing of the U.S. Marines compound in Beirut airport in October 1983, which killed 241 Americans.

Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, was in command of the IRGC expeditionary force in Lebanon when on October 23, 1983, at 6:22 a.m., a suicide bomber drove a large water delivery truck to the Beirut International Airport where the Marine Barracks was located. The bomber and his accomplices had hijacked the original truck on its way to the airport and sent another one, loaded with explosives, in its place.

After turning onto an access road leading to the compound, the driver rushed through a barbed-wire fence, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through the gate, and slammed into the lobby of the barracks. The huge explosion crumbled the four-story building, crushing the soldiers to death while they were sleeping.

All the windows at the airport control tower, half a mile away, shattered. A crater eight feet deep was carved into the earth, and 15 feet of rubble was all that remained of the four-story Marine barracks.

The attack killed 241 U.S. service members. The Americans quickly withdrew their forces from Lebanon and the suicide operation became a turning point in the increasing use of terrorism by radical Islamic fundamentalists across the world.

Two years ago, a U.S. federal court order identified the suicide bomber as Ismail Ascari, an Iranian national.

In July 1987, Iran’s then-Minister of Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rafiqdoost, said, “Both the TNT and the ideology which in one blast sent to hell 400 officers, NCOs, and soldiers at the Marines headquarters were provided by Iran”.

Rafiqdoost’s comments were published in the Tehran daily Ressalat on July 20, 1987.

Iran’s hard-line newspapers continue to feature stories that commemorate the Beirut bombing and the country’s Headquarters for Commemoration of Martyrs of Global Islamic Movement held a memorial ceremony in Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery last December to “honour the man who carried out the largest martyrdom-seeking operation against Global Arrogance [the United States and its allies]…and was able to kill more than 300 occupiers of Lebanon with his courageous operation in 1983”.

A U.S. Defense Department report on the Beirut attack said the force of the explosion “ripped the building from its foundation. The building then imploded upon itself”.

The U.S. court order described the blast as "the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth”. It was equal in force to between 15,000 and 21,000 pounds of TNT.

Now some terrorism experts want a thorough investigation by the U.S. or an international body to determine the role of Iran’s new defence minister in the attack.

“Those who are knowledgeable about the October 1983 terrorist attack in Beirut know that the Iranian regime was behind it”, said David Neil, a Middle East affairs analyst based in London. “Iran’s new defence minister was in command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards force in Lebanon at the time. This is acknowledged in his official biography that was carried by Iran’s government-owned news agencies today”.

Others agree.

“We must conduct a thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators and masterminds of that terrorist act to justice”, said Simon Bailey of the Gulf Intelligence Monitor. “For two decades, the Beirut bombing has been a landmark for terrorist impunity. Now is the time to change it”.

Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar joined the IRGC soon after it was formed in 1979, only days after the victory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah of Iran. Almost immediately, Mohammad-Najjar took part in the bloody campaign to suppress the Kurdish uprising in western Iran in 1979.

After his return to Tehran, Mohammad-Najjar worked as a staff officer in the Central Command Headquarters of the IRGC. His performance in the opening stages of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 won him quick promotion in IRGC, then a newly-formed army that relied more on ideological loyalty than military skills.

By 1982, the IRGC had turned the tide in the war against Iraq. After a succession of impressive battlefield victories, the Revolutionary Guards were now on the offensive. The new situation led the IRGC High Command to expand its operations in pursuit of export of Islamic revolution beyond Iraq. With Ayatollah Khomeini’s blessing, the Revolutionary Guards set up a Middle East Directorate and Mohammad-Najjar, who was a fluent Arabic speaker, became its commander.

The Middle East Directorate’s area of operation included Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and the Persian Gulf states. The IRGC sent a 1,500-man expeditionary force to Syria and the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon in 1982 and played a key role in the formation of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Mohammad-Najjar remained in command of IRGC’s Middle East operations until 1985. During those years, the IRGC expanded its presence and influence in Lebanon, both directly and through its proxies, and established active ties with radical Palestinian and Arab groups in the region.

Mohammad-Najjar’s forces were also actively expanding their clandestine presence in Iran’s southern neighbours, including Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Mohammad-Najjar became head of the IRGC’s Military Industries Organisation in 1985 and later developed the 320-mm “super mortars” that were intended for use by the Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force for terrorist operations in Europe and the Middle East.

The choice of Mohammad-Najjar as Defence Minister by fellow Revolutionary Guards commander Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not surprising. President Ahmadinejad is closely allied with the top brass of the IRGC, who played a crucial role in ensuring his victory in the recent presidential elections.

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