COMMENT The 'known unknowns'
of the Mugniyah killing By
We know well who killed
top Hezbollah commander Imad Mugniyah on February
12 in Damascus.
Although in the US media
only journalists like Seymour Hersh have the nerve
to point out the obvious, the Israeli media has
not shied away from evidence of Israeli
intelligence's involvement in this well-calculated
The major Israeli daily
newspaper Maariv shared the views of many others
when it concluded that: "Officially, Israel
yesterday denied responsibility for the killing.
But experts say the brilliant
execution of the attack was
characteristic of the Mossad."
Financial Times reported on the "triumphant mood"
of the Israeli press which hailed "the demise of
one the country's most feared adversaries" and
quoted an Israeli paper stating "the account is
The Financial Times also quoted
a most telling analysis offered by one Israeli
commentator: "Mugniyah's assassination is perhaps
the hardest blow Hezbollah has taken to this day.
Not just because of his operational abilities, his
close ties to the Iranians, and the series of
successful terror attacks that he carried out. But
because he was a symbol, a legend, a myth."
Donald Rumsfeld is no longer in public eye
but his "wisdom" lives on. "We also know there are
known unknowns," he once told perplexed reporters.
Precisely, the "known unknown" in this case is
that the Israeli Mossad killed Mugniyah, and
killed him for specific political reasons at a
well-chosen time and place that would make perfect
sense from the Israeli government's point of view.
Let's first look at the timing.
President George W Bush's second term in
office will expire in one year. For the president
who has unconditionally rubber-stamped Israeli
policies, one year is not enough to set long-term
goals, but it's enough to ignite chaos.
"If you want chaos, then we welcome chaos.
If you want war, then we welcome war. We have no
problem with weapons or with rockets which we will
launch on you." These were the words of Lebanon's
MP Walid Jumblatt of the ruling March 14
Coalition, directed at the Hezbollah-led
opposition a few days prior to the third
anniversary of Rafiq Hariri's assassination.
Considering the military strength of Hezbollah
within Lebanon, it isn't difficult to guess where
the MP's rockets would come from.
the internal disunity and open hostility -
notwithstanding the political impasse over the
future of the country's parliamentary and
governmental organization - all point at the
readiness of Lebanon to descend into chaos. This
is good news for Israel and the Bush
administration. A civil war could achieve what
Israel's botched, illegal war of 2006 could not.
The 34-day war, celebrated by Hezbollah as
a victory, was a massive setback to Israel's
regional designs and to those who wanted Hezbollah
removed from the country's political equation. The
war backfired, achieving the exact opposite:
Hezbollah emerged triumphant. More recently,
Israel's own investigation into the war admitted,
if somewhat circuitously, Israel's defeat.
The Winograd Commission's report indicted
the army, and largely absolved Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert. It described the war's failure as a
"serious missed opportunity". The report didn't
chastise the war, but decried its lack of
effectiveness and poor execution.
could Olmert correct the mistakes of the war
without waging another? And what better timing for
war than a moment when Hezbollah and its rivals in
Lebanon are engaged in one of their own?
But the assassination of a high-profile
person like Mugniyah was not merely an opportunity
to boast over a classic Mossad operation. It was a
major ingredient in a larger scheme, the end
result of which may be war with both Lebanon and
Syria - with the hope of getting Iran involved.
Israel didn't hide its disappointment over
the US's National Intelligence Estimate, which
concluded that Iran is no longer in the nuclear
weapons manufacturing business. It simply meant
that the US will not attack Iran at this time. But
for Israel, "absence of evidence is not the
evidence of absence" - another Rumsfeld quote.
Fearing that unchecked Iran could dominate the
region, Israel, with Bush's green light, is now
ready for escalation.
and pundits - and their friends in the US
government and media - are building a case for a
confrontation with Iran. On a recent trip to
Germany, after talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel
in Berlin, Olmert was "sure" of Iran developing
nuclear weapons. "The Iranians are moving forward
with their plans to create a capacity for
non-conventional weapons," he told reporters.
Israel, however, is neither capable, nor
willing to face Iran in a conventional war.
But going after Hezbollah as they have
done unsuccessfully in the past could be
disastrous. Thus there is a need for a new tactic.
Last September, Israel experimented, once again,
with the idea of bombing Syria. US media parroted
ridiculous claims that the bombings targeted
"secret" Syrian nuclear facilities, courtesy of
North Korea. What Israel wants is an easy victory
over Syria, which will block Iranian military
supplies to Hezbollah, and deny Palestinian
opposition parties a save heaven in Damascus, the
last Arab capital willing to provide them with a
political platform. Facing an internal challenge
at home and without Iran's help, Hezbollah cannot
withstand a fight on two fronts.
Israel's scheme to succeed, the internal conflict
in Lebanon must escalate and internal cohesion
must not be achieved, a mission entrusted to the
"mysterious" car bombings that have been blamed
squarely on Syria and its Lebanese allies.
By gloating, yet without revealing much
about the assassination of Mugniyah, Israeli
commentators might have lost sight of the great
gamble of their government. Hezbollah's response,
articulated by their leader Hassan Nasrallah, was
a vow for an "open" war. The group will most
likely avoid border clashes, and take the war
against Israel to the international arena, just as
Israel has. And like Israel, it may gloat in
private but officially refrain from sponsoring
whatever operations are carried out.
course of future events is now more predictable,
although whether such tit-for-tat behavior will
work in Israel's favor remains in the realm of
"unknown unknowns". Maybe Rumsfeld had it right
(www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been
published in many newspapers and journals
worldwide. His latest book is The Second
Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's
Struggle (Pluto Press, London). (Copyright