We know well who killed the top Hezbollah commander, Imad
Mugniyah on Feb 12 in Damascus.
While in the US media, only journalists like Seymour Hersh
will have the nerve to point out the obvious, the Israeli media has not shied
away from evidence of the Israeli intelligence�s involvement in this
A 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.�
The Financial Times reported on the �triumphant mood� of the
Israeli press which hailed �the demise of one of the country�s most feared
adversaries� and quoted an Israeli paper stating �the account is settled.�
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 the public eye but his
wisdom lives on. �We also know there are known unknowns,� he once told
perplexed reporters. Precisely, the unknown known 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 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
"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 year 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.
Indeed, the internal disunity and open hostility --
notwithstanding the political impasse over the future of the country�s
parliamentary and governmental organisation -- 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 war, but decried its
lack of effectiveness and poor execution.
How could Olmert correct the mistakes of war without leading
And what better timing for war if not at a moment when
Hezbollah and its rivals in Lebanon are engaged in one of their own?
But the assassination of a high profiled 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 is maybe war with both Lebanon and Syria -- with the hope of getting Iran
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.
Israel officials and pundits -- and their friends in the US
government and media -- are building a case for a confrontation with Iran. In 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 nonconventional weapons,� he
Israel, however, is neither capable, nor willing to face
Iran in a conventional war.
For 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, like
Israel has. And like Israel, it may gloat but officially refrain from
sponsoring whatever operations it carries out.
The course of future events is now more predictable,
although whether such tit-for-tat behaviour will work in Israel�s favour
remains in the realm of �unknown unknowns.� Maybe Rumsfeld had it right after
Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has
been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People�s
Press, London). Read more about him on his website: ramzybaroud.net.