Lebanon's Hezbollah movement announced Feb. 13 that Imad Mughniyah, one of the Islamist group's top military commanders, has been killed. Mughniyah reportedly died in a bombing in Damascus the night of Feb. 12. Hezbollah is blaming Israel for Mughniyah's death.
Lebanese Shiite Islamist movement Hezbollah announced Feb. 13 the death of Imad Mughniyah, one its top military commanders. An Iranian television station said that Mughniyah — who has been on the United States' and Israel's most-wanted lists for involvement in several high-profile bombings, hijackings and kidnappings in the 1980s and 1990s that killed many U.S. and Israeli citizens — died in a bombing in an upscale district in the Syrian capital Damascus on Feb. 12. Hezbollah is blaming Israel for the killing. A Hamas member in Gaza speaking about the incident has also accused the United States of involvement. STRATFOR has on many occasions identified the 45-year-old mastermind as still playing a key role in Hezbollah and as an Iranian asset. He gained notoriety in a string of terrorist operations that took place during the 1980s, including the bombing of the U.S. Embassy and the Marine barracks in Beirut and the hijacking of a U.S. airliner. Mughniyah was also linked to the death of CIA Station Chief William Buckley. Just last month, he reportedly was appointed as Hezbollah's chief of operations. While Israel has issued a statement denying any involvement in Mughniyah's death, the Jewish state has in the past eliminated many militant leaders via operations in third countries. Moreover, the Israelis have an interest in weakening Hezbollah in light of their inability to crush the Iranian-backed group in the 2006 war. Furthermore, Israel is extremely uncomfortable with U.S.-Iranian dealings on Iraq, especially after the recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which stated that Tehran had not been trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability since 2003. Regardless of who was behind Mughniyah's death, the incident could lead to retaliatory action from Hezbollah, and there could be an effect on U.S.-Iranian dealings on Iraq. Mughniyah's death could also complicate matters on the Lebanese domestic scene, where the Hezbollah-led pro-Syrian camp is locked in an intense power struggle with the anti-Syrian government in Beirut. This complication could give Damascus another means by which it can enhance its efforts to regain control in the country.