US spies taking too much credit for Mughniyeh hit, Mossad operatives say

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US spies taking too much credit for Mughniyeh hit, Mossad operatives say
By JPOST.COM STAFF/02/15/2015

The American intelligence community is taking too much credit for the joint Central Intelligence Agency-Mossad operation in 2008 that killed Hezbollah’s top operations man and arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, an author and espionage expert for CBS News wrote on Sunday. Dan Raviv, a journalist who co-authored a book about Israeli espionage, wrote that Israeli officials were unhappy over recent leaks to The Washington Post and Newsweek that they believe were designed to exaggerate the CIA’s role in Mughniyeh’s assassination.

The killing of one of the world’s most wanted terrorists was widely attributed to Israel in the foreign media. US involvement in the death of Mughniyeh was confirmed to The Washington Post last month by five former US intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. According to the report, the CIA obtained the legal authority to kill the Hezbollah leader because it was able to prove that, “he was a continuing threat to Americans,” through his connection to the arming and training of Shi’ite militias in Iraq who were targeting and killing US forces. Mughniyeh’s son, Jihad, was killed on January 18 in an air strike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights that has been attributed to Israel. Besides Mughniyeh, five other Hezbollah operatives and six Iranian Revolutionary Guards personnel, including a general, were killed in the attack.

Among other terrorist attacks against US citizens, Mughniyeh the father was linked to the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut that killed 63 people, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US servicemen. Mughniyeh was also implicated in the 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people and the 1994 attack on the Jewish community center in the Argentinian capital, which killed 85.

The US and Israeli intelligence organizations worked together for months monitoring Mughniyeh in Damascus to determine where the bomb should be planted, according to the report. At one point an opportunity presented itself to kill both Mughinyeh and Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, who according to the report is an “archenemy of Israel,” and had also orchestrated the training of Shi’ite militias in Iraq. The trigger was not pulled, however, because the operatives did not have the legal authority to kill him.

According to the uncovered information, on February 12, 2008, Mughniyeh was killed, “on a quiet nighttime street in Damascus after eating dinner at a nearby restaurant… when a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of his vehicle exploded.”A team of CIA spotters in Damascus was tracking his movements, and Mossad agents in Tel Aviv triggered the bomb remotely according to the report. “The way it was set up, the US could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” a former US intelligence official told the newspaper.

Planning for the operation was “exhaustive.”
The CIA leaks, however, irked Israeli officials who, as Raviv writes, insist that the Mughniyeh operation “was entirely blue and white” – a reference to the colors of the Israeli flag – “with hardly any red, white, and blue.” “Some Israelis, it seems, object to seeing the Americans taking too much credit,” Raviv writes. “What follows is based on what knowledgeable Israelis have been telling Western officials and diplomats. They say the US participated in the deliberations, the intelligence gathering, the surveillance, and some logistics of the assassination – but they call the assassination itself an Israeli operation: lock, stock, and barrel.”

As Raviv tells it, most of the preparations for the hit on Mughniyeh were already made by Mossad agents who had tracked the Hezbollah operative as he had come in and out of his Damascus apartment. “At least according to what Israelis have been telling Western officials, the Mossad did not need the CIA for active management of the operation,” Raviv writes. “They had already gleaned all the details necessary about Mughniyeh’s daily routine and his hideout in Damascus. “

“The CIA was there, as they put it, to fill in any missing intelligence information and provide extra eyes in Damascus.”Wary about killing innocent bystanders, the Americans withdrew their cooperation from the mission, but later rejoined after then-prime minister Ehud Olmert provided videotape evidence that the bomb which would be used to kill Mughniyeh would be precise.

Mughniyeh’s Damascus hideout was in close proximity to a girls’ school, and the Americans were adamant that any operation to kill him would have to be pinpoint so as not to harm anyone else in the vicinity. The Hezbollah operative was also wont to meet with senior Iranian military and intelligence figures, men whom the Americans also were determined not to touch since Washington had no desire to provoke Iran.

The actual bomb used to kill the terrorist was developed and perfected in Israel, not in the United States, as reports suggested. Once the Israelis received confirmation that Mughniyeh was alone and heading to his car near his apartment, the order was given to intelligence officials in Tel Aviv to activate the explosive device by remote control.