On This Day — The Beirut Barracks Bombings (October 23, 1983) [2019]

“Though he never said so explicitly, he [President Ronald Reagan] ended America’s military commitment to a strategic mistake that was peripheral to America’s interests. Three-and-a-half months after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. military personnel — and after repeatedly pledging not to do so — Reagan ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Lebanon.”

Foreign Policy

“Beirut wasn’t sensible and it never did serve a purpose. It was goofy from the beginning.”

General Colin Powell

“We still do not have the actual knowledge of who did the bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut Airport, and we certainly didn’t then.”

Caspar Weinberger — Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1987 (September 2001)

The Beirut barracks bombings were terrorist attacks that occurred on October 23, 1983, in Beirut, Lebanon, during the Lebanese Civil War when two truck bombs struck separate buildings housing United States and French military forces—members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF)—killing 241 U.S. and 58 French servicemen, six civilians, and the two suicide bombers. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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RELATED POST: On This Day — Remembering Arrow Air Flight 1285 (December 12 1985)

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RELATED POST: The 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing : Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad?

An obscure group calling itself ‘Islamic Jihad’ claimed responsibility for the bombings and that the bombings were aimed to get the MNF out of Lebanon.

The chain of command likely ran from the government of Iran; to Iran’s Ambassador to Syria, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur, located in Damascus; to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Hossein Dehghan in Beirut as the Iranians drew on assets in Lebanon.

Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria have continued to deny any involvement in any of the bombings, even though the Iranian government erected a monument in Tehran to commemorate the 1983 bombings and its “martyrs” in 2004.

Two suicide bombers detonated each of the truck bombs. In the attack on the building serving as a barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (Battalion Landing Team – BLT 1/8), the death toll were 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since World War II’s Battle of Iwo Jima, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Armed Forces since the first day of the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens in general prior to the September 11 attacks, and the deadliest single terrorist attack on American citizens overseas.

Another 128 Americans were wounded in the blast. Thirteen later died of their injuries, and they are numbered among the total number who died.

An elderly Lebanese man, a custodian/vendor who was known to work and sleep in his concession stand next to the building, was also killed in the first blast.

The explosives used were later estimated to be equivalent to as much as 9,525 kg (21,000 pounds) of TNT. [Wikipedia]

Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad?

On October 23 2018, Secretary Mike Pompeo tweeted:

“35 years ago, 241 Marines, Sailors & Soldiers were killed in Beirut, Lebanon, by an Iranian-trained Hizballah terrorist. We will never forget these heroes who came in peace and gave their lives that awful day.”

Not everyone agrees with Pompeo’s message.

Ghoulia MacFarlane quickly replied to Pompeo’s tweet.

“He [Pompeo] served as CIA director but doesn’t know the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing was carried out by Islamic Jihad. Hezbollah was founded in 1985.”

Some observers, like Jeff Stein (@SpyTalker), agrees with MacFarlane.

“Mike Pompeo falsely blames #Beirut barracks bombing on #Hezbollah and thinks no one will notice. #FactsMatter”

Others, like Matthew Levit, disagrees.

“By 1984 at the latest, CIA noted that an overwhelming body of circumstantial evidence points to the Hizb Allah, operating with Iranian support under the cover name of Islamic Jihad.”

Some experts believe that the Islamic Jihad was the forefather of Hezbollah, or the initial cell that later expanded and became what is now known as the Lebanese Hezbollah.

“There is however no consensus about when the Lebanese Hezbollah was actually formed. Some experts believe that Hezbollah already existed as an underground organization in 1982.

Others believe that the Hezbollah was formed by supporters of Sheikh Ragheb Harb. He was a Shiite resistance leader in southern Lebanon and led an anti-Israeli resistance group against Israel’s occupation of that region (that lasted until 2000). He was killed by Israeli agents on February 16, 1984.” (Sahimi)

In 1985, a U.S. grand jury secretly indicted Imad Mughniyah (1962-2008) as the mastermind behind the bombing. He was a senior member of Hezbollah, and has been implicated in many terrorist operations.

Mughniyah was indicted for the bombing of Israel’s embassy in Argentina on March 17, 1992, which killed 29 people, and the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires in July 1994, which killed 86 people.

Mughniyah was never arrested. He was killed in Damascus on February 12, 2008.

Robert Baer — a CIA agent in Beirut at that time — had concluded in 1987 that Iran, employing local Fatah proxies (not Hezbollah’s operatives), was the key player behind the embassy bombing.

Many books and articles have been published on the Beirut attacks. But the truth is that, 35 years late, the culprits have not been identified with certainty.

PS: On July 4 1982, Iran’s military attaché to Lebanon, Ahmad Motevaselian; Seyyed Mohsen Mousavi, charge d’affaires; their driver Taghi Rastegar Moghadam, and photojournalist Kazem Akhavan were kidnapped in northern Lebanon on their way to Iran’s embassy in Damascus. Their fate remains unknown.

PS2 : On December 12 1985. Arrow Air Flight 1285 taking off from Gander, Newfoundland, crashes and burns about half a mile from the runway, killing all 256 passengers and crew on board. An anonymous caller to a French news agency in Beirut claimed that Islamic Jihad destroyed the plane to prove “our ability to strike at the Americans anywhere.” On December 21 1988, the same organization will claim credit for the Lockerbie bombing [Pan Am 103].

The 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombings

 

 

REFERENCES

1983 Beirut barracks bombings — Wikipedia

When Reagan Cut and Run — Foreign Policy

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On this Day — The Beirut Barracks Bombings (October 23, 1983)

On This Day — The Beirut Barracks Bombings (October 23, 1983) [2019]

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