By Ali Chehab
As-safir Daily, 20-02-2013
What if Hajj Imad was still alive? How would he have retaliated for the assassination of one of the Resistance’s leaders? He would have certainly planned for retribution that would be way more than just a reprisal or revenge. In fact, retaliation for Moghnieh’s assassination is an all-inclusive, unforeseen system Hajj Imad has devised by himself and applied many times against “Israel.”
“The lone wolf” was the name “Israeli” and US security departments have given to Imad Moghnieh, the military leader of the Islamic Resistance, after experts in fighting terrorism had concluded that such an important and key figure would be certainly working and moving alone, not within convoys or amid strict security measures; and wolves are known for living outside groups.
The assassination scheme was designed building on the abovementioned hypothesis, along with others. 25 years of chase, “the wolf” was personified. Yet, the post assassination stage was unconsidered. In “Israel,” and elsewhere in the world, analyses skimmed through the nature, the timing, and the location of a Hizbullah’s presumed retaliation for an operation which occurred “beyond the normal frame of the battle,” according to the party’s Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
As expectations intertwined in “Israel” and among intelligence agencies and services in allied countries in the region and worldwide– considering that Hizbullah is seeking to retaliate in a country where security services are ailing and that is easy to enter and leave-only Hizbullah has the true answer to all questions.
The Goals of the Assassination and Hizbullah’s Decision
The assassination of Imad Moghnieh came within the context of an “open war” that has become severer since July 2006. But the war started long before, on all levels, particularly security wise.
Just weeks before the assassination, many signs emerged only to indicate a certain mobilization by the West, namely the US, ahead of “some event” in the region. Meanwhile, “Israeli” analysts and journalists rushed to sound the alarm on Hizbullah’s revenge, even before Sayyed Nasrallah has spoken the first word.
1- Dealing a huge blow to Hizbullah and dragging the party into a severe response in order to kick off a military confrontation. Nonetheless, “Israel’s” on-the-ground indicators prior to the assassination did not show any preparations for a military showdown. Besides, Hizbullah command managed to absorb the shock without giving in to an impulsive reaction.
2- Targeting the key figure of operational link within Tehran-Damascus-Beirut axis, as part of the “heads and arms’ cutoff” plan, ahead of a military strike against Iran, noting that the “sleeping cells” were one of the most powerful chips the West and “Israel” pointed to when talking of Tehran’s response to any blow. Imad Moghnieh was on top of the “accusations” list in that respect.
3- The assassination of Imad Moghnieh took place regardless of the considerations of timing; that is, there was a decision to clean such a personality as soon as he was reached, regardless of the surrounding juncture. Indeed, he who executed the operation studied well the place and method, but he failed to invest in the timing, as he did not score strategic targets pertaining to the course of confrontation with Hizbullah. Therefore, Moghnieh’s assassination was a tactical target and not a strategic one, owing to the Resistance comprehending the operation–albeit the dimensions of this martyrdom are strategic in the eyes of Sayyed Nasrallah, who has said that the blood of Imad Moghnieh would end “Israel’s” existence.
Countering the targets which “Israel” sought to achieve through the assassination of Moghnieh requires an answer from the Resistance itself, noting that assuming that Hizbullah would not retaliate means:
– Giving the green light to “Israel” to assassinate other leaders.
– Breaking the deterrence balance through torpedoing Hizbullah’s power.
The Most Powerful Group Worldwide
“Israelis” admit that Hizbullah has a world extension parallel to their interests outside Lebanon. According to their many claims, Hizbullah is responsible for:
– Bombing the “Israeli” embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in the Argentinian capital in retaliation for the assassination of Hizbullah’s Sayyed Abbas Moussawi.
– Downing a plane with “Israelis” onboard in Panama in 1994.
– Attempt to bomb the “Israeli” embassy in Bangkok with a booby-trapped car in 1994. The operation failed at the last minute of the execution, because the car was hit in traffic accident. The chauffeur managed to flee and the police discovered the explosives accidently days after. Thailand was a key arena for the “Israeli” accusations of Hizbullah of preparing for attacks against the interests of Tel Aviv. The party’s operations in this country included, according to the “Israeli” reports, observing ELAL airlines company offices in Bangkok and Don Muang airport, the only airport in south Asia where “Israeli” flights could land at the time.
– Planning for attacks against “Israeli” targets in Singapore, where a Hizbullah member carried out “reconnaissance operations throughout the country’s shores ahead of targeting ‘Israeli’ ships that crossed Malacca Strait” in 1995. Hizbullah’s activities in this country also included, according to the “Israeli” allegations, watching and observing the “Israeli” embassy and Jewish temples.
According to the book “Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil” by Tom Diaz, Argentine’s bombing has proven that Hizbullah is extended worldwide and that it is able to move its sleeping cells whenever it wants to stage tragic attacks. Furthermore, European reports confirm Hizbullah’s ability to collect information and easily spot “Israeli” targets in Europe, noting that the European Union still refuses to list Hizbullah as a terrorist group despite the “Israeli” and US pressures.
The following caricature resumes Hizbullah’s method, throughout the history, of retaliation for targeting its leaders or attacking South Lebanon:
“Israel” deals a blow to the Resistance and waits for the response. It is then surprised by the party’s ability to self-control. So it awaits the counter-blow from a certain side, until it receives an unexpected punch.
This style is a result of Hajj Radwan’s work. When Sayyed Nasrallah menaced the “Israelis” with Imad’s “comrades and followers,” he meant that the martyr has established a school in the resistance work for the coming generations.
This is how “Israel” jumps to a reality that cannot be ignored, since Hizbullah, according to a joint “Israeli-“British report, is a flexible group able to adapt and whose retaliation would be bigger than a series of assassinations of senior “Israeli” officials.
At the same time, US security and military apparatuses are very careful vis-à-vis Hizbullah’s threats against “Israelis.” Washington has officially recommended Tel Aviv, in a memo issued by the Pentagon, not to be dragged into warfare when Hizbullah retaliates for Imad’s assassination.
Meanwhile, “Israeli” reports consider it more probable that Hizbullah would attack “Israeli” targets than it would be concerned with kidnapping “Israelis” in foreign countries, for abductions are the most complicated among security operations. Still, for two weeks upon the fourth anniversary of Moghnieh’s assassination, “Israeli” media spoke of five attempts to kidnap “Israeli” businessmen and senior figures in West Africa and other places in the world that were not revealed.
– Kidnapping “Israeli” personalities: “Israeli” reports rule out this option considering the logistic difficulties (the execution, transferring the abductee, and withdrawal). This is why “Israel” latest warrants focused on Sinai, where it believes Hizbullah can transfer the abductee through Rafah tunnels into Gaza Strip. Notwithstanding, this option remains the most circulated among “Israeli” media because “senior reserve officials are business owners in countries that have no public diplomatic ties with ‘Israel.'”
– Assassinating “Israeli” personalities: noting that “Israel” estimates there is no “Israeli” personality that is as important as Imad Moghnieh is in Hizbullah’s view.
– Bombing a substantial target: similarly to Buenos Aires bombing. Within this context, “Israel” reinforced its embassies, consulates, and organizations worldwide. It is yet to mention that “Israeli” agencies abroad suffer key security gaps “since they are not within independent buildings and facilities, like the US embassies abroad,” according to a US report.
– Hijacking an “Israeli” plane: this threat has made the headlines shortly after the assassination of Moghnieh. Immediately, the “Israeli” authorities took an array of security measures. They even banned “Israeli” passengers onboard to leave their seats before half an hour following the plane landing.
– Staging an attack inside the occupied territories: this is a logical assumption, especially following the quality operation adopted by the Free of Galilee (Ahrar-al-Jalil) Brigades-the group of martyr Imad Moghnieh, at the religious school in west Jerusalem in March 2008. The “Israeli” military institution also supposes an operation would take place at the borders, similarly to a penetration by an unmanned drone loaded with explosives of airspace off settlements.
– Executing a series of attacks in steps: Hizbullah’s anger is deep over the assassination of its military leader; it would not be content with just one target, a Stratfor report estimates.
The Specter Chases Israel Abroad
The statements by “Israel” office to fighting terrorism enumerate tens of states among the places where security apparatuses expect an activity of Hizbullah.
They focus on the Islamic states and countries in West Africa and South America. As to the states which provide spying facilities to “Israel,” the “Israeli” security rings directly notify the concerned state about the presence of a “threat,” and then suspects are under audio and visual observation through wire-tapping and photo shooting operations directly ran by Mossad, a US report says.
The report adds that when evidences are full, suspects are directly apprehended. In some cases, the Mossad conducts an operation to insinuate that the cell was uncovered, without taking action against it.
As an example on a similar scenario, there is the case of “terrorists” watching ELAL crew who stayed at Sheraton Hotel in Toronto in Canada. “Israeli” authorities on purpose concealed the details of the case in media. Years after Moghnieh’s assassination, “Israel” issued warrants and recommendations for its nationals abroad each month.
The many security “recommendations” by the anti-terrorism bureau increases dread among “Israelis,” since the bureau recommends:
– Totally abstaining from visiting an Arab or Islamic country included in the warrants.
– Turning down any tempting or unexpected proposal, gift, or free entertainment offers by unknown sides.
– Turning down any invitation to attend unexpected meetings, especially in faraway places, and keeping keen on attending the meetings accompanied by trusted persons.
– Not allowing any unexpected visit at unpredictable times by unknown individuals.
However, the “Israeli” warrants do not note any time frame, which constitutes a real problem to “Israel,” since it is known that the human nature tends to be lenient in implementing security measures as time passes. Moreover, previous experiences with Hizbullah prove that the party is not in a hurry to retaliate, as Startfor reports mentioned.
Another tactical factor is to be considered, that is, “Israel” knows well that Moghnieh himself, called “the specter,” has supervised the devising of plans comprising ready targets for the “black days,” which means that Hizbullah command has many options.
Since the very first moment, Sayyed Nasrallah has placed the retaliation for Moghnieh’s assassination in the context of an “open war,” and pledged that his blood would put “Israel” out of existence. Back then, only few understood the words of the Sayyed. Retaliating for Imad Moghnieh’s assassination is not just a reprisal. It is rather a prelude to a radical change in the course of confrontation. “Israel” itself is still waiting for a retaliation that is still unforeseen in terms of time and place.
“Israeli” and US reports perceive the upcoming scene as follows: Imad Moghnieh was “an outstanding genius.” Since Hajj Imad left behind him a true military and security institution, one may say that, according to Hizbullah’s way of thinking, retaliation will be catastrophic at a moment when “Israel” is fully incapable to make any reaction.