Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hezbollah and Al Qaeda

In a provocative cover story in the current Weekly Standard, terrorism researcher Thomas Joscelyn takes the occasion of the mysterious killing of a major terrorist leader to examine the pre-9/11 connections between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda.  The opening:

Late Tuesday night in Damascus, Imad Mugniyah, senior terrorist of Hezbollah, was killed in a car bomb explosion. It was a fitting death for a founding father of Islamic terrorism, a man who himself had built many bombs. If you had not heard of Mugniyah before, there is a good reason. Terror chieftains like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri seek the limelight with their frequent and widely disseminated diatribes. Not Mugniyah. Until recently, only a handful of photos of him were publicly available, and he never gave interviews. Instead, he was something of a ghost, confined to the terrorist underworld since the early 1980s, quietly doing the bidding of his masters, the Assad family in Syria and the mullahs in Iran.

Mugniyah, however, was well known in counter-terrorism circles. His role in the kidnapping and torture death of William Buckley, CIA station chief in Beirut in 1984, had earned him special enmity. Indeed, law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the globe hunted Mugniyah for nearly 30 years. But until last week he always escaped, leaving behind him a bloody trail. Finally, someone--we cannot be sure who, as of this writing--got him.

The evidence Joscelyn lays out in the piece suggests that some of Hezbollah's Iranian and Syrian backers may have known about and given support to the 9/11 plot,  although Joscelyn makes it clear that there is not enough evidence to definitively prove that at this point.  However,  Joscelyn argues, very convincingly, that it is virtually beyond rational contention that Sunni Al Qaeda and Shiite Hezbollah made common cause in lots of ways during the 1990's.

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