Wednesday, December 8, 2010

WikiLeaks cables: Syria stunned by Hezbollah assassination

Leaked US reports reveal Assad regime shocked at killing of founder member of Syrian-backed Lebanese militant group

Ian Black, Middle East editor, Tuesday 7 December 2010

" Syrian officials were stunned by the mysterious assassination of a senior Hezbollah operative in Damascus two years ago, triggering a blame game between rival security services and frenzied speculation across the Middle East about who did it.

US reports from February 2008, revealed by WikiLeaks, described how the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was shocked when Imad Mughniyeh was murdered by a sophisticated bomb planted in his car. Mughniyeh, a founder member of the militant Lebanese Shia movement, was wanted by the US, Israel, France and other governments. Hezbollah is backed by Iran and Syria.

"Syrian military intelligence and general intelligence directorate officials are currently engaged in an internecine struggle to blame each other for the breach of security that resulted in Mughniyeh's death," the US embassy reported......

US diplomats reported that the killing led to tensions between Syria and Iran, perhaps because Tehran shared Khoja's suspicion of Syrian complicity in the affair.

It took more than a year for Syrian-Iranian relations to improve, with a low-profile visit to Damascus in late 2009 by the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's (IRGC) elite al-Quds force, Qassem Suleimani, described by a Lebanese source as being at "the business end" of Hezbollah's military activities. US officials speculated that Soleimani's long absence was "perhaps a reflection of lingering tensions between Iran and Syria that erupted after the assassination of Mughniyeh"......"

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