Smoke rises from shell explosions in the Syrian village of al-Jamlah. Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
“A Syrian air defense base near the port city of Latakia was completely destroyed on Thursday morning in a missile attack from the sea,” reports the Jerusalem Post, citing Arab media accounts. “According to reports emanating from the rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, a large explosion occurred near the army base in Latakia on Wednesday night. Witness posted on Twitter that the explosion happened near coastal city Jableh, 30 kilometers south of Latakia, a stronghold of Assad’s Alawites.”
“It is unclear who is behind the explosion or its purpose,” the Post noted. “There were no reports of casualties. Members of the Syrian and Lebanese media have charged that Israel is behind the attack. Israel’s defense establishment has not responded to the report. Channel 2 News reported that the attack’s target was a S-125 surface-to-air missiles battery. Satellite images of the area obtained by Channel 2 show the Russian-made Neva missiles, as well as a SA-3 missile battery, that also includes a command center with a radar to track the missiles’ targets and broadcasting antennas to track the missiles as they are launched. The missiles have a range of 35km. and a 70k. warhead. Lebanese media also reported that six Israel Air Force planes flew over Ayta ash Shab, Bint Jbeil and Marjayoun in southern Lebanon overnight. Such reports are common in the Lebanese media.”
Will General Sisi run for the President of Egypt next year?
The Egyptian military commander who overthrew the Mohammed Morsi regime and is waging an aggressive crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, is growing increasingly popular amongst the people of Egypt. Indeed, there is growing talk that when elections are held sometime in 2014, the General may be the prohibitive front-runner.
Clearly he is someone to keep an eye on, and be praying for. But why is the General so popular? And will he really run for president?
Consider this analysis by a former senior Israeli military intelligence official.
“Since the ousting of President Morsi on July 3, 2013, the issue of who will be the next elected President of Egypt has been at the center of attention in Egypt and abroad,” notes an intriguing new report published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, an Israeli think tank. “Morsi’s presidency has proven the extent to which an Egyptian president can influence the course of the country and shape its domestic and foreign policy. Because of this, one can easily understand the amount of energy devoted by analysts of the Egyptian scene in order to try and decipher the intentions of General Abd el Fattah el-Sisi, the actual strongman of Egypt.”
The reportwas written by Israeli Colonel (retired) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the JCPA. Neriah previously served as a foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and as Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.
“Sisi holds the combined titles of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, first Deputy of the Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense and Military Production,” writes Neriah. “He is the man who led the overthrow of President Morsi. Since August 14, he has conducted a ferocious crackdown (only parallel to the crackdown performed by Gamal Abd el Nasser in 1954 against the Brotherhood) aimed at eliminating the political power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. And unlike his predecessors, Sisi is waging a merciless campaign against jihadi fighters in the Sinai Peninsula in order to restore Egypt’s sovereignty in the desert while drastically reducing Hamas’ power in the Gaza Strip.”
“Sisi has been very murky about his future plans, denying through the army spokesman any intention of running for the presidency in early 2014,” Neriah continues. “However, events on the ground seem to show that the general is preparing himself for the presidency because this is the only viable choice for him and the military establishment. In theory, Sisi could decide to stay in his position under a newly elected president and enjoy his powers as he is doing today, but he could also suffer the fate of his predecessor, Field Marshal Tantawi, who had his career terminated with the stroke of a pen. Sisi does not want to alienate his opponents by eying the presidency too early and creating a situation in which he would have to justify himself.”
General Abd el Fattah el-Sisi, the man who led the overthrow of President Morsi on July 3, 2013, holds the combined titles of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, first Deputy of the Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense and Military Production.
Unlike his predecessors, Sisi is waging a merciless campaign against jihadi fighters in Sinai Peninsula in order to restore Egypt’s sovereignty there while drastically reducing Hamas’ power in Gaza.
Sisi may be “called to the flag” as a savior in order to salvage Egypt from its enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood — talk shows and newspaper columns have been advocating the idea of the general running for president in order to fight the terrorist threat they say the country is facing.
Most of the other potential candidates have declared that if Sisi would run for president, they would retract their candidacies.
There is a concentrated effort to picture Sisi as the political heir of the iconic President Gamal Abd el Nasser.
Sisi himself participated in the 43rd memorial ceremony of Nasser’s death. There were posters with his picture adjacent to Nasser’s. Egyptians see Nasser as the Egyptian leader who fought the Muslim Brotherhood domestically and led Egypt to the leadership of the Arab World and the non-aligned community. In fact, Sisi was presenting his legitimacy as the rightful leader of Egypt not only to his Egyptian compatriots but also toward the U.S. administration, which is questioning his legitimacy and presenting him as the leader of a coup and a usurper of power.
This creates an opening for a possible Russian comeback in Egypt and through it to a reinforced Russian position in the region.
By deciding to cut its financial aid to Egypt and postpone the delivery of weapon systems already ordered, the U.S. has overturned the longstanding correlation between financial assistance and Egypt’s honoring of the peace treaty with Israel.
The $14 billion that Saudi Arabia and the UAE transferred to Egypt immediately after Sisi’s takeover, and the $40 billion promised in economic aid, are a reminder that Egypt may not be in need of such conditional financial assistance.
Observers of the Egyptian scene are repeatedly stressing the change in the mood of the Egyptians towards the United States, from friendship and admiration to open hostility. In fact, the crisis with the Obama Administration and Sisi’s reaction to it has helped build up his leadership credentials as a daring Egyptian nationalist who does not retreat before a superpower – particularly one that so openly supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Delegates from the P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva, at the start of two days of talks regarding Tehran’s nuclear program, Tuesday, October 15, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Fabrice Coffrini)
“Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build an atomic weapon within two weeks and has, “in a certain way,” already reached the point of no return in its nuclear program, a former senior International Atomic Energy Association official said Monday,” reports the Times of Israel.
“I believe that if certain arrangements are done, it could even go down to two weeks. So there are a lot of concerns out there that Iran can hopefully now address, in this new phase, both at the P5+1 [talks between Tehran and six world powers] and with the IAEA,” former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen said, confirming a report released last week by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which stated Iran could muster enough uranium for a bomb by converting all of its 20-percent enriched stockpile within 1 to 1.6 months.
Excerpts from the Times story:
Earlier on Monday, IAEA Director Yukiya Amano met in Vienna with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator, ahead of two days of technical talks between Iranian representatives and the UN’s nuclear watchdog, Amano described his meeting as important in addressing ‘the outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program.’ Speaking to journalists on a conference call organized by The Israel Project, Heinonen contrived to sound optimistic and pessimistic at the same time.”
“They are forward looking,” he about the Iranian negotiators. “And I think they have realized that they don’t get away from this situation unless they answer properly the questions raised by the IAEA and concerns raised by the international community. So I’m to a certain degree hopeful. But we have to make sure that everything is covered.”
“Asked specifically if Iran had passed the ‘point of no return’ in its nuclear program, Heinonen, today a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, replied, “Yes, in a certain way. But we have to remember what are the capabilities of Iran. People have slightly different definitions of breakout capability.”
In his assessment, which appears to concur with that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a critical level is reached when the Iranians have enriched enough uranium to weapons grade, in the form of hexafluoride gas enrichment, to create a nuclear bomb.
“But you still don’t have a nuclear weapon,” Heinonen added. Preparing the highly enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb would take another month or two, “assuming that someone has all the knowledge.” After that, assembling an actual nuclear weapon that can be delivered with a ballistic missile would take perhaps another year, he said.
Iran continues to install hundreds of new advanced centrifuges every month, drastically reducing the so-called breakout time it would require in order to produce weapons-grade uranium if it decided to do so, he said.
Israel has called for Iran to be stripped of all enrichment capability, saying even low-grade uranium could be made suitable for a nuclear weapon in a short time with enough centrifuges running. “Regarding Iran, we are not impressed by the discussion surrounding the issue of 20% enrichment,” Netanyahu said Sunday, referring to reports that Tehran has been insisting on retaining the ability to enrich uranium to that level. “Its importance is superfluous as a result of the improvements the Iranians have made in the past year, which allow them to jump over the barrier of 20% enrichment and proceed directly from 3.5% enrichment to 90% within weeks, weeks at most.”
“Pastor Chuck Smith, regarded by many prominent Christian leaders as having influenced their ministries and spiritual lives, was remembered as a preacher holding firm to Biblical principles and a loyal friend to Israel at a memorial tribute Sunday evening,” reported the Christian Post.
“More than 16,000 people at the event, as well as those viewing the live stream webcast internationally, watched as Smith, who died on Oct. 3 after battling lung cancer, was honored through words, music, and video,” noted the Post.
“He preached his last sermon four days before he went to heaven,” said evangelist Greg Laurie, who was one of several featured pastors speaking at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. “When a loved one leaves us, like Chuck, we feel great sadness, but I must say, please don’t feel sadness for him. We might say, ‘Oh, poor Chuck, I wish he could be here tonight to see all of this.’ Wait a second, Chuck’s in heaven right now. He’s thinking ‘I wish they could be up here to see all of this.'”
“During the more than 3-hour tribute, featuring both pastors and musicians influenced by Smith’s teachings during the Jesus Movement of the late ’60s, Consulate General of Israel, David Siegel, spoke about the Calvary Chapel movement leader’s commitment to Israel, that included 60 visits to the country,” noted the Post.
“In the 65 years of Israel’s rebirth as a modern nation, one would be hard pressed to find a more committed and more honorable friend than Pastor Chuck, a pioneer in forging relations between Christians and Jews, and between the Christian world and Israel,” Siegel said. “The bond he formed with us is comparable to the biblical friendship between Jonathan and David. Pastor Chuck was our Jonathan.”
He added, “We are indebted and we are deeply touched. We join with you today to express our profound sadness and respect on behalf of the people of Israel for the passing of Pastor Chuck Smith. … He worked for historic reconciliation between Christians and Jews. With his passing, the state of Israel has lost a great friend.”…..
Siegal, who spoke about midway through the event, said at the outset of his message: “Being the representative of Israel, a kid from northern Israel and a rabbi’s son, I’ve probably been to more synagogues and churches in my life, but I’ve never seen anything like this.
While suggesting that some who were touched by the Jesus people or Calvary Chapel movements in its early days may have lost their full commitment to Jesus Christ, Laurie asked those in attendance and the online audience to consider making a recommitment Sunday evening.
“Some who started their race during the days of the Jesus Movement have stopped running,” Laurie explained. “They are resting on their laurels or have been crippled by sin. Paul said, ‘Forgetting those things which are behind . . . I press toward the mark’ (KJV). I can’t think of a greater tribute that they could give to Chuck than to ‘come back to their first love.’ It’s not enough to merely start the race; you must finish it.”….
In talking about the afterlife, Laurie said, “Chuck is more alive than he has ever been before because Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life and he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.’ That’s the hope of the Christian.”
“More than 52,000 watched ‘A Tribute to Pastor Chuck’ live from 80 countries (including 420-plus simulcast churches), according to the event’s webcast team,” reported the Post. “The tribute was also broadcast live nationally via Calvary Chapel’s radio station, K-WAVE. The archived version of the tribute can be seen online by clicking here: http://pastorchucksmith.com/.”
Former Israeli Air Force chief of staff Ido Nehushtan (right).
“Sanctions alone are not sufficient to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear program, former Israeli Air Force commander Ido Nehushtan said on Saturday morning, and he indicated that the Israel Air Force was capable of setting back the Iranian nuclear program if ordered to do so,” reports the Times of Israel. “Advocating a carrot-and-stick approach, Nehushtan said the option of a military strike on Iran, which claims its nuclear program is peaceful but has refused to honor international resolutions aimed to prevent it attaining nuclear weapons capability, must remain on the table.”
“Nobody’s happy about the idea of a military strike. It is carried out when the alternative is worse. There’s no knowing what’ll happen as a result of a military strike,” he said.
“Nehushtan stressed Tehran must realize that Israel is prepared to use the military option ‘as a means to an end,'” the Times noted. “He was adamant that Israel did retain the capability to realize a viable military option.”
“It is possible to delay the Iranian nuclear program by hitting its facilities,” he said. “I wouldn’t underestimate the capacity of the Israeli Air Force to fulfill the missions it is ordered to carry out. And I think I’ve said enough.”
“Still, in the event that Iran did get to the bomb, Nehushtan said he believed not all would be lost,” the Times reported.
“If we’ve reached a point where Iran has nuclear weapons and we’re too late, that doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way forever. We’re not there yet,” he said at a cultural event in Beersheba.
(Washington, D.C.) — A timely and sobering report has just been published that describes the deadly war the government of Iran has waged against American citizens since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
From the taking of American hostages in Tehran by Iranian students, to the killing of 241 Marines in Beirut by a terrorist group directed and funded by Iran, to Iran’s role in murdering U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the report makes clear the Iranian regime is not just taunting the American people, they are killing our people, and doing so with impunity.
As the Obama Administration ‘engages’ in talks with Iran, it is important to keep in mind Iran’s protracted war against the American people and innocents everywhere,” notes the press release announcing the report. “On the 30th anniversary of the Iranian planned attack on a Marine base in Lebanon that killed 241 peacekeepers, Secure America Now is releasing documentation of Iran’s bloodthirsty assault on Americans. Keep this record in mind and imagine how dangerous it would be if Iran had nuclear devices, such as Dirty Bombs, to supply to terrorists and use for killing civilians.”
The non-profit groups encourages people to “share this fact bookwith your friends and anyone you know who thinks the Iranian regime is just another country looking to develop peaceful nuclear weapons” and notes that “Iran’s 30 + Year Recordshould lead every reasonable person to understand that Iran’s nuclear program is definitely not ‘peaceful.'”
“In a probing interview with New Republic published on Wednesday, former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin made his assessment clear: the coming year would be the year of decision for Israel,” reports the Times of Israel. “The next several months, he said, would provide the last opportunity for Israel to confidently and effectively strike Iran’s nuclear program, if that’s what it chooses to do.”
“Yadlin, now the director of the Tel Aviv-based Institute of National Security Studies, was careful not to advocate for an attack in the interview, and he made clear that Israel also has the option in the coming months to decide to leave the Iranian issue to the Obama administration, or Jerusalem could decide to live with a nuclear-capable Iran,” notes the Times. “According to Yadlin, the timetable for an American decision is different, as US capabilities leave the option of a military strike available for longer. ‘For the US, because of their capabilities, it is at least a year post-Israel and will depend on many operational parameters that should not be public knowledge,’ he told the magazine’s Ben Birnbaum. He assessed, however, that US opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran may lessen depending on the success of ongoing negotiations between the West and the Iranian regime.”
“I think in late 2013 or early 2014, especially if America sees that Iran is not serious about reaching an acceptable agreement and only continues to buy time, the US will accept an Israeli attack because a nuclear Iran is absolutely against American vital national security interests,” Yadlin said.
“The negotiations over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, which resumed last week in Geneva and left P5+1 representatives upbeat about conditions for a possible deal, are a win-win for Israel, the former military intelligence chief reasoned,” reports the Times. “If a deal is reached ‘which is reliable and contains intrusive inspections and turns the nuclear clock backwards, it’s better than the dangerous options of the ‘bomb or the bombing.’ And if negotiations fail, then there will be legitimacy to take preventive action to stop Iran,’ he said. Yadlin, who helped persuade then-defense minister Ehud Barak and Netanyahu back in 2010 not to strike Iran, said that the probability for a successful Israeli attack against Tehran’s nuclear program would soon diminish. ‘It can be the last quarter of 2013 or the first, second or even third quarter of 2014. There is not a certain deadline, but the probability of success will eventually decrease to a level that may change the decision to launch the attack.'”
At 6:25 local time on the morning of October 23, 1983, agents of the ayatollah used a suicide bomber to plow a truck filled with explosives into the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
The attack resulted in “the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth,” according to a U.S. federal court judge who found the Islamic Republic of Iran guilty of perpetrating the crime.[i] Locked doors on a building nearly three hundred feet away were ripped off their hinges. All the trees in the surrounding area were stripped completely bare of their leaves. The windows in the control tower at Beirut’s international airport were blown out. And the four-story cement and steel Marine facility collapsed into fifteen feet of rubble, ash, and smoke.
When my wife and I got married in the summer of 1990 and settled in the Washington, D.C., area, we soon met Charlie and Lynn Derbyshire, a couple at church who had experienced the evil of the Iranian Revolution firsthand. Lynn lost her oldest brother—Marine Captain Vincent Smith—in the Beirut bombing. Charlie was still helping her heal from the loss when we met. But the horrors of 9/11 and the subsequent deaths of American and Israeli forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon in the years that followed ripped open those wounds afresh. Through Lynn and Charlie, my wife and I have gotten a personal and painful glimpse at the lasting emotional scars left by the jihadists.
When I set out to write this book, I wrestled with whether or not to even ask Lynn if I could share her story. In the end, however, I did ask. I felt it was important for others to understand the human impact of the Revolution and to realize that for the victims of terrorism, the trauma is in many ways as real today as it was so long ago.
Graciously, Lynn and Charlie agreed.
“HE MADE SURE I WAS SAFE”
“I loved Vince,” Lynn explained as we sat in her living room and talked over coffee. “Vince was my hero, my protector, my friend. He was so much more than a brother. I have six brothers and two sisters, and he was the oldest. And he was always the one who would come in and stop the family fights. He was always the one who would tell my brothers, ‘Okay, quit pickin’ on her; enough is enough.’ You know, whatever practical joke they were playing—putting frogs in my pockets or whatever. Vince would just swoop in and rescue me from this kind of sibling fun. I always looked to Vince as my savior. Vince was always the one who made sure I was safe.”
Vince graduated with honors from high school, then headed off to the Naval Academy. He played football. He sang in the glee club. He also became a follower of Jesus Christ while at the Naval Academy through long conversations with Lynn’s cousin, a strong believer, who was there as well.
In time, Vince fell in love, got married, and then went off to basic training and flight school before becoming a pilot, most often flying Cobra attack helicopters.
In May of 1983, he was sent to Beirut to serve as the air liaison officer for the group, making sure that when ground troops needed air support—whether for transporting supplies or a for combat mission—they got what they needed.
“THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING”
In October of that year, Lynn was living in New Mexico. Newly married, she and her husband had just come home from church on a beautiful Sunday morning when her neighbor ran to meet her. Tears were streaming down her neighbor’s face. She grabbed at Lynn’s arm as Lynn was getting out of the car. “You’ve gotta come in the house,” she said. “Something terrible has happened! You gotta come watch the news.”
“It was about ten in the morning,” Lynn recalled. “I kept saying, ‘Well, just tell me what’s happened—just tell me.’ We went into her house—and this was before they had 24/7 coverage of news events, so we had to wait through whatever the program was until the next time they broke in with their special report—and I kept saying to her, ‘Tell me what’s wrong; tell me!’ We were both crying, and I just couldn’t conceive of what was happening. So then when the news came on, I was obviously prepared that there was a huge tragedy, but I just didn’t . . . I just couldn’t think. And so when the news came on the television, it was almost like being physically hit. I kind of sat back in the chair—‘This can’t be happening, this can’t be true.’”
Network newscasters reported that suicide bombers had attacked the Marine barracks in Beirut as well as the barracks housing French peacekeepers. There were 241 Americans dead, 56 dead from the French barracks, and many more wounded.
Lynn rushed back home and called her parents, who were living in Washington, D.C., but they were not home. Nobody had cell phones back then, so she had no way of reaching them.
She then called Vince’s wife, also in the D.C. area, and found her parents already there, trying to comfort her and her young son. Lynn asked her father, who was an active duty colonel in the Marine Corps at the time, “Dad, don’t you know what’s happening? Can’t you tell us anything?”
“We just don’t know anything yet,” her father replied, noting that his colleagues were saying a massive search-and-rescue operation was under way because there were so many men still unaccounted for.
“That was a Sunday,” Lynn remembered, “and it was two and a half, almost three weeks later before they were able to identify Vince’s body. So it was just every day—going into my neighbor’s house to watch the television and calling my parents every day. My dad finally said, after about the fourth day, ‘Honey, I know it’s hard, but I promise I’ll call you if I find anything out. I’m not gonna leave you out. I promise I’ll call.’
“I was a schoolteacher, and I went to school and was trying to teach, and I just couldn’t even function. I would be writing on the blackboard and forget midsentence what I was writing. I would turn around and look at these little sixth graders, and I just kept leaving the room. But I couldn’t not go to work, because that’s even worse. So if you can just imagine . . . waiting—nineteen days—to find out whether someone you love is dead or alive. It was torture.”
“How did you finally get the news?” I asked her.
“My father called me on a Thursday morning. It was about 5:00 a.m., I think. And when the phone rang, I knew. I just knew. You know, you have a sixth sense about that stuff. I answered the phone, and he said, ‘It’s time to come home. They’ve identified Vince, and it’s time to come home to bury him.’
“That was a whirlwind in itself, trying to get from a tiny little town in central New Mexico back to Washington, D.C., and see to the funeral arrangements, and it was just surreal. They buried him in Quantico Cemetery. It was the first time I had been back together with most of my family since my wedding day. So to go from the joy of seeing your family at your wedding and then to be together at a funeral, it was just terrible.
“And I really couldn’t believe it. I spent a long time in that first of stage of grief, where you say, ‘This isn’t happening; this can’t be real; this isn’t me.’ Because I was accustomed to Vince being gone for a long time. He was seven years older than me. When I was eleven, he went away to the Naval Academy, and I was accustomed to not seeing him. He would be gone for long stretches, and then we would get letters and hear whatever was going on with him. Then he would be home for a few days, and then he’d be gone again for six months. So I just had this surreal feeling that, ‘He’s gonna come home. He’s gonna come home.’
“Of course it was a closed casket, so I had to talk myself into believing that he was in that box. I remember when we went to the funeral home the night before the funeral. They had the casket in a room and you could go in and kneel down and pray, and they gave each of us an opportunity to do that. Here’s this flag-draped casket and all these flowers, and there’s nothing there that was Vince. It couldn’t be—it just couldn’t be. I remember kneeling down and praying, ‘Lord, how could You do this? If You really are a loving God, how could You let this happen?’
“And as strange as it sounds, I really couldn’t believe it even through the whole funeral. I flew back to New Mexico still feeling that it wasn’t real, because there were men who had survived the bombing who weren’t identified for a long time, who were airlifted to a hospital in Germany or somewhere. They were bandaged head to toe and were recovering, and it was weeks before they figured out who these people were because they were so badly banged up. They were unrecognizable. And I kept dreaming. I’d wake up in the middle of the night sitting up, like you see in Hollywood films, screaming his name, because I was just convinced that he couldn’t have died. It wasn’t possible.”
“I’D NEVER HEARD OF SUICIDE BOMBING”
In time, U.S. authorities reconstructed the chain of events that led to the bombing.
They learned that after months of monitoring operations at the barracks housing the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit, Hezbollah operatives had ambushed a truck that was headed to the compound to deliver fresh water. The operatives then quickly replaced that truck with one they had painted to look like the one Marine guards were expecting. This nineteen-ton vehicle, however, had been outfitted with some 2,500 pounds of high-tech explosives.
The driver, the U.S. later learned, was a devout jihadist, eager to give up his life to kill Americans and thus, he hoped, secure his place in paradise.
As the sun was just beginning to rise on a gorgeous autumn day in the Lebanese capital, “the driver drove past the Marine barracks” and “circled in the large parking lot behind the barracks.” He then pushed the accelerator to the floor, “crashed through the concertina wire barrier and a wall of sandbags, and entered the barracks.” The force of the explosion was equivalent to between 15,000 and 21,000 pounds of TNT.[ii]
At the time, of course, Lynn and her family knew almost none of the details. They were operating in the fog of war, amid rumors and scraps of information. Moreover, they were dealing with a kind of warfare that had never been used against Americans before.
“I’d never heard of suicide bombing,” Lynn recalled. “And up until Vince went there, I had never heard of Lebanon. I’m embarrassed to say I was one of the average Americans who doesn’t know anything about geography. We had to look it up on a map. I had never heard of terrorists, of course. I had heard of Muslims, but I’d never heard of this whole idea of radical Muslims and jihad and all of that sort of stuff. None of us had ever heard of that.”
Lynn was not alone; this was the first known suicide bombing by Muslims against American targets in history.
Many Americans were unsure why we had forces in Lebanon in the first place and demanded that we pull out. We were not there making peace, they argued. We obviously were not keeping the peace. There was no peace. So what was the point?
Unfortunately, the U.S. government offered no answers. In my view, the Reagan administration should have attacked Hezbollah camps with a vengeance, making it clear that killing Americans would not pay. They also should have given the Marines clearer rules of engagement. Incredibly, at the time Marine “peacekeepers” in Lebanon weren’t allowed to carry weapons with live rounds in them. The Marine guards on duty the morning of the attack had not even been allowed to chamber rounds of ammunition in their weapons, making them helpless to stop the suicide bomber as he sped toward them. They were sitting ducks.
All of that should have changed immediately. But instead of showing strength in the face of the jihadist challenge, the Reagan administration cut and ran. On February 7, 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced that he was pulling the Marines out of Lebanon.
Not a few Americans breathed a sigh of relief. But among jihadists throughout the region, there was elation. The “Great Satan” had just been dealt a significant blow. The Americans were now in retreat, all because of one driver willing to give up his life to kill others. This was a model, they concluded, that had to be replicated.
And then the story took a curious twist.
“Right after the bombing,” Lynn explained, “Hezbollah came forward and claimed credit for having done this, and in a very bragging, grandiose way: ‘We killed all these Americans! We’re gettin’ ’em! We’re gettin’ ’em where it counts, and we’re the ones; we did it!’ But by pretty early in 1984, it became clear that Hezbollah was doing this at the behest of the Iranian government.”
Sure enough, over the next few years, as the U.S. government continued to investigate the attack, it became increasingly clear that the entire operation had been set into motion not by Hezbollah alone but with the direct assistance of the Khomeini regime in Tehran. The mounting evidence was so compelling, the families of the slain Marines eventually decided to join together and file a wrongful death suit against the Islamic Republic of Iran. In so doing, they hoped to prove once and for all in a court of law that Iran was, in fact, responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. They also hoped to punish the regime in the only way they could, since neither the Reagan administration nor any U.S. administration that followed had punished anyone for the wanton murder of American Marines.
“I’m just a soccer mom,” Lynn demurred. “Really, I’m just trying to raise my children and keep my household running. I’m going to the grocery store and doing the laundry and those kind of things, so most of this about radical Islam I don’t really understand. It’s way above my pay grade. It wasn’t until we were actually at the trial and I was hearing the testimony they had gathered that I understood how cut-and-dried the case really was, how completely and thoroughly responsible the government of Iran was for the death of my brother and the other 240 Americans that were killed that day.”
Lynn was right. During the court case, which the families ultimately won, many facts came to light that proved beyond a doubt that Iran was behind the attack. Consider the following excerpts from the trial judge’s written opinion:[iii]
“The post-revolutionary government in Iran . . . declared its commitment to spread the goals of the 1979 revolution to other nations. Towards that end, between 1983 and 1988, the government of Iran spent approximately $50 to $150 million financing terrorist organizations in the Near East. One of the nations to which the Iranian government directed its attention was the war-torn republic of Lebanon.”
“Dr. Michael Ledeen, a consultant to the Department of Defense at the time of the Marine barracks bombing and an expert on U.S. foreign relations, testified at the trial that ‘Iran invented, created, funded, trained, and runs to this day Hezbollah, which is arguably the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization.’”
“The fake water delivery truck . . . [was] driven by Ismalal Ascari, an Iranian.”
“On October 25, 1983, the chief of naval intelligence notified Admiral [James A.] Lyons of an intercept of a message between Tehran and Damascus that had been made on or about September 26, 1983. . . . The message directed the Iranian ambassador to contact . . . the leader of the terrorist group . . . and to instruct him to have his group instigate attacks against the multinational coalition in Lebanon, and ‘to take a spectacular action against the United States Marines.’” (emphasis added)
“Based on the evidence presented by expert witnesses at trial, the Court finds that it is beyond question that Hezbollah and its agents received massive material and technical support from the Iranian government.”
AN ORDER FROM THE TOP
One of the judge’s conclusions was that “the sophistication demonstrated in the placement of an explosive charge in the center of the Marine barracks building and the devastating effect of the detonation of the charge indicates that it is highly unlikely that this attack could have resulted in such loss of life without the assistance of regular military forces, such as those of Iran.”[iv]
Which brings up the question: would the Ayatollah Khomeini have been required to give approval to such a plan?
At one point in the trial, lawyers questioned Dr. Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, on this very issue. Clawson said there was no doubt in his mind that such a massive attack against American forces had to have been approved at the highest possible level of the Iranian regime, specifically by Khomeini himself. Otherwise, he argued, Hezbollah would never have even considered making a move against the U.S.
Q: In the fall of 1983, was there anything of a significant nature, and especially a terrorist attack [of] the dimensions of the attack on the Marine barracks of October 23, 1983, which would or could have been undertaken by Hezbollah without material support from Iran?
Clawson: Iran’s material support would have been absolutely essential for any activities at that time, and furthermore, the politics of the organization [were such] that no one in the organization would have thought about carrying out an activity without Iranian approval and almost certainly Iranian orders.
Q: Is that opinion within a reasonable degree of certainty as an expert on Iran?
Clawson: Absolutely, sir.
Q: Would any such operation as the October 23rd, 1983, attack require the approval within Iran of the Ministry of Information and Security?
Clawson: Yes, sir.
Q: What about [Iranian prime minister] Rafsanjani?
Clawson: There would have been a discussion in the National Security Council, which would involve the prime minister, Mr. Rafsanjani. . . . It would also have required the approval of Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.[v]
JUSTICE FOR THE SURVIVORS
When the trial was over and all the evidence had been examined and thoroughly reviewed, the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth, the U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia, ruled that agents acting on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran “caused the deaths of over 241 peacekeeping servicemen at the Marine barracks” in a “willful and deliberate act of extrajudicial killing.” Moreover, Judge Lamberth concluded that Hezbollah, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security “are jointly and severally liable to the plaintiffs for compensatory and punitive damages.”[vi]
I asked Lynn what her reaction was when she heard the verdict.
“I sank to my knees in gratitude,” she replied instantly. “I was so grateful. To me, it was a piece of justice that had finally been done. To be able to finally say, ‘Here’s the guilty party; we can name somebody who has done this’ was a huge step down the road to justice.”
“No order from this Court will restore any of the 241 lives that were stolen on October 23, 1983,” Judge Lamberth wrote in the closing section of his opinion. “Nor is this Court able to heal the pain that has become a permanent part of the lives of their mothers and fathers, their spouses and siblings, and their sons and daughters. But the Court can take steps that will punish the men who carried out this unspeakable attack, and in so doing, try to achieve some small measure of justice for its survivors, and for the family members of the 241 Americans who never came home.”
On September 7, 2007, after reviewing the merits of each individual member of the class action suit, Judge Lamberth ordered Iran to pay more than $2.6 billion to the nearly one thousand survivors and family members of those killed. “The cost of state-sponsored terrorism,” he said, “just went up.”[vii]
The families of the victims know that the chances of their ever actually receiving any of the settlement money are very low. And even victory cannot heal all the wounds.
“Twenty-four years later, the wound in my heart over Vincent’s death is still gaping wide,” Lynn shared with me as our conversation drew to a close. “Now why is that? It’s because the criminals are getting away with their crime. And it’s because they’re continuing to commit similar crimes and other people are suffering and dying at their hands. So there’s a sense of hopelessness. There’s a sense that this is never going to end, that our world has changed completely and we’ll never be able to go back to feeling safe. You know, we’re not safe in the United States, we’re not free in the United States. We’re in bondage to our fear—the fear of terrorism. Now you just look around Washington, look around the airports, all those security measures, all the big barricades, the concrete barriers. All that stuff is a result of terrorism, because we’re afraid of terrorists.”
HEZBOLLAH’S CONTINUING THREAT
Sadly, Lynn is right. Those responsible for the Marine barracks attack continue to get away with their crimes, and to plot new ones. Hezbollah is widely regarded in intelligence circles as the most dangerous Shia Muslim terrorist organization in the world. Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has said that “Hezbollah may be the A team of terrorists,” while “al Qaeda is actually the B team.”[i]
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, continues to breathe murderous threats against Americans and Israelis and to recruit and train jihadists while working closely with Tehran to prepare for the Islamic messiah known as the Mahdi to come and bring about the end of the world. Consider a mere sampling of Nasrallah’s statements:
“Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute. . . . Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, ‘Death to America’ will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: ‘Death to America.’”[ii]
“We do not believe in multiple Islamic republics; we do believe, however, in a single Islamic world governed by a central government.”[iii]
“Jerusalem and Palestine will not be regained with political games but with guns.”[iv]
“America will remain the nation’s chief enemy and the greatest Satan of all. Israel will always be for us a cancerous growth that needs to be eradicated.”[v]
“We pledge to persevere on the path [our founders] had chosen, the path of Khomeini and Khameini.”[vi]
“I ask Almighty Allah . . . to make you the men who would clear the way for the Mahdi of this earth to establish divine justice.”[vii]
Israeli seismographs records 5th earthquake in five days. (photo credit: Alon Ron)
Every 80 years or so, Israel has a major, catastrophic earthquake. So Israelis know they are “due” for a “big one.”
Those who pay attention to Bible prophecy also know that both the Old and New Testament Scriptures describe major earthquakes occurring in Israel in the last days.
Earthquake preparations are on the increase by government agencies and among private companies and such preparations will now accelerate, especially in the wake of five minor earthquakes in Israel in the course of the past five days. Among the steps being taken: a new earthquake alert system is being developed by the government and is expected to be ready in 2016.
“Israel’s last major earthquake rattled the region in 1927” reports the Times of Israel, was “a 6.2-magnitude tremor that killed 500 and injured another 700.” Before that, “an earthquake in 1837 left as many as 5,000 people dead.”
“A small earthquake shook the Sea of Galilee area on Tuesday morning, the fifth such tremor in less than a week,” noted the Times. “The quake, measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale, caused no reported damage or injuries.”
“On Sunday, two minor earthquakes, both measuring 3.6 in intensity, were reported in the north, which followed similar quakes on Saturday and Thursday,” the Times noted. “No injuries have been reported, although some buildings in Tiberias were lightly damaged by the tremors. Last Sunday, a 6.4-magnitude quake, centered in the Mediterranean Sea near Crete, was felt in Athens, Egypt and Israel….In response to the string of temblors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a special cabinet meeting Monday to discuss the state’s earthquake preparedness, and, on Sunday, the Home Front Command and emergency services representatives held a meeting to discuss emergency procedures in the case of a more major earthquake.”
In Epicenter, I note that Bible prophecy warns of several catastrophic earthquakes that will strike Israel in the “last days.” For example:
“It will come about on that day when Gog comes against the land of Israel,” declares the Lord God, “that My fury will mount up in My anger. In My zeal and in My blazing wrath, I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse, and every wall will fall to the ground.” (Ezekiel 38:18-20)
“I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.” (Revelation 6:12-13)
“Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne saying, ‘It is done.’ And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. The great city [Jerusalem] was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell….” (Revelation 16:17-19)
“Officials from the IDF Home Front Command and the emergency services held a status meeting Sunday night to discuss the readiness of the Israeli home front, following a fourth earthquake in northern Israel in just four days,” reports the Times of Israel. “The meeting was held at the Ministry of Home Front Defense at the behest of Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud), and was attended by representatives of Israel’s paramedic, firefighting and police services, and of the Defense, Health and Education ministries.”
The officials decided to continue monitoring the situation while increasing home front readiness for natural disasters, Army Radio reported.
For the second time Sunday, a minor earthquake shook northern Israel around 4 p.m., the fourth of its kind since Thursday.
No injuries or damage were reported, but Tiberias residents told Ynet that they felt the 3.6-magnitude quake. The first quake Sunday also registered 3.6 on the Richter scale quake. Both epicenters were near Kibbutz Ginosar, on the Sea of Galilee.
Similarly powerful quakes rattled the north early Saturday morning and Thursday. Last Sunday, a 6.4-magnitude quake, centered in the Mediterranean Sea near Crete, was felt in Athens, Egypt and Israel. In September, an early-morning 3.5-magnitude quake was felt in the northern Dead Sea area, including in Jerusalem.
Israel held a massive Home Front drilllast October, codenamed Turning Point 6, which was aimed at raising the preparedness of citizens, local authorities, and emergency services for dealing with natural disasters.
The exercise exposed significant shortcomings in Israel’s ability to respond to natural and man-made disasters, particularly in the lack of coordination between the army, the police and emergency services.
One of the greatest challenges to Israel’s preparedness is the fact that the majority of buildings in the areas likely to be hit by earthquakes were built before the first Gulf War in 1990, and have not been properly reinforced to withstand earthquakes.
Should Israel, in fact, face an earthquake emergency, it would be necessary to receive a great deal of assistance from around the world in handling the damage and injuries, Channel 2 reported at the time.
“An earthquake in Israel is more dangerous than war,” the then-chief of the Home Front Command warned.
In the non-fiction book, Epicenter, I note that Bible prophecy warns of several catastrophic earthquakes that will strike Israel in the “last days.”