39 Years after Marine Barracks Bombing in Beirut

And the killers have still not been brought to justice.

This Sunday is the 39th anniversary of the Iranian attack on the US Marines barracks in Beirut, which took the life of 241 US Marines. It was the single largest loss of life in the history of the US Marine Corps since the battle of Iwo Jima.

Every year on this date families gather for memorial services around the country to commemorate the lives of these first American victims of Islamic Iran’s vicious, relentless, and still unending war on America.

The attack on the US Marines followed on the heels of the April 18, 1983, attack on the US Embassy in Beirut. In my new book, And the Rest is History: Tales of Hostages, Arms Dealers, Dirty Tricks, and Spies, I call these attacks the “first blood” in Iran’s unending war on America.

For years we have known the names of the main perpetrators. Until now, only one has been brought to justice: Imad Fayez Mughniyeh.

Prior to 9/11, he was the terrorist with the most U.S. blood on his hands. A Lebanese-born Shiite Muslim who worked in Yasser Arafat’s elite Force 17, he was hired by Iran as their chief overseas terrorist once Arafat was forced out of Beirut in September 1982.

Mughniyeh was quick to prove his worth to his new masters with a series of massive car bombs in Lebanon. The first, on Nov. 11, 1982, took down the seven-story Israeli military headquarters in Tyre, Lebanon, killing 67 IDF personnel and Border Guards.

Next was the April 18, 1983, bombing of the U.S. embassy on the Beirut corniche, which I witnessed first-hand. Sixty-three people perished in that blast, including seventeen Americans. Among them were Kenneth Haas and Robert Ames, the CIA’s top spies in the Middle East. Indeed. Mugniyeh’s target was a top secret meeting of CIA station chiefs from around the region. In a single blow, Iran decapitated the Agency’s intelligence apparatus in the region.

Emboldened by these successes, Mughniyeh’s Iranian masters next instructed him to strike against Western peace-keeping troops, with the goal of driving them out of Lebanon. Shortly after 6 AM on October 23, 1983, an Iranian terrorist drove a red Dodge water truck past unarmed sentries at the U.S. Marine barracks near the Beirut airport, killing 241 Marines. Less than ten minutes later, a second explosive-laden truck smashed into the Drakkar building several miles away, killing 63 French Marines. Mughniyeh watched both attacks with binoculars from a nearby hill while his underlings captured them on videotape.

Mughniyeh’s terrorist rap-sheet is a mile long. He went on to blow up the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, and the AMIA Jewish Center in 1994. His men instructed al Qaeda bombers in the art of the simultaneous truck bombs they set off against US embassies in Africa in 1998. Later, he helped Osama bin Laden and his men plan the 9/11 attacks, and killed hundreds more Americans in Iraq following the US invasion in 2003.

Israel and the US finally brought him to justice in a joint operation in Damascus on February 12, 2008.

As effective as he was, Mughniyeh never could have carried out this killing spree without sponsors, money, and mentoring.

Among his early mentors were Ali Reza Asgari and Hussein Dehghan, who commanded the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) contingent in Lebanon between 1982 and 1984.

Asgari defected to the United States in 2007, provided significant intelligence on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and now lives under a pseudonym thanks to US taxpayers. Dehghan rose to become Iranian regime defense minister from 2013-2017, and currently serves as an advisor to the Supreme Leader. The Trump administration sanctioned him as a “specially designated terrorist” in 2019.

But Mughniyeh’s ultimate bosses were Ahmed Vahidi, head of the Quds Force, and Mohsen Rezai, the IRGC commander. Vahidi was indicted by the US for his involved in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US servicemen; today he serves as Iranian regime interior minister, in charge of repressing pro-freedom protestors. Rezai was indicted by the government of Argentina for his role in the 1994 AMIA Jewish Center bombing, and is now an Iranian regime vice-president for economic affairs.

In January, Rezai was invited by Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega to visit Managua. Given that Rezai was the subject of an Interpol “Red Notice” for  his role in the AMIA bombings­ – an administrative procedure that requested assistance from all Interpol members in detaining and extraditing him – his government Falconjet charted a circuitous route to reach Managua, avoiding flying over the airspace of countries such as Cape Verde that had a history of detaining Iranians wanted by Interpol.

The government-owned Tehran Times called his trip in blatant violation of US sanctions and Interpol a “slap in the face” to the U.S.

In Washington, Rep. Jim Banks (R, IN) introduced a resolution in March opposing the removal of terror-designations and sanctions against Mohsen Rezai, Dehghan, and Vahidi that won just 65 co-sponsors, none of them Democrats.

Rezai was on the road again earlier this week, this time flying to Qatar to support Iranian exporters and meet with Qatari officials. Once again, the Argentinean government launched an official protest, demanding that Qatar arrest him. Both the Qatari and the US governments ignored the request (with total silence from the US embassy in Qatar and the State Department).

In the thirty-nine years since the Iranian regime drew first blood against America, the United States has yet to exact a price from the Iranian regime for its actions. We have yet to stand up to Iran’s aggressive behavior and, as I argue in my new book, this failure has encouraged Iran to continue attacking us because they see that they can do so with impunity.

The very fact of naming men such as Mohsen Rezai and Hossein Dehghan to top government positions shows the utter disdain Iran’s Islamic rulers have for the current U.S. administration. President Biden may want to be loved by the mullahs; but President Trump, with the killing of top Iranian terrorist Qassem Suleymani, showed it is much wiser to be feared.

©Kenneth R. Timmerman. All rights reserved.

Ken Timmerman’s 12th book of non-fiction, And the Rest is History: Tales of Hostages, Arms Dealers, Dirty Tricks, and Spies, was recently released by Post Hill Press. Timmerman was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and has covered the Middle East for 40 years.

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