UK Media Watch prompts Indy correction to Imad Mughniyeh assassination claim

A May 15th op-ed by Robert Fisk at the Independent on the recent killing in Syria of Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine included this claim about the killing of another Hezbollah terror operative, Imad Mougnieh (Badreddine’s brother-in-law) in 2008.

One of Nasrallah’s most trusted officers – Iran’s too, since he organized the kidnapping of western captives in Lebanon in the late 1980s – was Imad Mougnieh, blown to pieces by a car bomb outside a shopping mall in Damascus in 2008 (almost certainly, this time, an Israeli assassination)…

Additionally, a May 13th article in the Independent by their defense editor Kim Sengupta also included the claim that Mughniyeh was assassinated in a Mossad operation. 

Badreddine was the most senior Hezbollah commander killed since his predecessor and brother-in-law Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in a Mossad operation in Damascus in 2008….

However, it was widely reported in early 2015 that Mughniyeh – widely believed responsible for attacks on Israeli and American targets, including the deadly 1983 attack on the US Embassy in Beirut – was killed in an operation jointly carried out by both US and Israeli intelligence agencies.

Here are a few passages from a story published in Politico Magazine around the time the revelations concerning US involvement were first circulated.

The CIA doesn’t assassinate often anymore, so when it does the agency picks its targets carefully. The story uncovered last weekend by the Washington Post and Newsweek the CIA’s reported role in the February 2008 assassination of Hezbollah master terrorist Imad Mughniyeh is the stuff of a Hollywood spy thriller

A team of CIA spotters in Damascus tracking a Hezbollah terrorist wanted for decades; a custom-made explosive shaped to kill only the target and placed in the spare tire of an SUV parked along the target’s route home; intelligence gathered by Israelis, paired with a bomb built and tested in North Carolina, taking out a man responsible for the deaths of more Americans than anyone else until 9/11.

We contacted editors at the Indy and pointed out the error.

They agreed to correct the article by Sengupta, and the passage in question now notes that Mughniyeh “was assassinated in a Mossad and CIA operation”.

Though the same claim by Robert Fisk was not corrected, we’ve asked editors to pass along our information so that future op-eds or reports by the “award-winning” Middle East analyst will not include this erroneous claim. 

8 replies »

    • @Adam Levick –

      Instructing western media on the “correct” line to take when reporting on covert ops like Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination must be very difficult indeed what with so much “deniability” and reliance on unnamed sources muddying the waters. You have my sympathy.

      No doubt you took this Jerusalem Post article – @ – carefully on board before lodging your Indy complaints. But just in case it escaped your notice and a whole lot of flak flies back in your direction …

      It’s dated Feb 15, 2015, and appears to have been specifically triggered by the US reports you cite (“Some Israelis close to senior political and intelligence circles were not … willing to let The Washington Post and Newsweek versions of the assassination in 2008 stand uncorrected” the author writes).

      Here’s the gist of the JP story:

      ‘…The leaks published in the US last month … highlighted the American agency’s leading role.

      ‘Yet Israelis close to their country’s intelligence agencies are telling Western officials something different: The operation was almost entirely “blue and white” – with hardly any “red, white and blue.”

      ‘Some Israelis, it seems, object to seeing the Americans taking too much credit.

      ‘…knowledgeable Israelis have been telling Western officials and diplomats … [that] the US participated in the deliberations, intelligence gathering, surveillance and some logistics of the assassination – but they call the assassination itself an Israeli operation: lock, stock and barrel…’

      While you almost certainly won’t be faulted for insisting that the assassination is described as a “joint” enterprise, I’m not at all sure that the Washington Post/Newsweek/Politico version of events is the one Israel’s agencies will be happy to see the Indy amplifying too faithfully.

      • Basner,
        What, in heaven’s name, is you point? Do you have one? Try stating it clearly.

        • @Jeff 21st –

          My point (hopefully) put more clearly:

          1. In early 2015, Israeli agents were unhappy with the spin being put by the CIA on Mugheniyeh’s assassination. They wanted journalists to credit Mossad “lock stock and barrel” with the killing, and the CIA credited only with a minor “supportive” role. (Hence the Jerusalem Post story.)

          2. Adam now cites the CIA’s “joint operation” version as the correct one – and criticises Robert Fisk and Kim Sengupta for failing to follow that particular script.

          3. If anyone is to blame for “wrongly” describing the assassination as a Mossad operation, it’s not Fisk and Sengupta but those Israeli intelligence agency spinners who too successfully promoted a self-aggrandizing version of events – and, in doing so, “confirmed” Arab sources’ suspicions and allegations.

          4. Adam should lay the blame where it’s DESERVED. At very least, he should acknowledge the part Israeli intelligence sources played in giving rise to this journalistic “error” instead of presenting it to his readers simply as matter of sloppy and/or hostile Indy reporting.

  1. Fisk also neglects to mention Mugniyeh had a bounty on his head of $25 million and was implicated in multiple acts of terror and, is considered by some in the intelligence community to have been the operational planner of 9-11. Most of the hijackers passed through the police state of Iran on their way to attack the US.

    Fisk would leave that out. He does not ask what the 2nd most wanted man in the world was doing in Damascus. He does seem almost upset that this “peace activist” with so much blood on his head was taken so soon.

    Fisk is leftist evil and lies run riot.