Behind Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s efforts to present a new policy to the United States, which culminated in last November’s Geneva agreement, it appears that Iran is taking steps which point to a lack of any change in its basic attitude toward the U.S.
In November 2013, Rouhani appointed Brig.-Gen. Hossein Dehghan as Minister of Defense. Dehghan had been the commander of the Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon in 1983 and was responsible, on Iran’s behalf, for carrying out the bombing attack on the U.S. Marine barracks and on the French paratrooper base in Beirut. The Hizbullah commander who directly oversaw this mission was Imad Mughniyeh, who, according to one eye witness account, watched the attack from the roof of a building together with his brother-in-law, Mustafa Badreddine.
Arriving in Lebanon for talks with the Hizbullah leadership on January 13, 2014, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif paid his respects at Imad Mughniyeh’s grave, thus paying tribute on behalf of the Islamic Republic, and of its Supreme Leader Khamenai, to the man responsible for killing more Americans than any other group prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Zarif has been leading the Iranian negotiating team in the nuclear talks in Geneva with the U.S. and other Western powers.
This echoes another memorial ceremony in January 2014, led by Minister of Defense Dehghan and the heads of the Revolutionary Guard, including the commander of the Quds Force, General Qassem Suleimani, for Hassan Laqis, the man responsible for the establishment and operation of Hizbullah’s missile unit. The commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s Aerospace Division, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, eulogized Laqis and extolled his contribution to building Hizbullah’s military capacity, saying:
Hizbullah’s capability has improved so tremendously in recent years that it can hit and destroy any target in occupied land (Israel) with minimal inaccuracy and pinpoint ability. Laqis was a great, resourceful and very active commander, whose work could be revealed, should a Hizbullah-Israel war break out. He created great defense capabilities and was one of the great minds in Hizbullah’s electronic warfare.
The Iranian defense minister, who also eulogized the Lebanese commander, noted that Laqis was among the very first to enlist in Hizbullah and served together with Abbas Moussawi (Hizbullah’s second secretary-general) in the first training course offered by the Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon. Following his military training, Dehghan noted, Laqis was appointed as Dehghan’s own bureau chief while Dehghan commanded the Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon. It is therefore reasonable to surmise that Laqis, like Dehghan, played an active role in the planning and execution of the fatal blast at the Marine barracks in Beirut, activity that is now winning a victor’s praise in Rouhani’s Iran.
There has been an American reaction to Zarif’s latest action at Mughniyeh’s gravesite. On January 14, the spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden, condemned Zarif’s actions at Mughniyeh’s grave: “The United States condemns the decision taken by Zarif…to place a wreath at the grave of Imad Mughniyeh, a former leader of Lebanese Hizbullah responsible for heinous acts of terrorism that killed hundreds of innocent people, including Americans.” The statement noted that Hizbullah is perpetrating violence “with Iran’s financial and material support.” Unfortunately, the Iranian regime, led by President Hassan Rouhani, was not condemned for appointing another terrorist mastermind, Hossein Dehghan, to the position of Iran’s defense minister.