Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Iran’s “Moderate” New Government

by Elliott Abrams
August 22, 2013


The new Iranian government under President Hassan Rohani is very often being described as “moderate” these days. For example, The Wall Street Journal‘s story on his election was entitled “Moderate Cleric Hassan Rohani Wins Iran Vote.” The Financial Times referred to his “moderate outlook.” One could cite a hundred more examples.

But this “moderate” chose as his defense minister a Revolutionary Guard leader who appears to have been partly responsible for the attack on the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983. In this attack, nearly thirty years ago on October 25, 1983, 220 American Marine peacekeepers and 21 additional soldiers, airmen, and sailors were killed.

Iran’s direct role in the Marine Barracks attack has long been known, because the United States intercepted a secret message from Tehran to Hezbollah in Lebanon telling them to strike.

Col. Timothy Geraghty, commander of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit in Beirut (on a peacekeeping mission) wrote in 2008 that the intercepted order was received “unbeknownst to us at the time. The suicide attackers struck us 28 days later, with word of the intercept stuck in the intelligence pipeline until days after the attack.”

The new Iranian Minister of Defense is Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan. Dehghan was commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard unit in Lebanon at the time. A new Israeli analysis, from the Jerusalem Center on Public Affairs, continues:

One of his first goals was to set up a central command for the Iranian force….At the beginning of September 1983, Hizbullah, with the help of the Revolutionary Guard headed by Dehghan, took over the Sheikh Abdullah barracks….It had been the main base of the Lebanese army in the Beqaa Valley and now became the Imam Ali barracks, the main headquarters of the Revolutionary Guard. It was from this headquarters that Iran controlled Hizbullah’s military force and planned, along with Hizbullah, the terror attacks on the Beirut-based Multinational Force and against IDF forces in Lebanon. The attacks were carried out by the Islamic Jihad organization, headed by Imad Mughniyeh, which was actually a special operational arm that acted under the joint direction of Tehran and Hizbullah until it was dismantled in 1992. Instructions for the attack on the Multinational Forces were issued from Tehran to the Iranian ambassador to Damascus, who passed them on to the Revolutionary Guards forces in Lebanon and their Lebanese Shiite allies. According to the U.S. Marine commander, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted the Iranian orders to strike on September 26, 1983. It is difficult to imagine that such a high-level directive to the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon would be transmitted without the knowledge of their commander, Hossein Dehghan.

So that is the background of the new minister of defense in Iran’s “moderate” government under its “moderate” new president. This history is worth recalling; terrorism and close ties to Hezbollah remain at the heart of the regime–apparently no matter who is president and no matter how “moderate” Western journalists wish to believe Iran’s government is becoming.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by diana

    Lately, every time I hear the word moderate I run………

  • Posted by Kir Komrik

    Thank you for sharing this less-known factoid about the background of various Iranian officials.

    Right after WWII USG hired on several war criminals from both Germany and Japan to assist the United States in developing chemical and biological warfare, as well as for advances in space flight. This doesn’t make the entire administration Fascist or “Imperial”. I am not convinced that, even if these claims are true, for which the author does not provide data, this really provides the voter with any useful information, imo.

    I would remind the author that in this vaunted land of “rule of law”, the state of Texas executes as many people per capita as Iran does. The differences between the IRI and USG are resource-based, pedaled to the public as ideological and religious.

    In my view, we should be working transparently to find ways to access the petroleum in Iran at good market rates and with a stable supply chain. Yes, PRC wants it, too, but perhaps we should just outsmart and outbid them? There’s nothing wrong with being honest.

    – kk

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