32 Years After Beirut

As the Obama administration hails its nuclear agreement with Iran, within the Arab world the deal has been met with wariness and concern.

The president says, “This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction.”  But Sunni hardliners were convinced the deal “signals U.S. acquiescence to the spread of Iranian power.”

Egypt’s foreign ministry hopes the deal would be “a step toward a region free of nuclear weapons.”

“This agreement, from our point of view, represents an indirect threat to Gulf and Arab interests and peace,” said a Saudi analyst.  Saudi Arabia also issued a pointed warning, according to MyWay, saying Iran must use its economic gains from the lifting of sanctions to improve the lives of Iranians rather than using them to cause turmoil in the region.

Over 60 percent of Iran’s 75 million people are under 30 years old. There is pent-up demand for most everything. Although 5 million religious zealots control the remaining 70 million, Iran is by far not a religious country.

Iran’s long-time ally is Russia, a country that Saudi Arabia feels it must now reach out to.  In Syria, Iran’s support has assured the survival of President Bashar Assad against Sunni rebels backed by Gulf nations in its five-year civil war.

You may recall President Obama drawing the line in the sand with President Assad, only to have his threats rebuffed and ignored.  The Iranians, Russians and Syrians have all taken Obama’s measure and found him totally lacking as a world leader.  Yet, Mr. Obama so hopes that his “historic” breakthrough will pave the way for a broader shift in relations.

You may recall that 32 years ago during the Lebanese civil war, a Multinational Force (MNF) was located in Beirut.  The MNF was not intended to takes sides, but regardless, was seen as supporting Israel’s buffer zone and Christian forces in the country.  All this served to generate ill will against the MNF among Lebanese Muslims and “especially the Shiites living in the slums around the Beirut airport.”

The American presence was further exacerbated when U.S. Sixth Fleet counter battery fire fell short, killing bystanders in the Druze-controlled mountains.

At 06:22 on Sunday morning October 23, 1983, a 19-ton yellow Mercedes-Benz truck drove to the Beirut International Airport where the U.S. 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) was billeted.  The truck carried explosives estimated to be equivalent to 21,000 pounds of TNT turned onto the access road crashed through a 5-foot barrier and smashed into the buildings’ lobby.

The suicide bomber, an Iranian national named Ismail Ascari, detonated the explosives, which lifted the building off its foundation.  The airborne building then fell upon itself crushing many inside.

Two hundred forty one Marines and sailors died in the attack.  Next door, 58 paratroopers died in a similar attack at their Drakkar Building.

What made the bombing much worse was the sentries’ weapons were unloaded with no rounds in the chamber.  These were rules of engagement under President Ronald Reagan.

What we now know is the chain of command likely ran from Tehran, to Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur in Damascus, to Hezbollah in Beirut.  The FBI later confirmed the explosives were manufactured in Iran. According to Wikipedia, in 1982,, the Islamic Republic of Iran established a base in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.  That base is still operational today. From that base, Iran’s revolutionary guard founded, financed, trained and equipped Hezbollah to operate as a proxy army for Iran.

Federal Judge Royce Lamberth found Iran legally responsible for providing Hezbollah with financial and logistical support in carrying out the barracks attack and ordered Iran to pay $2.6 billion to the victims and their families.  To date, Iran has not paid after 32 years.

But, please, trust what they say today, it will really help Obama’s legacy.