Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of an event that should jog memories about why Iran cannot be trusted to abide by its weak and disingenuous promises on the nuclear issue: the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
The Marines were deployed as part of a Western peacekeeping force sent to stabilize Lebanon after the assassination of President-elect Bashir Gemayel by agents of Syria, an ally of Iran then as now. Lebanese Shiite terrorists, acting under Iran’s orders, detonated a truck bomb that killed 241 Marines, soldiers, and sailors, the deadliest terrorist attack against Americans until then. The same group of terrorists, which later evolved into Hezbollah (“Party of God”), Iran’s foremost terrorist surrogate force, killed 58 French paratroopers with another truck bomb that same day.
It was later revealed that the National Security Agency had intercepted a message from Iran’s ambassador in Syria to his Lebanese surrogates the month before, calling for a “spectacular” attack on the U.S. Marines. Writing in the Washington Times, retired Admiral James Lyons, then the deputy chief of naval operations, revealed that the intercepted message was not passed on to the military chain of command until two days after the attack.
Lyons also wrote that the Reagan Administration decided not to retaliate in large part due to a mistaken belief that a military reprisal might cause collateral damage to the Lebanese army and risk alienating America’s Arab allies. This failure to make Iran pay a heavy price for its covert use of terrorism only emboldened Iran and reinforced the baleful conclusions that Tehran reached about the 1979–1980 hostage crisis: Terrorism works.
The anniversary of the Beirut bombing is a timely reminder that Iran remains the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. It must not be allowed to attain one of the most terrifying weapons: an atomic bomb.
After all, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards not only control Iran’s nuclear weapons program but are charged with training and supporting Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.