The Marines Withdraw a Second Time
The terror campaign against the U.S. military presence in Lebanon
achieved its objective. On March 31, 1984, President Reagan
ordered the U.S. Marines to return home. France and Italy also
withdrew their forces, and the multinational peacekeeping effort
was formally abandoned.
A memorial stands outside the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, commemorating the American employees who lost their lives there in a terrorist attack.
But the attacks on the United States did not stop after the
Marines evacuated Beirut. Islamic Jihad targeted dozens of Western
officials and civilians for kidnapping and murder. TWA Flight
847 was hijacked while en route from Athens to Rome and rerouted
to Beirut. American and British professors from the American
University of Beirut were kidnapped. Journalists, including
Terry Anderson, head of the Associated Press's Beirut bureau,
were taken hostage. These tactics proved effective in driving
out foreign civilians, who began leaving Lebanon in 1984.
Although Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the kidnappings,
the United States continued to suspect that Hezbollah, with
support from Iran, was behind them. Those suspicions were intensified
when Hezbollah published its official manifesto in 1985. The
manifesto stressed that Hezbollah was neither an organized party
nor a political cadre, but rather the expression of the worldwide
The manifesto outlined Hezbollah's objectives, one of which
was the desire to expel all "colonial entities" from Lebanon,
including Israel, the United States and France. "We combat abomination,
and we shall tear out its very roots, its primary roots, which
are the U.S.," the manifesto declared.
TWA Boeing 727 captain John L. Testrake from Richmond, Missouri, emerges from the cockpit of his hijacked airliner 19 June 1985 at Beirut airport to talk to newsmen while a Shi'ite Moslem terrorist (background) holds him at gunpoint. The Lebanese Shi'ite Moslem gunmen, reputedly members of Hezbollah (the Party of God), hijacked the TWA jetliner 14 June 1985 with 153 people on board, after taking off from Athens to Rome.(Agence France-Presse)
The Reagan administration seemed paralyzed in the aftermath
of these events. U.S. intelligence agents could not pinpoint
a suitable target for military retaliation for the bombings
because it was too difficult to sort out which Shiite factions
should be held responsible. The only effective way to stop the
kidnappings, it seemed, was to go to the source of terrorism:
Iran. But an attack on Iran was considered extremely dangerous
-- many advisors feared that such an assault would initiate
a full-scale war.
So the Reagan administration decided on another approach,
that of secretly trying to improve relations with Iran. But
the effort led to diplomatic back-channels that resulted in
the Iran-Contra affair: In return for Iran's help in arranging
the release of some of the hostages in Lebanon, the Reagan administration
offered to sell a cache of weapons to the Iranian regime, which
at the time was engaged in a protracted and bloody war with
Iraq. Proceeds from these arms sales were then used to fund
anti-Communist guerrilla forces in Nicaragua. News of the arms
deals resulted in a political debacle for Reagan, but that wasn't
the only outcome. The Iran-Contra affair also underscored the
point that the United States would have to contend with Iran
in order to restrain Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.
And now a new political calculus had been invented. The kidnappers
from Islamic Jihad exploited the hostages in order to secure
the release of Shiite prisoners from Israeli prisons. Iran used
its mediation role in the crisis to gain leverage with the United
States. Syria tried unsuccessfully to intervene in order to
exert control over the Lebanese government. And the negotiations
between and among all these countries resulted in a slow but
steady trickle of releases, until the last of the hostages held
in Lebanon were finally freed in 1991.
Hezbollah's Hand Is Strengthened
Soon after the hostage crisis eased, the Lebanese government
succeeded in bringing the long civil war to a close. More than
150,000 people had lost their lives in 15 years of brutal fighting.
A national plan for reconciliation, referred to as the Ta'if
Accord, was instituted under President Umar Karami. Though the
peace accord disbanded Lebanon's various militias, it also,
unexpectedly, helped increase Hezbollah's power. The Lebanese
government allowed Hezbollah operatives to keep their weapons
under the new peace agreement, Syria allowed Hezbollah to maintain
its hold on the region of the Baalbeck, and Iran continued to
supply Hezbollah with money and training.
Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah at a recent Hezbollah gathering. Fadlallah is one of Hezbollah's original founders, and continues to serve as the organization's spiritual leader.
And under the leadership of Sheik Abbas Mussawi, Hezbollah
began to set it sights on becoming a legitimate political force
within Lebanese politics. The organization continued to operate
on several tracks. As its leadership aimed for a voice in parliament
and its guerrillas fought Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon,
another dimension of Hezbollah revealed itself through a series
of explosions around the world.
NEXT - 1992-2001: Global Terror
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