On February 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyah, the head of Hezbollah's international activities, was walking down the street at night in Damascus after dinner at a nearby restaurant. Not far away, a team of CIA spotters in the Syrian capital was tracking his movements. As Mughniyah approached a parked SUV, a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of the vehicle exploded. He was killed instantly. This was reveled in a report of the Washington Post website last week.
The report reveals for the first time that the American intelligence service - the CIA, participated in Imad Mughniyah's assassination, attributed to the Mossad by foreign sources. According to the report, the device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents of the Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with CIA operatives on the ground in Damascus. “The way it was set up, the US could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” said a former US intelligence official.
The report also shows that the United States helped build the bomb, the former official said, and tested it repeatedly at a CIA facility in North Carolina to ensure the potential blast area was contained and would not result in collateral damage. “We probably blew up 25 bombs to make sure we got it right,” the former intelligence official said.
The extraordinary close cooperation between the US and the Israeli intelligence services suggests the importance of the target – a man who have been involved over years in some of the most spectacular terrorist attacks of Hezbollah, including those against the US embassy in Beirut and the Israeli Embassy in Argentina
The United States has never admitted participation in the killing of Mughniyah, which Hezbollah attributed to Israel. Until now, almost no details were revealed about the joint operation of the CIA and the Mossad – how the car bombing was planned or the exact US role in the operation. With the exception of the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the mission marked one of the most high-risk covert actions by the United States in recent years.
Former US officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation, claimed that Mughniyah, although based in Syria, was directly connected to the arming and training of Shiite militias in Iraq that were targeting US forces. There was little debate inside the Bush administration over the use of a car bomb instead of other means, according to the report.
The authority to kill Mughniyah required a presidential finding by President George W. Bush. The attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the national security adviser and the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department all signed off on the operation, one former intelligence official said “The decision was we had to have absolute confirmation that it was self-defense,” the official said.
Another interesting discovery revealed in the article is an old opportunity for Israel to eliminate the Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, and the man also standing, apparently, behind the attack in northern Israel last week. According to the article, one night: "the two men were standing there, same place, same street. All they had to do was push the button,” said one former official.