Leaked CIA role in killing of Hezbollah chief Imad Moughniyeh timed to undermine bluster

US intelligence officials this weekend confirmed the details of a meticulously planned plot in 2008 to assassinate Moughniyeh

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The timing of media reports confirming the involvement of the CIA and Mossad in a plot to assassinate Hezbollah’s second-in-command Imad Moughniyeh in 2008 are likely to have a greater impact than the revelations themselves, Lebanese analysts said.

“Hezbollah has always been aware that the CIA does also engage in monitoring, surveillance and assassinations,” Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Lebanese analyst seen as close to Hezbollah, told The Independent.

At least five US intelligence officials this weekend confirmed the details of a meticulously planned plot in 2008 to assassinate Moughniyeh, believed to be behind several high profile attacks including the US Embassy bombings in 1983. Previously it was believed that just Israel was behind the attack.

Details, revealed in both the Washington Post and Newsweek, included the fact that the bomb, which was planted in a spare tire at the back of Moughniyeh’s car, was tested 25 times, partly to ensure there was no collateral damage. CIA operatives provided intelligence, but the bomb was triggered remotely by Tel Aviv.

“The way it was set up, the US could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” a US intelligence official was quoted as saying in the Washington Post report.

The details have coincided with increased Hezbollah activity, Ms Saad-Ghorayeb, a Lebanese political analyst, said. In a speech last Friday, the group’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, said Israeli aggression would be responded to, regardless of where it took place.

That speech was held in commemoration of an apparent Israeli attack in the Golan, which killed 6 members of Hezbollah, as well as a senior Iranian commander. Hezbollah retaliated last week with a missile strike on an Israeli convoy, which killed two IDF soldiers in the disputed Shebaa Farms region.

“It is our right, our legal right and our moral right, to confront the aggression at any time, any place and in any form whatsoever,” Nasrallah said. That statement upped the stakes, Ms Saad-Ghorayeb said. “From now on it’s going to be real tit-for-tat.”

The news may, however, undermine the morality boost gained by Hezbollah’s recent IDF attack, says Imad Salamey, a professor of politics at the Lebanese American University in Beirut.

The message is: “You retaliated this time, what are you going to do now the US is part of a previous attack against your leaders?” according to Mr Salamey.

“Hezbollah will do nothing, of course,” he said, pointing to the nuclear negotiations between the US and Hezbollah’s patron, Iran.

In Israel, some are interpreting the leak not as a sign of support, but as a stark warning that the country still needs the US, despite the recent tensions between Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.