September 28, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10817

In First-Ever Iranian Acknowledgment Of Iran's Role In 1980s Lebanon Bombings, Issa Tabatabai, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei's Representative In Lebanon, States: 'I Received From Imam Khomeini The Fatwa [Ordering] Martyrdom Operations Against The Americans'; 'I Provided What Was Needed In Order To [Carry Out] Martyrdom Operations In The Place Where The Americans And Israelis Were'

September 28, 2023
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 10817

The Iranian news agency IRNA recently published a five-part interview with Issa Tabatabai, the representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Lebanon. Tabatabai had previously served as the representative in Lebanon of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic. 

In Part Four of the interview, which was published September 13, 2023, Tabatabai described his contribution to the establishment of Hizbullah as a military organization, and recounts that at his home, which at the time served as military headquarters, dozens of men had signed a declaration of their willingness to carry out martyrdom operations. He also discussed his role in the Iranian resistance and in launching suicide operations against American forces and representatives and Israeli forces in Lebanon.

After acknowledging that he had received, directly from Khomeini, the fatwa ordering suicide operations to be carried out against the Americans and Israelis in Lebanon, he went on to talk about Hizbullah's military activity against Israel in Lebanon and its cooperation with the Palestinian organizations. He spoke of his personal efforts to set up a hospital there, on the orders of Khomeini, who had also called for building a Hussainiya (Shi'ite religious study and community center), Islamic centers, and mosques to spread Iran's resistance ideology.

Tabatabai also told of the utter confidence placed in him by both Khomeini and his successor Khamenei, and underlined that he is Khamenei's trusted representative in Lebanon in all things having to do with finance and the spread of the Shi'a.

It is noteworthy that the part of the interview in which Tabatabai acknowledged receiving Khomeini's fatwa ordering attacks on American and Israeli targets in Lebanon was removed by IRNA from its website shortly after publication. This is apparently because no official representative of Khomeini, the father of the Islamic Republic, or of Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, had ever said that Iran had any involvement in ordering, planning and carrying out the massive bombings in Lebanon against, inter alia, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April 1983 in which 63 people, including 17 Americans, were killed, and the barracks of American and French members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon in October 1983, in which 241 U.S. service personnel, including 220 Marines, and 58 French troops were killed.

Iran has always vehemently denied any role in the bombings. It submitted no defense in response to the 2001 U.S. lawsuits filed against it by families of the hundreds of Americans killed or wounded in the barracks bombings. In 2007, the court found Iran legally responsible for providing Hizbullah with financial and logistical support that helped it carry out the bombings, and ordered it to pay over $2.5 billion in damages.

The passage that was removed from the IRNA website.

The following is a translation of the part of Tabatabai's interview that was removed by IRNA from its website shortly after it was published, under the headline "I Received From Imam Khomeini The Fatwa [Ordering] Martyrdom Operations Against The Americans":[1]

From Ayatollah Khomeini, "I Received Instructions To Fight Against Israel And Even The Fatwa [Ordering] To Carry Out Martyrdom Operations, And He Confirmed This Three Times..."

"...With the victory of the Islamic Revolution [in Iran], Hizbullah was established [in the summer of 1982]. For two years, [Hizbullah's] military base was located in my home. 'The group' [supporters of the Islamic Revolution] signed a contract declaring their willingness to become martyrs. Perhaps more than 70 [of them] signed this contract in my home. This 'group' was given facilities, and then the [1982] war with Israel broke out in South [Lebanon]... When Israel occupied South Lebanon, we had to launch a movement, and the military movement started in my home. [At the time] we were not thinking of establishing Hizbullah – we were just adhering to the [Iranian] 'resistance.'    

"We received many facilities from the Palestinians. The military courses we had with the Palestinians prompted us to launch the struggle, and from the Imam [Khomeini], I received approval for the struggle against Israel and even the fatwa [ordering] to carry out martyrdom operations [ishtihad in the original], and he confirmed this three times...

"I Quickly Went To Lebanon And Provided What Was Needed In Order To [Carry Out] Martyrdom Operations In The Place Where The Americans And Israelis Were"

"I quickly went to Lebanon and provided what was needed in order to [carry out] martyrdom operations in the place where the Americans and Israelis were.

"The efforts to establish [Hizbullah] started in [Lebanon's] Baalbek area, where members of [Iran's] Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps [IRGC] arrived. I had no part in establishing the [political] party [Hizbullah], but God made it possible for me to continue the military activity with the group that had cooperated with us prior to the [Islamic] Revolution's victory..."[2]

Issa Tabatabai (Source: IRNA, Iran, September 13, 2023)


[1] IRNA (Iran), September 13, 2023.

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