On June 25th, 1996, a truck loaded with over two tons of explosives[i] blew up in a parking lot near the Khobar Towers, which housed American Air-Force personnel, in Dhahran, Saudi-Arabia. As a result of the explosion, the ten-story building collapsed and 19 American servicemen were killed and over 370 others were injured.[ii] The Saudi Hezbollah group took responsibility for the attack.
On Friday, December 22nd, 2006, a federal U.S. district judge ruled that the Iranian leadership was behind the attack and that it must provide compensation to the families of the victims in the sum of 254 million Dollars, a sum the families could demand from frozen Iranian assets outside of the country. The trial against the Iranian government and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had been going on for approximately four years, but they never sent a representative to the hearings or addressed the trial. Iran still denies any connection to the attacks.[iii]Ties between Iran and Hezbollah and between Iran and Al-Qaeda are not new or surprising.[iv] Information from varied sources indicates that there is a long history of ties between Iran and senior Al-Qaeda leaders, both directly and indirectly through Hezbollah, in order to promote common interests despite the deep rift between Shiite Islam and radical Sunni Islam. This information indicates that Iran and Hezbollah were involved in providing assistance to Al-Qaeda in carrying out the attacks against the US embassies in Africa in 1998.[v] An Iranian document that was recently revealed on racial Sunni websites in Iraq strengthens the argument that the collaboration between Iran and Al-Qaeda was at the highest level of leadership in Iran – the supreme leader’s office.[vi]
The indictment issued following the attack on the Khobar Towers reveals several facts and details that shed light on the manner in which the attack was planned and carried out, the degree of Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian involvement in the attack and Syria’s indirect cooperation. Analysis of information in the indictment presented in an American court in June of 2001 against some of the attackers that were captured indicated the following points:[vii] 1. The planning and execution of the attack took an especially long time. Members of the Saudi Hezbollah, some of whom participated in the attack, were already recruited in 1988. Some were trained in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon and in Iran.2. Intelligence collection began in 1993 by a member of the Saudi Hezbollah. The information was transferred to Iran.3. More focused intelligence gathering on American targets, including the Khobar Towers, began in 1994 under the direction, guidance and supervision of Iranian security services. The Khobar Towers were selected as the target in 1994.4. In 1995, alongside further intelligence gathering on target, one of the organization’s activists was trained by Lebanese Hezbollah activists. The Iranians funded the cell’s activity. During this year, the activity on the Saudi-Syria-Beirut axis expanded and included: movement of activists and an examination of the operational plan to transport weapons from Lebanon to Saudi-Arabia. At the same time, ties between field operatives and the Saudi Hezbollah headquarters in Beirut were strengthened.5. In 1996, explosives were smuggled from Lebanon to Saudi-Arabia through Syria and Jordan. On 28/3/96, the Saudis arrested several members of the cell following the capture of some of the smuggled explosives into Saudi-Arabia.6. In June of 1996, the cell purchased a truck in Saudi-Arabia, which was loaded with explosives, armed and prepared for the attack by a Lebanese Hezbollah explosives expert in Saudi-Arabia.7. Between the 7th and 17th of June, the last executive meeting took place in the Sayida Zinab Mosque in Damascus and was attended by senior Saudi Hezbollah members. Decisions regarding the attack were made during the meeting.8. On June 25th, the attack on the Khobar Towers took place, following which the cell members went into hiding
Iran’s use of terrorism as a weapon to promote Iranian interests is a known fact. Iran does this by every possible means: direct involvement in terrorist attacks by Iranian agents, operating terrorist organizations that work for Iran, and funding and supporting terrorist organizations around the world and especially in the Middle East. Several international warrants have been issued in the past few years for the arrest of senior Iranians following trials that were conducted in various locations around the world dealing with Iranian involvement in initiating terrorist attacks:
1. In March of 1996, an arrest warrant was issued for Ali Falahian minister Intelligence Ministry following the trial that took place in Germany against the defendants in the “Mikonos affair” (1992). It was claimed that Falahian was involved in planning the attack.[viii]2. On 10/11/2006, an Argentine judge issued an international arrest warrant for former Iranian president Rafsanjani and eight additional senior Iranian officials for their part in the attack against the AMIA building in 1994.[ix]In January of 2003, the Argentinean intelligence services (SIDE) prepared a 150 page report summarizing the findings regarding Iran and Hezbollah’s responsibility for the attack in Argentina on the Jewish community building (AMIA) in July of 1994 in which 86 people were killed. The report, parts of which were leaked to the press, assigns direct responsibility for the attacks to Iran (including its leader Khamenei and Minister of Intelligence at the time Ali Falahian) and Hezbollah.The report also includes the phone records of conversations conducted by elements in the Iranian embassy in Buenos Aires with, among others, Hezbollah activists. The report also addresses ties between Iran and Hezbollah and Shiite collaborators living in the “tri-border triangle” (Brazil-Argentina-Paraguay) who helped carry out the attack.Analysis of Iranian involvement in attacks, such as the attack in the Mikonos restaurant(92), the attacks in Argentina (1992, 1994), the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi-Arabia (96) and the training of Al-Qaeda members in Hezbollah training camps prior to the attacks on the American embassies in Africa (98), enables us to draw a schematic scenario that characterizes the Iranian regime’s involvement in initiating, guiding and carrying out terrorist attacks, directly and indirectly, while cooperating with various terrorist elements, including Al-Qaeda:A. The decision: the decision to carry out a strategic attack in the international arena is made at the highest levels in Iran – the supreme leader. The initiative for such an attack can come from the leadership ranks in Iran, such as the various committees, from the operational elements, including the terrorist organizations, or from Iranian operational units.B. Processing and recommendations:Processing and recommendations are carried out at the level of the Supreme Council for National Security and the Supreme Council for Intelligence in Iran.C. Implementation: the implementation and carrying out of the attack is conducted by the operational elements in the Iranian services, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. It should be stressed that the Iranian intelligence and security services are actually involved in carrying out the attacks through their representatives and operational agents in the field in terms of logistical support, funding, operational support, and in the attacks themselves.
The ruling by a federal U.S. district judge that the Iranian leadership was behind the Khobar Towers attack and that it must provide compensation to the families of the victims in the sum of 254 million Dollars is another link in the chain that proves the depth and extent of the Iranian involvement in initiating and promoting terrorism in the international arena. This fact is especially disturbing in light of a possible crisis regarding the Iranian nuclear project.