- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 1, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

On April 18, there was a commemorative ceremony on the 25th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of our Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 17 Americans and 25 Foreign Service nationals, with the loss of almost all our Mideast operatives.

Ten contractors employed at the Embassy plus 10 visa applicants and passers-by also were killed, with many more seriously injured. This was an unprovoked and evil act. Robert Dillon, our ambassador in Beirut at that time, notes that we believed the terrorists were members of a Shia family from the Bekaa Valley under the direction of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). We know the IRGC does not “freelance”. Their orders emanated from the then Supreme leader the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Later this year, we will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the devastating terrorist bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. In this case, we have proof positive of where the orders originated. We know the orders came from the Iranian Foreign Ministry to the Iranian ambassador in Damascus. U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lambreth ruled Iran was responsible for the 1983 suicide bombing of the barracks. During the trial a National Security Agency-intercepted message was paraphrased in which the Iranian ambassador received instructions from Tehran to call into his office Hussein Musawi, leader of the terrorist group Islamic Amal in Lebanon and gave him orders to concentrate their attacks on the Multi-National Force (MNF) but to take a “spectacular” action against the U.S. Marines. We know the results: 241 of our finest military personnel were killed along with scores seriously injured.

Our response was to move the U.S. Marines offshore. The Iranians could not have hoped for a better response. We cut and ran, at least that’s the way Osama bin Laden and other terrorist organizations viewed our retreat. With no retaliation, we told the world terrorism works and cemented America’s weak image in the Arab world.

The sad fact is that the Marine barracks bombing could have been prevented. We had the information almost four weeks prior to the attack. The failure to retaliate was monumental. To those who said we had no clear target they were wrong. We had the terrorist’s site identified. We had the planes loaded but orders to carry out the attack never came. In the words of Vice Adm. Jerry Tuttle, then the 6th Fleet strike force commander, this would have been a “chip shot.” Had we carried out the attack, we would have changed the course of events we still live with today.

It is clear from recent testimony by Gen. David Petraeus to the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran continues to wage war against the United States by fueling the violence in Iraq through support of proxies (just as in Beirut), like special militia groups. They are funded, trained, armed and directed by an arm of the IRGC, the Quads Force, with help from the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Gen. Petraeus added that these groups are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians. Further, the death toll to American soldiers and Iraqis by Iranian-supplied improvised roadside bombs (IEDs) is appalling.

From the Carter administration forward to the current administration, we have always found excuses not to strike Iran, even when faced with undeniable proof. We have never had a stain on our flag like the rogue Iranian regime has continuously imposed on us.

It is more than time to remove that stain and restore our honor for those members of our military and diplomats who paid the ultimate price in carrying out U.S. policy.

Iran is a target-rich country. We could start by destroying the terrorist training sites, IRGC headquarters, and IED bomb-making factory. Should that not get them to cease meddling in Iraq, we can ratchet it up quickly to more lucrative targets including their developing nuclear weapon infrastructure.

As former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said, we must have sufficient cause to take military action. If the 241 casualties we suffered in the Marine barracks bombing were not sufficient enough, we have the thousands of American military personnel, embassy personnel and innocent civilians who paid the ultimate price. Many of these casualties can be directly attributed to Iran.

I believe we have sufficient cause to take action. Let’s not be intimated by higher gas prices, the economy or the upcoming presidential elections. The restoration of our honor is long overdue.

James Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations, and deputy chief of naval operations, where he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters.

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