Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Mesbahi. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Mesbahi. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday 12 March 2014

John Ashton on Aljazeera's "Lockerbie: what really happened?"

[What follows is the text of an item posted this evening by John Ashton on his Megrahi: You are my Jury website:]

Aljazeera last night premiered its long-awaited documentary Lockerbie: What Really Happened? The programme’s broad thrust, with which I agree, is that the bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by the PFLP-CG, with help from Hezbollah. It also suggests that Libya may have had a role, which I don’t rule out.

Before commenting further, I should make a declaration of interest: I was paid consultant and interviewee for the producers’ previous Aljazeera programme Lockerbie: Case Closed, (which you can view here) which was broadcast on the day that Megrahi: You are my Jury was published, and was also a paid consultant during the development phase of this one, although I was not involved with the production itself. The most significant discoveries I made during the development phase were of no great interest to the producers, so I took them to Channel 4 News, who took a different view and commissioned a special report, which was broadcast on 20 December (you can view it here).

Last night’s programme has generated a lot of media coverage, but contains little that hasn’t already been reported previously. Most of the coverage has led on the allegations made in the film by Abolghasem Mesbahi, the German-based Iranian defector, who alleged that the bombing was carried out in revenge for the US shootdown of Iran Air flight 655. His claims have been reported as if they are new, but they are not: they originally surfaced in the German media in 1996 or 1997. Mesbahi gave his first broadcast interview about Lockerbie to the German channel ZDF in 2008 and Aljazeera’s interview, which was in fact shot by ZDF, featured in another ZDF documentary last month.

Mesbahi was a former senior official in Iran’s security service, Vevak, and was based in, among other places, Paris and Bonn. In late 1988 he was imprisoned briefly as a suspected US double agent and in 1996 defected. He claimed to have first hand knowledge of the plot that resulted in the 1992 murder, by Iranian agents, of several leading Kurdish separatists in the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin. His testimony proved crucial in the subsequent trial of some of the Iranians. It was not until some months after his defection that he began to talk about Lockerbie.

Last year I spoke to a leading German journalist who is very familiar with both Mesbahi and the Lockerbie story. While he believes that the evidence that Mesbahi gave in the Mykonos case was credible, he is very sceptical of his claims about Lockerbie.

By Mesbahi’s own admission, all his information about Lockerbie was second-hand. His accounts to the German police (documented in memos disclosed to the Abdelbaset’s lawyers pre-trial) were erratic. Some of his claims were unlikely, others patently nonsense. He claimed that the Iranian government initiated the operation and Iranian foreign minister Velajati held talks with Colonel Gadaffi, during which they’d agreed on a joint operation in which Iran would be responsible for the explosives and Libya for the electronics. There was no reason for Iran to rely on the Libyans to sort out the electronics, when they had plenty of other bomb makers at their disposal. He did not mention the PFLP-GC and instead suggested that the operation was not only commissioned by the Iranian government, but also largely undertaken by Iranian agents.

He said that the technical instructions for the bomb came from the Abu Nidal Organisation. He initially claimed that it was assembled and loaded at Heathrow by Libyan agents who had access to the airport’s ‘secure area’ (by which, presumably, he meant airside), but later claimed that it was assembled there by a ANO members. He also said that the bomb was activated by a chemical detonator, which again seems unlikely. He reported that the Iranians sent explosives to London after which the green light was given to the Libyans to deliver the electronic components. This, a source told him, was done by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah only days before the bombing.

However, there is no evidence that they were in London at any point. It is clear that Abdelbaset was in Prague and Switzerland from 9th to 17th December and that he and Lamin were in Malta on the 20th and 21st. I suspect that Mesbahi stitched together a story that would implicate Iran, while accommodating the official ‘Libya-did-it narrative.’

Another disappointing aspect of the programme was the prominence it gave to the claims of the Operation Bird reports, about which I have written previously (here and here). Some of the reports’ key allegations are, in my view, unlikely, in particular the claim that the PFLP-GC’s German ringleader, Hafez Dalkamoni, attended a crucial planning meeting in Malta in October 1988. This claim is contradicted by documentary and witness evidence gathered by the BKA, which is far stronger than the evidence that the programme presented to corroborate the claim (essentially, a 1989 Maltese newspaper article).

The film was on more solid ground when it presented US Defence Intelligence Agency reports from 1989 and 1990, which implicated the PFLP-GC and Iran in the attack. Unfortunately, it implied that the reports were secret and stated that they would have been used at Abdelbaset’s second appeal. Neither suggestion was true: the reports had no role in the appeal and are available online having been declassified many years ago.

There were other exaggerated and misleading claims. For example, the commentary stated ‘this programme has learned’ that Tony Gauci had picked out a photo of Mohamed Abu Talb before his partial identification of Abdelbaset. In fact it is well known that, when shown a photo of Abu Talb by the police in October 1989, Gauci said that he resembled the clothes purchaser. The programme also stated that the Toshiba radio-cassette player that housed the Lockerbie bomb was of the same type as the one seized by the BKA during the Autumn Leaves raids, but in fact it was substantially different.

On the plus side, the film contained powerful interviews with former CIA investigator Robert Baer, researcher and campaigner Morag Kerr and, surprisingly, the former Times political editor Robin Oakley. Overall, though, it was a wasted opportunity.

Friday 29 June 2018

The American people "have a right to the truth"

[What follows is excerpted from an article by Caroline Glick published today on the website of The Jerusalem Post:]

... in 1992 and 1993, the UN Security Council passed harsh economic sanctions against Libya to force then-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to extradite two Libyan nationals suspected of carrying out the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 that killed 270 people. Due to the sanctions, in 1998, the Libyan government extradited the suspects to Britain for trial. Gaddafi later apologized for the bombing and paid compensation to the families of the victims. [RB: There was no apology. What there was, was an acceptance by Libya of "responsibility for the actions of its officials".]

The Lockerbie model can be applied to the AMIA bombing as well. Security Council action against Iranian leaders can massively increase their international isolation. Depending on the structure and target of the sanctions, Iranian citizens can be subjected to significant restrictions on international travel and Iranian diplomatic missions can be shut down. The more powerful the sanctions, the more effective they will be in both deterring foreign governments from cooperating with the regime and causing Iranian nationals to be disgusted with the regime.

This brings us to the Lockerbie bombing itself. [Argentinian prosecutor Alberto] Nisman’s findings [regarding the AMIA bombing] relied in large part on information presented by Iranian defector and former intelligence officer Abolghassem Mesbahi who served in Germany until he defected in the 1990s. Mesbahi reported directly to then-Iranian president Rafsanjani. Four years ago, Mesbahi revealed in an Al Jazeera documentary that Iran, not Libya, was responsible for the bombing. The attack, he said, was carried out by terrorists from Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command, headquartered in Damascus. Mesbahi’s allegations are substantiated by information collected by investigators at the crash site in Lockerbie and by evidence of similar bombs discovered in an apartment in Frankfurt rented by terrorists in the PFLP-GC weeks before the bombing.

Reports at the time claimed that in 1990, then-US president George H W Bush and then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher chose to ignore the leads and follow less compelling evidence pointing to Gaddafi because the US wanted then-Syrian President Hafez Assad to join the US-led Arab coalition in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The case against the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was always controversial. Megrahi went to his death in 2012 protesting his innocence. And on May 3, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission decided to review his conviction “in the interests of justice.” A review request was submitted by his widow hoping to clear his name.

Of the 270 of the victims of Flight 103, 179 were Americans – 35 were students from Syracuse University coming home for Christmas after completing a semester of study abroad in London and Florence. It goes without saying that if Iran was responsible for their murder, the American people, and their families, have a right to the truth. Following the information presented by Mesbahi, and the information already gathered by FBI investigators at the time of the bombing, the US should open a new investigation of alleged Iranian responsibility for the attack. The investigation should be public, and the names of Iranian officials suspected of involvement in the attack should be widely publicized.

Similar actions should be taken by other governments whose citizens have been murdered by Iran in acts of international terrorism.

The deeper the regime is implicated in acts of mass murder, the less able its leaders will be to justify their continued grip on power. The more Khamenei’s personal role in recognized worldwide, the less capable he will be to wield power and command obedience. Branded as murderers at home and abroad, Khamenei and his henchmen will find it harder and harder to suppress demonstrators demanding that they end their sponsorship of Syria’s genocidal dictator Bashar Assad and the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas and surrender their power.

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Truth revealed on Lockerbie bomb timer

[This is the headline over a report published on the website of The Scotsman on this date in 2008. It reads as follows:]

The top-secret document at the heart of the Lockerbie bombing appeal confirms beyond doubt the bomb timer was supplied to countries other than Libya, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

The document also gives "considerable detail" on how the use of a small bomb concealed inside a radio-cassette recorder was consistent with Palestinian terrorists rather than Libyans, according to a prominent legal source who has seen the paper.

Important pillars of the Crown's case against Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Libyan serving life for the atrocity, are "knocked down" by the contents of the document, added the source.

Last week, during a three-day hearing in Edinburgh, Scotland's senior judge, Lord Hamilton, and two of his colleagues listened to legal arguments about whether Megrahi's defence should be allowed to see the document, which was passed to the UK by a foreign power.

The UK Government, represented by Advocate General Neil Davidson QC, is opposing the defence application. Lord Advocate Eilish Angiolini has indicated she would hand it to the defence team but for the public interest immunity status afforded to it by Westminster.

The existence of the document emerged during the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission's exhaustive three-year investigation into whether Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice when he was convicted of the murder of 270 people.

The information in the document was a key part of the Crown's case that the timer used in the bomb was supplied only to Libya. It also appears to confirm that the method of attack was typical of a Palestinian terror cell in Germany.

Scotland on Sunday's source confirmed: "The document dispels any doubts about the supply of MST-13s (timers] elsewhere."

He added: "There is considerable detail about the method used to conceal the bomb. The use of a small Semtex bomb concealed inside a Toshiba radio-cassette recorder was not linked to Libyan terror activity, but to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), the first suspects in the case."

The source conceded these matters had been "aired previously or pointed to by other evidence" but added: "(It] puts that evidence on another footing because it gives it 100% credibility because of where it comes from.

"I don't think, in itself, it either clears Megrahi or proves anyone else was responsible, but there is material that would undoubtedly be helpful to his defence and, in isolation, would lean away from the Crown's case and the verdict of the judges."

The source declined to reveal which country had provided the information. But, last night, another well-placed source said there were new and compelling indications that it may have been provided by Germany and contained information from an Iranian defector, Abolghasem Mesbahi. [RB: According to Kenny MacAskill in his book The Lockerbie Bombing the document in fact came from Jordan.]

The MST-13 timer used in the bomb was made by Swiss firm Mebo. Its co-owner, Edwin Bollier, has made it clear that the timers were supplied to others, including the Stasi, the former East German secret police. German intelligence would certainly be able to provide evidence of the Stasi's links to Mebo, and to the PFPL-GC's use of Semtex in Toshiba radio-cassette recorders.

In October 1988, two months before Lockerbie, the German secret police cracked a PFPL-GC cell operating in Neuss and recovered four such devices. The bomb-maker, Jordanian Marwan Khreesat, told German agents that a fifth device had been removed from the flat he was working in by the cell's leader, Hafez Dalkamoni, prior to their raid.

It was never recovered and many, including Khreesat himself, believe it was his device that brought down the flight over Lockerbie.

Mesbahi has provided the Germans with intelligence that has enabled them to clear up terror crimes, but he was discredited by the UK when he was put up as a potential witness at the trial of Megrahi and his co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, who was cleared.

In 1996, Mesbahi claimed the bombing had been ordered by his former masters in Tehran, not Tripoli, and it is believed that the document was handed over to the Foreign Office later that same year.

There is growing suspicion among Lockerbie experts that the document could even provide the UK with a way to get Megrahi out of jail without facing a re-trial and thorough examination of aspects of the case that would embarrass the Crown Office and Westminster.

It is possible Megrahi will be freed this year on the fairly straightforward grounds published by the SCCRC. The normal practice in such a landmark case would be to order a retrial, but that has the potential to discredit the UK and the US on the world stage.

However, if Megrahi's conviction were quashed and the appeal court ruled he could not have a fair re-trial without the hidden material going to his defence, he would be freed on those grounds and the matter would eventually draw to a quiet conclusion.

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter, Flora, in the Lockerbie bombing, said he was concerned that the document might prove to be more important than its contents. He said: "If the document is not available to the defence at the appeal, then that appeal will be seen around the world, quite rightly, as unfair.

"The significance is likely to be not in the content, but on the impact it will have on the process, unless we can crack the impasse we're in."

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Lockerbie relatives to appeal Megrahi conviction

[This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of The Herald.  It reads as follows:]

British relatives of victims of the Lockerbie atrocity are planning another attempt to overturn the conviction of the only person found guilty of the attack after a former Iranian spy went public with his claims that Syrian-based extremists recruited by Iran carried out the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Former Iranian intelligence officer Abolghassem Mesbahi told a TV documentary, screened last night and repeated tonight, that the December 1988 bombing was undertaken by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) on behalf of Tehran.

He claimed it was carried out in revenge for the mistaken shooting down in July 1988 of an Iran Air Airbus by the USS Vincennes, a US Navy cruiser in the Gulf.

Iran's then leader Ayatollah Khomeini had pledged the skies would "rain blood" in revenge.

During Al Jazeera's Lockerbie: what really happened? documentary, Mr Mesbahi said: "Iran decided to retaliate as soon as possible. The decision was made by the whole system in Iran and confirmed by Ayatollah Khomeini.

"The target of the Iranian decision makers was to copy exactly what happened to the Iranian Airbus. Everything exactly same, minimum 290 people dead."

Campaigner Dr Jim Swire said yesterday that UK relatives of the victims, including himself, are preparing to apply to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) for the conviction of Libyan Abdelbaset al Megrahi to be overturned. Megrahi died in 2012 protesting his innocence.

Mr Swire, whose daughter Flora, 23, was on board Flight 103 said: "Some British relatives have decided that enough is enough and we will be applying within weeks for a further appeal against the Megrahi verdict. We have a right to know who killed our families and why the British Government and authorities responsible for the safety of the aircraft failed in their duty. We are not going away."

A successful SCCRC application could start the third appeal into Megrahi's conviction.

The Al Jazeera documentary fingered Ahmed Jibril, secretary-general of the PFLP-GC, as the key figure behind the attack, which was led by Hafez Dalkamoni. The bomb itself is alleged to have been made by Jordanin Marwan Khreesat.

In December 1988, an anonymous man took responsibility for the crash in the name of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution and in retaliation for the downing of the Iran Air flight.

Earlier that year, German police raided a PFLP-GC cell and found Toshiba cassette recorder bombs, and arrested Khreesat and Dalkamoni. The bombs were later found to be almost identical to the one used to blow up Flight 103.

But during the Lockerbie investigation, the spotlight turned from Iran to Libya when forensic examination of the suitcase that carried the bomb found it had contained a Maltese-made babygrow. Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci identified Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, as the man who bought the baby clothes and other items found in the suitcase.

In 1991 an indictment for murder was issued against Megrahi and Malta airport manager Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah. The pair were handed over to Scottish authorities in 1999. Fhimah was later cleared of any involvement in the bombing.

Egyptian-born Abu Talb had also previously emerged as a key suspect, with his accusers alleging he had smuggled the bomb onto the flight. However, when Megrahi went on trial in 2000, Talb was called as a prosecution witness.

New information about Talb and his activities in Europe was sent to the SCCRC during an earlier investigation. It claimed he was paid millions of dollars by Iran following the bombing. In 1989, a Swedish court convicted Talb of bombing a synagogue in Denmark and gave him a life sentence. He has since been released.

John Ashton, Megrahi's biographer, said: "There is very little that is new here. For about 18 months after the bombing Tehran got the blame, before attention focused on Libya. I am glad [Al Jazeera's] report has put the focus back on Iran."

A Crown Office spokesman said: "Mesbahi's claim that Iran was responsible was first reported in the media in the late 1990s and was available to the defence before the trial but they did not call him as a witness.

"The wider alleged involvement of the PFLP-GC has been repeatedly reported over many years but was addressed in full and rejected at the original trial."

He added that Megrahi was convicted and that the verdict was upheld following an appeal.

[The Scotsman also today runs an article headlined New Lockerbie appeal to be launched ‘within weeks’.

An interesting article appears today in the Maltese newspaper The Times.  It contains the following:]

The latest documentary sheds light on events in Malta months  before the actual bombing. According to documentation gathered for the film, in March 1988, intelligence officers from Iran, Syria and Libya met at the Miska Bakery, in Qormi. The place was used by a cell of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) that operated in Malta.

Foreign intelligence agencies knew of the cell’s presence on the island and were monitoring the bakery.

However, the information was not accurate enough for action to be taken.

The Iranian, Syrian and Libyan intelligence officers had agreed to a general campaign “against Israeli and American targets” but Pan Am 103 was not yet in the picture. Things changed three months later when, on July 3, the USS Vincennes, a military ship patrolling the Persian Gulf, shot down an Iranian passenger plane killing all 290 people on board, including 66 children.

The ship mistook the airliner for a fighter jet but the US refused to issue an apology even after the tragedy was revealed. Iran wanted revenge and a plan was hatched to destroy an American aircraft. In October 1988, terrorists from the PFLP-GC met in a St Julian’s apartment to discuss the final details of its execution.

Information on this meeting came from a source who was present. The source was tracked down by Jessica de Grazia, a former Manhattan District Attorney working for Mr al Megrahi’s defence. Her findings would have formed the basis of his appeal hearing, which he abandoned on being released in 2009 from Greenock prison in Scotland on compassionate grounds.

One of those present for the Malta meeting was Mohammed Abu Talb, who headed the Swedish cell of PFLP-GC, and would later become one of the prime suspects in the case before the probe shifted to Libya and Mr al Megrahi.

Journalist Joe Mifsud had reported on the meeting in the wake of the Lockerbie attack. Speaking to Times of Malta yesterday, Dr Mifsud was not surprised by the findings of the documentary. “It confirms what I had reported on, even before the Lockerbie trial, that Abu Talb was the prime suspect in the case,” he said.

Dr Mifsud, who was present for Mr Abu Talb’s testimony at the trial, said the Swedish police had found clothes from Malta in the Palestinian’s apartment in Sweden and a calendar with December 21 circled.

In fact, the theory that the Lockerbie bombing was executed by the PFLP-GC on behalf of Iran was in line with the original leads pursued by Scottish and American investigators.

Al Jazeera tracked down the alleged bomb maker, Marwan Khreesat, to Amman in Jordan, where he is kept under surveillance by Jordanian intelligence. He refused to discuss the affair on camera but a source close to him later told Al Jazeera the attack had indeed been commissioned by Iran and the bomb was put on board at Heathrow.

Friday 11 March 2016

Iran denies new Lockerbie bombing claims

[This is the headline over an Agence France Presse news agency report as published on the Arab Today website on this date in 2014. It reads as follows:]

Iran on Tuesday denied any involvement in the Lockerbie bombing in the face of new allegations it contracted Palestinian militants to carry out the 1988 attack which killed 270 people.

Documents obtained by Al-Jazeera television for a documentary to be broadcast later on Tuesday provided new backing to longstanding allegations that Iran and not slain Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi was behind the downing of the Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town.

"We reject any claims of Iranian involvement in this act of terror," foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told reporters.

"Iran's stance -- not only on this case but on all terrorist-related issues -- is quite clear: Iran flatly denies (links) to any act of terror."

Former Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, -- the only person ever convicted over the bombing -- maintained his innocence right up until his death in May 2012.

Al-Jazeera said that new evidence gathered for Megrahi's planned appeal, which was aborted by his release from prison on compassionate grounds in 2012, supported his innocence and implicated a Syrian-based Palestinian militant group.

Campaigners led by Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed in the bombing, have long claimed that Tehran contracted the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command to carry out the bombing in revenge for the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by the USS Vincennes, which killed 290 people in July 1988. The Syria-based PFLP-GC is blacklisted as a terrorist group by both the European Union and the United States.

In the documentary called Lockerbie: What Really Happened? Al-Jazeera cites testimony from alleged former senior Iranian intelligence official, Abolghasem Mesbahi, who defected to Germany in the late 90s. Mesbahi claims Iran contracted the bombing to PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril, and provides names of those he says were involved in the operation.

"Money was given to Jibril upfront in Damascus for initial expense. The mission was to blow up a Pam-Am flight," Mesbahi told Al-Jazeera.

Former CIA agent Robert Baer, who was involved in the Lockerbie investigation, told Al-Jazeera that US intelligence agencies had long been convinced of Iran's involvement. He said the finger of blame was pointed at Kadhafi's Libya because the US government did not want to alienate Syria in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf war.

Kadhafi's regime admitted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing in 2003 and eventually paid $2.7 billion in compensation to victims' families. But Kadhafi's now jailed son and heir apparent Seif al-Islam has long insisted that the admission was merely a tactical ploy to end the regime's pariah status and mend fences with the West.

[RB: I understand that a further Al-Jazeera documentary on Lockerbie will shortly be ready for broadcast.]

Thursday 13 March 2014

Re-open the Lockerbie case? Not if it means facing the truth about Iran

[This is the headline over an article by Jonathan S Tobin published yesterday on the website of Commentary magazine.  It reads as follows:]

Could there be a worse week for new revelations about the 1988 Lockerbie tragedy to be unveiled? The report claiming that Iran rather than Libya was the culprit in the atrocity should raise eyebrows around globe. But despite the persuasive case made for this theory, don’t expect the United States or any other Western country to heed the new evidence and re-open the case. With both the US and its European allies desperate to reach a new nuclear deal with Tehran that will enable them to halt the sanctions on the Islamist regime, discussions about the true nature of the administration’s diplomatic partner are, to put it mildly, unwelcome. If Washington isn’t interested in drawing conclusions about Iran from the seizure of an arms ship bound for terrorist-run Gaza last week or even the latest threat from its Revolutionary Guard about destroying Israel uttered yesterday, why would anyone think the Obama administration would be willing to rethink its conclusions about a crime that was long thought to be solved?

To be fair to the administration, a lot of time has passed since the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland that cost the lies of 259 passengers and crew and 11 persons on the ground. The US and the West put a lot of energy into proving that agents of the Libyan Gaddafi regime were responsible. The Libyans were known state sponsors of terror and had an axe to grind against the US at the time. After the conviction of a Libyan intelligence agent for these murders, even more energy was spent on vainly trying to persuade a Scottish court from letting him go home to Libya, where he eventually died of cancer. [RB: It was, of course, a Scottish Government minister, not a Scottish court, that granted compassionate release.] Why would anyone in the US government want to admit that we were wrong all these years? Nor would most Americans think an investigation undertaken by a news organization like the reliably anti-American Al Jazeera, no matter how meticulous, would persuade them to rethink their long-held conclusions about the case.

But, as David Horovitz writes persuasively in the Times of Israel, Al Jazeera’s report is based on information from the same Iranian defector that accurately testified about the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina that killed 85 persons. Though the full truth about Lockerbie is yet to be uncovered, Horovitz is right to point out that if we accept the word of former Iranian intelligence agent Abolghasem Mesbahi about Tehran’s terrorist plot in South America, there’s no reason to dismiss his detailed claims about Lockerbie. The pieces here fit too well to allow us to merely shrug and move on.

But the problem isn’t Mesbahi’s credibility or even the embarrassment that a finding that debunked previous Western intelligence work on Lockerbie would cause in Washington and London. Rather, it’s the fact that the defector is pointing the finger at a government that the West wants very much to rehabilitate these days.

The United States and its European allies are deeply invested in the notion that Hassan Rouhani’s victory in Iran’s faux election last year marked a genuine change in the country’s political culture. Justifying a weak interim nuclear deal that granted Iran both significant sanctions relief and a tacit recognition of its “right” to enrich uranium was made possible not only by the arguments about Iran’s supposed desire for a new start with the West but also by a determination by the administration that it wanted to step away from confrontation with Tehran at all costs.

The president is so worried about hurting the delicate feelings of the anti-Semitic government in Tehran that he is willing to veto new sanctions legislation that would have strengthened his hand in the talks. This policy is difficult enough to justify in the face of Iran’s continued support for terrorism, its genocidal threats against Israel (which make its possession of nuclear weapons more than a theoretical security problem), and its long record of diplomatic deception. The last thing the president and Secretary of State Kerry want is to have the Lockerbie case disinterred and for the regime—many of whose leading players were active in the security apparatus at the time—indicted for mass murder of innocent Americans.

So don’t expect anyone in Washington to take the new evidence about Lockerbie seriously or even to pay lip service to the notion of re-opening the case. Horovitz is right that Al Jazeera’s report ought to justify a new investigation that will fearlessly follow the evidence to the guilty parties. But as long as making nice with Iran is one of the diplomatic priorities of the United States, the truth about Lockerbie is likely to be ignored.

Monday 17 March 2014

Why the focus on Libya as the perpetrator of Lockerbie?

[An article headed Chaos: the complete disarray of the now “free” Libya published yesterday on the website of American magazine The Source contains the following:]

Libya finds itself in a state of complete disarray increasing day by day in the three years following the coup of its notorious leader, Mu’ammar Al-Gaddafi.  Just last week the former prime minister, Ali Zeidan, was voted out of office by parliament and has fled the country.

Currently, the common place rule of law is scattered, finding itself in the hands of violent and fiercely independent militias based in Misrata, in western Libya, who have launched an offensive against eastern rebels that could very well spark an all out civil war very soon.

This picture reflects an uncanny resemblance to Iraq, but without the major US or NATO oversight, since the US largely sat behind the scenes as a rebel-led overthrow of the former Libyan government took place.  Nonetheless, it still paints a valid picture of the current status of several countries in the Middle East today, following the 2011 Arab Spring.  Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria – all countries either currently or successfully having attempted to overthrow leaders – all have one common factor or potential possibility:  complete and utter chaos playing out in all out civil war due to the lack of central government.

It was also last week, that Al-Jazeera had broadcast the final piece of a 3 year investigation of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing that killed 270 people over Lockerbie, Scotland, which revealed information disproving the long believed fact that Libya – more specifically Al-Gaddafi – was responsible for the crime.  This information was revealed by former Iranian intelligence officer Abolghasem Mesbahi, who later defected from the country, and has now confirmed that it was not Libya who committed the bombing, but Iran.  For decades the only official conviction in the plot was Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was sent to prison in Scotland, and famously released in 2009 under compassionate grounds due to terminal prostate cancer.  He died in 2012, still denouncing his conviction, and his family is appealing the conviction to this day. [RB: There is no current appeal. It has, however, been announced that a group of UK Lockerbie relatives intends to apply to the SCCRC for a further appeal.]

This new information proves incredibly strongly beyond any reasonable doubt that al-Megrahi was indeed innocent, and that Iran, working through the Palestinian Front for The Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), ordered the blowing up of Pan Am 103 in revenge for the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane by the US navy earlier in 1988.  US Naval reports claimed they had mistook the plane for a belligerent F-14 fighter jet.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Mesbahi states, “Iran decided to retaliate as soon as possible. The decision was made by the whole system in Iran and confirmed by Ayatollah Khomeini.  The target of the Iranian decision makers was to copy exactly what’s happened to the Iranian Airbus. Everything exactly same, minimum 290 people dead. This was the target of the Iranian decision makers.”

The Crown Office, the prosecution service for Scotland, had even previously noted that the PFLP-GC was allegedly involved at the original Lockerbie trial. [RB: It was the defence, not the prosecution, that sought to incriminate the PFLP-GC at the Zeist trial. But it is certainly the case that, until the focus shifted in 1990, the evidence amassed by the Lockerbie investigators led them to the conclusion that the PFLP-GC was responsible.] US Defense Intelligence Agency reports at the time also confirmed the leader of the PFLP-GC was paid to carry out the attacks.  So, with high ranking and politically esteemed individuals in both the US and Scotland reaching the conclusion that it was in fact Iran and not Libya who carried out the attacks, why would officials fail to accuse the real perpetrator?

Looking much deeper into the Libyan coup, and the overall dissatisfaction of Gaddafi for decades leading up to it, it becomes clear that the reason the trigger was pulled on Gaddafi was not only his many tyrannical policies, unjust rule, and the supposed responsibility of the Pan Am 103 attacks – those were just surface reasons fueling a more in depth cause.  It was really much simpler… Oil.