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Iran's new defense minister tied to U.S. Marine bombing

The new minister of defense of Iran has direct ties to the suicide bombing in Beirut that killed 241 Marines in 1983.

Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, a veteran commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was named today to the top military post by the new government.

On Oct. 23, 1983, he was a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards in charge of the expeditionary force in Lebanon, according to Iran Focus. At 6:22 a.m. that morning, a suicide bomber drove a large water delivery truck to the Beirut International Airport where the U.S. Marine barracks were located. The bomber and his accomplices had hijacked the original truck on its way to the airport and sent another one, loaded with explosives, in its place.

After turning onto an access road leading to the compound, the driver rushed through a barbed-wire fence, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through the gate, and slammed into the lobby of the barracks. The huge explosion crumbled the four-story building, crushing the soldiers to death while they were sleeping.

All the windows at the airport control tower, half a mile away, shattered. A crater eight-feet deep was carved into the earth, and 15 feet of rubble was all that remained of the four-story Marine barracks, Iran Focus reported.

As a result of the deadly attack, Americans withdrew forces from Lebanon. It was the first major suicide operation used by radical Islamic fundamentalists.

Two years ago, a U.S. federal court order identified the suicide bomber as Ismail Ascari, an Iranian national.

In July 1987, Iran’s then-Minister of Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rafiqdoost, was quoted as saying in the Tehran daily Ressalat: “Both the TNT and the ideology which in one blast sent to hell 400 officers, NCOs, and soldiers at the Marines headquarters were provided by Iran.”

The U.S. court order described the blast as “the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth.” It was equal in force to between 15,000 and 21,000 pounds of TNT.

Eighteen of the 21 new members of the new Iranian cabinet have backgrounds in the Revolutionary Guards or secret police.

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