1983 Beirut barracks bombing
The Beirut Barracks Bombing (October 23, 1983 in Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

, Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

) occurred during the Lebanese Civil War
Lebanese Civil War
The Lebanese Civil War was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon. The war lasted from 1975 to 1990 and resulted in an estimated 150,000 to 230,000 civilian fatalities. Another one million people were wounded, and today approximately 350,000 people remain displaced. There was also a mass exodus of...

, when two truck bombs struck separate buildings housing United States
Military of the United States
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

 and French military forces
Military of France
The French Armed Forces encompass the French Army, the French Navy, the French Air Force and the National Gendarmerie. The President of the Republic heads the armed forces, with the title "chef des armées" . The President is the supreme authority for military matters and is the sole official who...

—members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon
Multinational Force in Lebanon
The Multinational Force in Lebanon was an international peacekeeping force created in 1982 and sent to Lebanon to oversee the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization...

—killing 299 American and French servicemen. The organization Islamic Jihad
Islamic Jihad Organization
The Islamic Jihad Organization – IJO or Organisation du Jihad Islamique in French, but best known as ‘Islamic Jihad’ for short, was a fundamentalist Shia group known for its activities in the 1980s during the Lebanese Civil War...

 claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Suicide bombers detonated each of the truck bombs. In the attack on the American Marines barracks, the death toll was 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 personnel and three Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 soldiers, along with sixty Americans injured, representing the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 since the Battle of Iwo Jima
Battle of Iwo Jima
The Battle of Iwo Jima , or Operation Detachment, was a major battle in which the United States fought for and captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Empire of Japan. The U.S...

 of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, and the deadliest single attack on Americans
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 overseas since World War II. In addition, the elderly Lebanese custodian of the Marines' building was killed in the first blast. The explosives used were equivalent to 5,400 kg (12,000 pounds) of TNT.

In the attack on the French barracks, the eight-story 'Drakkar' building, two minutes after the Marine attack, 58 paratroopers from the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment
1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment
The 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment is an airborne unit of the French Army. It was the first French parachute regiment and is today part of the 11th Parachute Brigade.-Organisation:*Command and Logistic “Yellow” Company*Support and Lightning “Blue” Company...

 were killed and 15 injured, in the single worst military loss for France since the end of the Algerian War. The wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor
A janitor or custodian is a professional who takes care of buildings, such as hospitals and schools. Janitors are responsible primarily for cleaning, and often some maintenance and security...

 at the French building were also killed.

The blasts led to the withdrawal of the international peacekeeping
Peacekeeping is an activity that aims to create the conditions for lasting peace. It is distinguished from both peacebuilding and peacemaking....

 force from Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, where they had been stationed since the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization
Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a political and paramilitary organization which was created in 1964. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations and over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed...

 following the Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i 1982 invasion of Lebanon
1982 Lebanon War
The 1982 Lebanon War , , called Operation Peace for Galilee by Israel, and later known in Israel as the Lebanon War and First Lebanon War, began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces invaded southern Lebanon...


The bombings

At around 6:20 a.m., a yellow Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz is a German manufacturer of automobiles, buses, coaches, and trucks. Mercedes-Benz is a division of its parent company, Daimler AG...

 truck drove to Beirut International Airport, where the 1st Battalion 8th Marines
1st Battalion 8th Marines
1st Battalion, 8th Marines is an infantry battalion in the United States Marine Corps based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina...

 under the 2nd Marine Division had set up its local headquarters. The truck was not the water truck they had been expecting, but a hijacked truck carrying the explosives. The truck turned onto an access road leading to the Marines' compound and circled a parking lot. The driver then accelerated and crashed through a barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

 fence around the parking lot, passed between two sentry posts, crashed through a gate and drove into the lobby of the Marine headquarters. The Marine sentries at the gate were operating under rules of engagement
Rules of engagement
Rules of Engagement refers to those responses that are permitted in the employment of military personnel during operations or in the course of their duties. These rules of engagement are determined by the legal framework within which these duties are being carried out...

 which made it very difficult to respond quickly to the truck. Sentries were ordered to keep their weapons at condition four (no magazine inserted and no rounds in the chamber). By the time the two sentries were able to engage, the truck was already inside the building's entry way.

The suicide bomber detonated his explosives, which were equivalent to 5,400 kg (12,000 pounds) of TNT. The force of the explosion collapsed the four-story building into rubble, crushing many inside. According to Eric Hammel in his history of the Marine landing force,
"The force of the explosion initially lifted the entire four-story structure, shearing the bases of the concrete support columns, each measuring fifteen feet in circumference and reinforced by numerous one-and-three-quarter-inch steel rods. The airborne building then fell in upon itself. A massive shock wave and ball of flaming gas was hurled in all directions."

The explosive mechanism was a gas-enhanced device, probably consisting of bottled propane
Propane is a three-carbon alkane with the molecular formula , normally a gas, but compressible to a transportable liquid. A by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, it is commonly used as a fuel for engines, oxy-gas torches, barbecues, portable stoves, and residential central...

, butane
Butane is a gas with the formula C4H10 that is an alkane with four carbon atoms. The term may refer to any of two structural isomers, or to a mixture of them: in the IUPAC nomenclature, however, butane refers only to the unbranched n-butane isomer; the other one being called "methylpropane" or...

, hexane
Hexane is a hydrocarbon with the chemical formula C6H14; that is, an alkane with six carbon atoms.The term may refer to any of four other structural isomers with that formula, or to a mixture of them. In the IUPAC nomenclature, however, hexane is the unbranched isomer ; the other four structures...

 or acetylene
Acetylene is the chemical compound with the formula C2H2. It is a hydrocarbon and the simplest alkyne. This colorless gas is widely used as a fuel and a chemical building block. It is unstable in pure form and thus is usually handled as a solution.As an alkyne, acetylene is unsaturated because...

, placed in proximity to a conventional explosive such as primacord
Primacord is a registered trademark of detonating cord used in blasting, originally manufactured by the Ensign-Bickford Company. Ensign Bickford sold the trademark to Dyno Nobel Inc in 2003 and it is now manufactured in Graham, Kentucky...

, all of which are readily available on the retail market. The bomb was carried on a layer of concrete covered with a slab of marble to direct the blast upward. Despite the lack of sophistication and wide availability of its component parts, a gas-enhanced device can be a lethal weapon. These devices are similar to fuel-air or thermobaric weapons, explaining the large blast and damage.

About two minutes later, a similar attack occurred against the barracks of the French 3rd Company of the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment
1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment
The 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment is an airborne unit of the French Army. It was the first French parachute regiment and is today part of the 11th Parachute Brigade.-Organisation:*Command and Logistic “Yellow” Company*Support and Lightning “Blue” Company...

, 6 km away in the Ramlet al Baida area of West Beirut. Another suicide bomber drove his truck down a ramp into the 'Drakkar' building's underground parking garage and detonated his bomb, leveling the eight-story building and killing 58 French soldiers. Many of the soldiers had gathered on their balconies moments earlier to see what was happening at the airport It was the worst military loss for France since the end of the Algerian War in 1962.


According to Robert Fisk
Robert Fisk
Robert Fisk is an English writer and journalist from Maidstone, Kent. As Middle East correspondent of The Independent, he has primarily been based in Beirut for more than 30 years. He has published a number of books and has reported on the United States's war in Afghanistan and the same country's...

, a major motivation for the bombing was the ill will generated by the Multinational Force (MNF) among Lebanese Muslims, especially Shiʿa living in the slums of West Beirut and around the airport where the Marines were headquartered, as they saw the MNF siding with the Maronite Catholics
Maronite Church
The Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See of Rome . It traces its heritage back to the community founded by Maron, a 4th-century Syriac monk venerated as a saint. The first Maronite Patriarch, John Maron, was elected in the late 7th...

 in their domination of Lebanon. Muslim feelings against the American presence were "exacerbated when missiles lobbed by the U.S. Sixth Fleet hit innocent by-standers in the Druze
The Druze are an esoteric, monotheistic religious community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, which emerged during the 11th century from Ismailism. The Druze have an eclectic set of beliefs that incorporate several elements from Abrahamic religions, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism...

-dominated Shuf mountains
Chouf District
Chouf is a historic region of Lebanon, as well as an administrative district in the governorate of Mount Lebanon....

." There was a growing feeling of frustration inside the Muslim and Druze community in Lebanon with US direct backing of Israel in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and other pro-Israeli factions within Lebanon. These factions had been responsible for multiple attacks committed against the Muslim and Druze Lebanese population.

Col. Timothy J. Geraghty, the commander of the Marines in Beirut during the incident, has said that "the Marine and the French headquarters were targeted primarily because of who we were and what we represented;" and that,
It is noteworthy that the United States provided direct naval gunfire support -- which I strongly opposed for a week -- to the Lebanese Army at a mountain village called Suq-al-Garb on September 19 and that the French conducted an air strike on September 23 in the Bekaa Valley
Beqaa Valley
The Beqaa Valley is a fertile valley in east Lebanon. For the Romans, the Beqaa Valley was a major agricultural source, and today it remains Lebanon’s most important farming region...

. American support removed any lingering doubts of our neutrality, and I stated to my staff at the time that we were going to pay in blood for this decision.
Some authors, including Thomas Friedman
Thomas Friedman
Thomas Lauren Friedman is an American journalist, columnist and author. He writes a twice-weekly column for The New York Times. He has written extensively on foreign affairs including global trade, the Middle East, and environmental issues and has won the Pulitzer Prize three times.-Personal...

 point to the use of this naval gunfire as the beginning point of the U.S. forces being seen as participants in the civil war rather than peace keepers and opening them up to retaliation.

Some analysts believe the Islamic Republic of Iran was heavily involved and that a major factor leading it to participate in the attacks on the barracks was America's support for Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 in the Iran Iraq War and its extending of $2.5 billion in trade credit to Iraq while halting the shipments of arms to Iran. A few weeks before the bombing, Iran warned that providing armaments to Iran's enemies would provoke retaliatory punishment.For Iran's threat of retaliatory measures; see Ettela'at, September 17, 1983; Kayhan, October 13, 1983; and Kayhan, October 26, 1983, quoted in Ranstorp, Magnus, Hizb'allah in Lebanon : The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis, New York, St. Martins Press, 1997,p.117


U.S. President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 called the attack a "despicable act" and pledged to keep a military force in Lebanon. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger
Caspar Weinberger
Caspar Willard "Cap" Weinberger , was an American politician, vice president and general counsel of Bechtel Corporation, and Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan from January 21, 1981, until November 23, 1987, making him the third longest-serving defense secretary to date, after...

, who had privately advised the administration against stationing U.S. Marines in Lebanon, said there would be no change in the U.S.'s Lebanon policy. On October 24, French President François Mitterrand
François Mitterrand
François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand was the 21st President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra, serving from 1981 until 1995. He is the longest-serving President of France and, as leader of the Socialist Party, the only figure from the left so far elected President...

 visited the bombed French site. It was not an official visit, and he only stayed for a few hours, but he did declare "We will stay." U.S. Vice President George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 toured the Marine bombed-site on October 26 and said the U.S. "would not be cowed by terrorists."

In retaliation for the attacks, France launched an airstrike
An air strike is an attack on a specific objective by military aircraft during an offensive mission. Air strikes are commonly delivered from aircraft such as fighters, bombers, ground attack aircraft, attack helicopters, and others...

 in the Beqaa Valley
Beqaa Valley
The Beqaa Valley is a fertile valley in east Lebanon. For the Romans, the Beqaa Valley was a major agricultural source, and today it remains Lebanon’s most important farming region...

 against alleged Islamic Revolutionary Guards
Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps
The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution , often called Revolutionary Guards, is a branch of Iran's military, founded after the Iranian revolution...

 positions. President Reagan assembled his national security team and planned to target the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek
Baalbek is a town in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude , situated east of the Litani River. It is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, then known as Heliopolis, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire...

, Lebanon, which housed Iranian Revolutionary Guards believed to be training Hezbollah militants. A joint American-French air assault on the camp where the bombing was planned was also approved by Reagan and Mitterrand. Defense Secretary Weinberger lobbied successfully against the mission, because at the time it was not certain that Iran was behind the attack.

There was no serious retaliation for the Beirut bombing from the Americans, besides a few shellings. In December 1983, U.S. aircraft from the and battle groups attacked Syrian targets in Lebanon, but this was ostensibly in response to Syrian missile attacks on American warplanes.

Multi-service ground-support units were withdrawn from Beirut after the attack on the Marine barracks due to retaliatory threats.

In the meantime, the attack boosted the prestige and growth of the Shi'ite organization Hezbollah. Hezbollah officially denied any involvement in the attacks, but was seen by Lebanese as involved nonetheless as it praised the "two martyr mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

" who "set out to inflict upon the U.S. Administration an utter defeat, not experienced since Vietnam." Hezbollah was now seen by many as "the spearhead of the sacred Muslim struggle against foreign occupation".

The 1983 report of the U.S. Department of Defense Commission's on the attack recommended that the National Security Council
United States National Security Council
The White House National Security Council in the United States is the principal forum used by the President of the United States for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and Cabinet officials and is part of the Executive Office of the...

 re-examines alternative ways to reach "American objectives in Lebanon" because, "as progress to diplomatic solutions slows," the security of the USMNF base continues to "deteriorate." The Commission also recommended a review for the development of a broader range of "appropriate military, political, and diplomatic responses to terrorism." Military preparedness needed improvement in the development of "doctrine, planning, organization, force structure, education, and training" to better combat terrorism, while the USMNF was "not prepared" to deal with the terrorist threat at the time due to "lack of training, staff, organization, and support" specifically for defending against "terror threats."

Amal militia
Amal Movement
Amal Movement is short for the Lebanese Resistance Detachments the acronym for which, in Arabic, is "amal", meaning "hope."Amal was founded in 1975 as the militia wing of the Movement of the Disinherited, a Shi'a political movement founded by Musa...

 leader Nabih Berri
Nabih Berri
Nabih Berri is the Speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon. He heads the mostly Shi'a Amal Movement.-Biography:He was born in Bo, Sierra Leone to Lebanese parents. He went to school in Tebnine and Ain Ebel in southern Lebanon and later studied at the Makassed and the Ecole de la Sagesse in Beirut...

, who had previously supported U.S. mediation efforts, asked the U.S. and France to leave Lebanon and accused the U.S. and France of seeking to commit 'massacres' against the Lebanese and of creating a "climate of racism" against Shias. Islamic Jihad phoned in new threats against the MNF pledging that "the earth would tremble" unless the MNF withdrew by New Year's Day 1984.

The U.S. Marines were moved offshore where they could not be targeted. On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered the Marines to begin withdrawing from Lebanon. Their withdrawal was completed on February 26, four months after the barracks bombing; the rest of the multinational force was withdrawn by April 1984.

On February 8, 1984, fired almost 300 shells at Druze and Syrian positions in the Bekaa Valley east of Beirut. This was the heaviest shore bombardment since the Korean War. New Jerseys shells killed probably hundreds of people, mostly Shiites and Druze. In his memoir, General Colin Powell
Colin Powell
Colin Luther Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position. During his military...

 (at the time an assistant to Caspar Weinberger
Caspar Weinberger
Caspar Willard "Cap" Weinberger , was an American politician, vice president and general counsel of Bechtel Corporation, and Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan from January 21, 1981, until November 23, 1987, making him the third longest-serving defense secretary to date, after...

) noted that "When the shells started falling on the Shiites, they assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides." Some analysts subsequently criticized the decision to have US warships shell Druze and Syrian forces. They claim that this action forced a shift in the previously neutral U.S. forces by convincing local Lebanese Muslims that the United States had taken the Christian side;

Rescue efforts

Rescue efforts continued for days. While the rescuers were at times hindered by sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

 fire, some survivors were pulled from the rubble and airlifted to the USS Iwo Jima
USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2)
USS Iwo Jima was the lead ship of her class and type—the first ship to be designed and built from the keel up as an amphibious assault ship. She carried helicopters and a detachment of embarked Marines for use in the Navy's "vertical envelopment" concept of amphibious operations...

, located offshore, and/or to the hospital at RAF Akrotiri
RAF Akrotiri
Royal Air Force Station Akrotiri, more commonly known as RAF Akrotiri , is a large Royal Air Force station, on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. It is located in the Western Sovereign Base Area, one of two areas which comprise Akrotiri and Dhekelia, a British Overseas Territory, administered as a...

 in Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 or to U.S. and German hospitals in West Germany. The last survivor pulled from the rubble had been buried for over 52 hours. An 18 year-old local woman was killed after firing several shots at a rescue team nearby.

Search for perpetrators

At the time of the bombing, several Shia militant groups claimed responsibility for the attacks, and one, the Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement, identified the two suicide bombers as Abu Mazen and Abu Sijaan.

After some years of investigation the bombing was thought to have been committed by the Lebanese Shia militant militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 and political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 Hezbollah while it was still "underground," though opinion is not unanimous. Hezbollah did not formally announce its existence until 1985. The U.S. government believes that elements that would eventually become Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, were responsible for this bombing, as well as the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut earlier in April. Hezbollah, Iran and Syria have denied any involvement.

Two years after the bombing, a US grand jury
Grand jury
A grand jury is a type of jury that determines whether a criminal indictment will issue. Currently, only the United States retains grand juries, although some other common law jurisdictions formerly employed them, and most other jurisdictions employ some other type of preliminary hearing...

 secretly indicted Imad Mughniyah as the mastermind behind the bombing. Mughniyah was never apprehended and was killed by a car bomb in Syria on February 12, 2008.

Lebanese author Hala Jaber
Hala Jaber
Hala Jaber is a Lebanese-British journalist. She was born in West Africa and currently writes for The Sunday Times. Jaber was awarded the Amnesty International Journalist of the Year Award in 2003. She won Foreign Correspondent of the Year at the British Press Awards in 2005 and 2006 for her...

 claims that Iran and Syria helped organize the bombing which was run by two Lebanese Shia, Imad Mughniyeh and Mustapha Badredeen:

Imad Mughniyeh and Mustapha Badredeen took charge of the Syrian-Iranian backed operation. Mughniyeh had been a highly trained security man with the PLO's Force 17
Force 17
Force 17 was a commando and special operations terror unit of the Palestinian Fatah movement and later of the Office of the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. It was formed in the early 1970s by Ali Hassan Salameh ....

 . . . Their mission was to gather information and details about the American embassy and draw up a plan that would guarantee the maximum impact and leave no trace of the perpetrator. Meetings were held at the Iranian embassy in Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. They were usually chaired by the ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

, Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi, who played an instrumental role in founding Hezbollah. In consultation with several senior Syrian intelligence officers, the final plan was set in motion. The vehicle and explosives were prepared in the Bekaa Valley which was under Syrian control.

Commentators argue that the lack of a response by the Americans emboldened terrorist organizations to conduct further attacks against US targets. Along with the U.S. embassy bombing, the barracks bombing prompted the Inman Report
Inman Report
The Inman Report, formally known as the Report of the Secretary of State's Advisory Panel on Overseas Security, was a report released in 1985 in response to the Marine barracks bombing and the April 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon...

, a review of the security of U.S. facilities overseas for the United States Department of State
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...


Alleged retaliation

On March 8, 1985, a truck bomb blew up in Beirut killing more than 80 people and injuring more than two hundred. The bomb detonated near the apartment block of Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a Shia cleric thought by many to be the spiritual leader of Hezbollah. Although the US did not engage in any direct military retaliation to the attack on the Beirut barracks, the 1985 terrorist bombing was widely believed by Fadlallah and his supporters to be the work of the United States; Sheikh Fadlallah stating that `They sent me a letter and I got the message,` and an enormous sign on the remains of one bombed building reading: `Made in the U.S.A.`" Robert Fisk also claims that CIA operatives planted the bomb and that evidence of this is found in an article in the Washington Post newspaper. Journalist Robin Wright quotes articles in the Washington Post and New York Times as saying that according to the CIA the "Lebanese intelligence personnel and other foreigners ... had been undergoing CIA training" but that `this was not our [CIA] operation and it was nothing we planned or knew about.` "Alarmed U.S. officials subsequently canceled the covert training operation" in Lebanon, according to Wright.

Lessons learned

Shortly after the barracks bombing, American president Ronald Reagan appointed a military fact-finding committee headed by retired Admiral Robert L. J. Long to investigate the bombing. The commission's report found senior military officials responsible for security lapses and blamed the military chain of command for the disaster. It suggested that there might have been many fewer deaths if the barracks guards had carried loaded weapons and a barrier more substantial than the barbed wire the bomber drove over easily. The commission also noted that the "prevalent view" among U.S. commanders was that there was a direct link between the Navy shelling of the Muslims at Suq-al-Garb and the truck bomb attack.

Following the bombing and the realization that insurgents could deliver weapons of enormous yield with an ordinary truck or van, the presence of protective barriers (bollard
A bollard is a short vertical post. Originally it meant a post used on a ship or a quay, principally for mooring. The word now also describes a variety of structures to control or direct road traffic, such as posts arranged in a line to obstruct the passage of motor vehicles...

s) became common around critical government facilities in the United States and elsewhere, particularly Western civic targets situated overseas.

An article in Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy is a bimonthly American magazine founded in 1970 by Samuel P. Huntington and Warren Demian Manshel.Originally, the magazine was a quarterly...

 titled "Lesson Unlearned" argues that the U.S. military intervention in the Lebanese Civil War
Lebanese Civil War
The Lebanese Civil War was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon. The war lasted from 1975 to 1990 and resulted in an estimated 150,000 to 230,000 civilian fatalities. Another one million people were wounded, and today approximately 350,000 people remain displaced. There was also a mass exodus of...

 has been downplayed or ignored in popular history - thus unlearned - and that lessons from Lebanon are "unlearned" as the U.S. militarily intervenes elsewhere in the world

Civil suit against Iran

On October 3 and December 28, 2001, the families of 241 servicemen who were killed as well as several injured survivors filed civil
Civil law (common law)
Civil law, as opposed to criminal law, is the branch of law dealing with disputes between individuals or organizations, in which compensation may be awarded to the victim...

A lawsuit or "suit in law" is a civil action brought in a court of law in which a plaintiff, a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant's actions, demands a legal or equitable remedy. The defendant is required to respond to the plaintiff's complaint...

 against Islamic Republic of Iran and the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia is a federal district court. Appeals from the District are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit The United States District Court for the District of Columbia (in case citations, D.D.C.) is a...

In their separate complaints
Cause of action
In the law, a cause of action is a set of facts sufficient to justify a right to sue to obtain money, property, or the enforcement of a right against another party. The term also refers to the legal theory upon which a plaintiff brings suit...

, the families and survivors sought a judgment that Iran was responsible for the attack and relief
Legal remedy
A legal remedy is the means with which a court of law, usually in the exercise of civil law jurisdiction, enforces a right, imposes a penalty, or makes some other court order to impose its will....

 in the form of damages
In law, damages is an award, typically of money, to be paid to a person as compensation for loss or injury; grammatically, it is a singular noun, not plural.- Compensatory damages :...

In law, damages is an award, typically of money, to be paid to a person as compensation for loss or injury; grammatically, it is a singular noun, not plural.- Compensatory damages :...

 and punitive
Punitive damages
Punitive damages or exemplary damages are damages intended to reform or deter the defendant and others from engaging in conduct similar to that which formed the basis of the lawsuit...

) for wrongful death and common-law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 claims for battery
Battery (tort)
At common law, battery is the tort of intentionally and voluntarily bringing about an unconsented harmful or offensive contact with a person or to something closely associated with them . Unlike assault, battery involves an actual contact...

, assault
Assault (tort)
In common law, assault is the tort of acting intentionally, that is with either general or specific intent, causing the reasonable apprehension of an immediate harmful or offensive contact. Because assault requires intent, it is considered an intentional tort, as opposed to a tort of negligence...

, and intentional infliction of emotional distress
Intentional infliction of emotional distress
Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a tort claim of recent origin for intentional conduct that results in extreme emotional distress. Some courts and commentators have substituted mental for emotional, but the tort is the same...

 resulting from an act of state-sponsored terrorism
State-sponsored terrorism
State-sponsored terrorism is a term used to describe terrorism sponsored by nation-states. As with terrorism, the precise definition, and the identification of particular examples, are subjects of heated political dispute...


Iran (the defendant
A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute...

s) was served
Service of process
Service of process is the procedure employed to give legal notice to a person of a court or administrative body's exercise of its jurisdiction over that person so as to enable that person to respond to the proceeding before the court, body or other tribunal...

 with the two complaints (one from Deborah D. Peterson, Personal Representative
Personal representative
In common law jurisdictions, a personal representative is the generic term for an executor for the estate of a deceased person who left a will or the administrator of an intestate estate. In either case, a surrogate court of competent jurisdiction issues a finding of fact, including that a will...

 of the Estate
Estate (law)
An estate is the net worth of a person at any point in time. It is the sum of a person's assets - legal rights, interests and entitlements to property of any kind - less all liabilities at that time. The issue is of special legal significance on a question of bankruptcy and death of the person...

 of James C. Knipple, et al., the other from Joseph and Marie Boulos, Personal Representatives of the Estate of Jeffrey Joseph Boulos) on May 6 and July 17, 2002. Iran denied responsibility for the attack but did not file any response to the claims of the families. On December 18, 2002, Judge Royce C. Lamberth
Royce C. Lamberth
Royce C. Lamberth is a federal judge in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, serving as its Chief Judge....

 entered defaults
Default judgment
Default judgment is a binding judgment in favor of either party based on some failure to take action by the other party. Most often, it is a judgment in favor of a plaintiff when the defendant has not responded to a summons or has failed to appear before a court of law...

 against defendants in both cases.

On May 30, 2003, Lamberth found Iran legally responsible for providing Hezbollah with financial and logistical support that helped them carry out the attack. Lamberth concluded that the court had personal jurisdiction over the defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 is a United States law, codified at Title 28, §§ 1330, 1332, 1391, 1441, and 1602-1611 of the United States Code, that establishes the limitations as to whether a foreign sovereign nation may be sued in U.S. courts—federal or state...

, that Hezbollah was formed under the auspices of the Iranian government and was completely reliant on Iran in 1983, and that Hezbollah carried out the attack in conjunction with MOIS agents.

On September 7, 2007, Lamberth awarded $2,656,944,877 to the plaintiff
A plaintiff , also known as a claimant or complainant, is the term used in some jurisdictions for the party who initiates a lawsuit before a court...

s. The judgment was divided up among the victims; the largest award was $12 million to Larry Gerlach, who became a quadriplegic
Tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, is paralysis caused by illness or injury to a human that results in the partial or total loss of use of all their limbs and torso; paraplegia is similar but does not affect the arms...

 as a result of a broken neck he suffered in the attack.

The attorney for the families of the victims uncovered some new information, including a National Security Agency
National Security Agency
The National Security Agency/Central Security Service is a cryptologic intelligence agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications and foreign signals intelligence, as well as protecting U.S...

 (NSA) intercept of a message sent from Iranian intelligence headquarters in Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

 to Hojjat ol-eslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi, the Iranian ambassador in Damascus. As it was paraphrased by presiding U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, "The message directed the Iranian ambassador to contact Hussein Musawi, the leader of the terrorist group Islamic Amal, and to instruct him ... 'to take a spectacular action against the United States Marines.'" Musawi's Islamic Amal was a breakaway faction of the Amal Movement
Amal Movement
Amal Movement is short for the Lebanese Resistance Detachments the acronym for which, in Arabic, is "amal", meaning "hope."Amal was founded in 1975 as the militia wing of the Movement of the Disinherited, a Shi'a political movement founded by Musa...

 and an autonomous part of embryonic Hezbollah.

Some in the U.S. government continue to hold that culpability in the Marine barracks attack is undetermined. In 2001, former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger stated: "But we still do not have the actual knowledge of who did the bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut Airport, and we certainly didn't then."

Mossad conspiracy theory

Former Mossad
The Mossad , short for HaMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuchadim , is the national intelligence agency of Israel....

 agent Victor Ostrovsky
Victor Ostrovsky
Victor John Ostrovsky is an author, artist and former katsa for the Israeli Mossad . He authored two non-fiction books about his service with the Mossad: By Way of Deception, a New York Times No. 1 bestseller in 1990, and The Other Side of Deception several years later...

 has accused the Mossad of knowing of the plans for the bombing, but decided against informing the Americans of the attack. According to Ostrovsky, then Mossad head Nahum Admoni
Nahum Admoni
Nahum Admoni was the Director of the Mossad from 1982 to 1989. Born in Jerusalem to Polish immigrants, he fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War in the SHAI, the Haganah intelligence branch, and later in the newly created Israeli Defense Force Intelligence...

 decided against informing the Americans on the grounds that the Mossad's responsibility was to protect Israel's interests, not Americans. Admoni denied having any prior knowledge of the attack. Ostrovsky further claimed that among the high level officers of the Mossad there was a view that if the Americans "wanted to stick their nose into this Lebanon thing, let them pay the price." Benny Morris
Benny Morris
Benny Morris is professor of History in the Middle East Studies department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in the city of Be'er Sheva, Israel...

, in his review of Ostrovsky's book, wrote that Ostrovsky was "barely a case officer before he was fired; most of his (brief) time in the agency was spent as a trainee" adding that due to compartmentalization "he did not and could not have had much knowledge of then current Mossad operations, let alone operational history." Benny Morris wrote that the claim regarding the barracks was "odd" and an example of one of Ostrovsky's "Wet" stories which were "mostly fabricated."

Terrorism classification

The bombing was categorised by the United States as an act of terrorism. But according to academic Oded Lowenheim, the U.S. Marines had become allied with the Maronite Christians in Lebanon and were actively engaging in battles, thus waiving their non-combatant status. The U.S. still categorised this attack as an act of terror as it was directed against off-duty servicemen, who the U.S. defines as non-combatants.

See also

  • Tyre headquarters bombings
    Tyre headquarters bombings
    The Tyre truck bombings, also known as the Tyre disaster, were two suicide bombings against the Israel Defense Forces' headquarters building in Tyre, Lebanon, in 1982 and 1983. The blasts killed 103 IDF Israelis and 46–59 Lebanese, wounding 95 people and were some of the worst losses ever for the IDF...

    , similar attacks against Israeli military posts in Lebanon
  • Khobar Towers Bombing
    Khobar Towers bombing
    The Khobar Towers bombing was a terrorist attack on part of a housing complex in the city of Khobar, Saudi Arabia, located near the national oil company headquarters of Dhahran. In 1996, Khobar Towers was being used to house foreign military personnel.Al-Qaeda has incorrectly been described by...

  • Mountain War

External links

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