Yossef Bodansky's "Target America" (1993)
edited into a question and answer format

"The February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York was but one of the first events in a new phase of the Islamist Jihad against the West, one that if carried out as planned, will be characterized by a spate of terrorism throughout America and Western Europe." (1993)

Part One:

  1. Was the nature of the attack on the World Trade Center really a suprise to US military and intelligence with experience in Middle Eastern terrorism?

    According to a former trainee in Wakilabad, one of the exercises included having an Islamic Jihad detachment seize (or hijack) a transport aircraft. Then, trained air crews from among the terrorists would crash the airliner with its passengers into a selected objective.

    Hushang Morteza'i, an experienced Iranian pilot, served as a flight instructor for the IRGC until 1983. He described another form of suicide bombings in which pilots crashed Pilatus PC07 aircraft loaded with explosives into major targets and died like martyrs. The training of suicide pilots started in Busher air base in Iran in the early 1980s, with some 90 Pilatus PC-7 aircraft purchased from Switzerland... Tehran decided to send experienced pilots, including Hushang Morteza'i, to the Won San air base in North Korea, where they would "be trained under the supervision of Korean instructors, known for their kamikaze flights" for one year.

    In the mid-1980s, some of Iran's PC-7 suicide planes were ready for operations, based at the Dowshan Tappeh air base near Tehran. Their targets were the palaces of heads of state of the Gulf states. The pilots of this suicide squadron were graduates of the North Korean training program... By 1983, the IRGC suicide squadrons also included 25 Cessna TurboJets [sic], some Falcon Jets and a few DC-3s.

    A highly specialized suicide training camp, staffed by Vietnamese and North Korean experts, was located in the Ghayour-Ali base near Ahwaz. Volunteers there are brainwashed and trained to become human bombs in Western cities...

    For the disruption of aerial traffic in the West, from airport attacks to hijacking, Iran maintained two major installations for terrorist training. The first installation was established in Wakilabad near Mashhad. The entire Western-built airport was given over to the terrorist training program. The latest Western airport equipment was purchased and transferred to the training facility. Iran Air maintained a Boeing 707 and a Boeing 727 jet in the airport, and could send a Boeing 747 for special classes. There were several former Iran Air and Iranian Air Force pilots among the staff and students, including some who were trained in the United States...

    Since early 1988, there has been a surge in the Iranian preparations and training for terrorist strikes against Western civil aviation. Terrorists specially trained in surveying and preparing terrorist attacks on civil aviation (aircraft and airports) are deployed as crew members on Iran Air aircraft for flights all over the world. They also recruit airport workers or neighbors and create cells for future operations. Highly trained expert terrorist hit teams [men and women] are deployed as Iran Air stewards so that their official uniforms would enable them to move freely around the airports. They arrive unarmed on Iran Air flights and retrieve their weapons and explosives from operatives and/or caches on-site.

  2. What are the motives and goals of Islamist terror operations?

    One of the main objectives of the Iranian terrorist system was to launch daring operations in the West, especially in the United States...

    Tehran believes that the West, especially the U.S., is still committed to the eradication of the Islamic revolutionary movement...

    Indeed, since mid-1985 Iran was increasing its specialized terrorist training program for foreigners prepared for high-risk operations overseas...

    Since the late 1980s, Tehran continued to significantly expand the training infrastructure for highly sophisticated clandestine and terrorist operations in the West. Most important is the new SAVAMA school established in 1986 at the Aqdassiah base near Tehran. It is the training site for death squads and assassination teams for the elimination of the regime's enemies overseas, mainly in Western Europe and the U.S.

  3. If suicide is a major spiritual transgression in the religion of Islam, how do suicide bombers justify their actions?

    The Shi'ite collective exaltation of the martyr as an emulation of the legacy of Imam Hussein is at the foundation of the HizbAllah's approach to suicide terrorism. Sheikh Fadlallah provides the clear definition for the justified and international martyrdom at the heart of suicide terrorism:

    The martyr constitutes an offering to sacrifice himself for a cause worthy of struggling for. He contains the concept of sacrifice that is all the values of liberty in the world. The difference between [martyrdom and] suicide is in the goal, not in the act in itself. He who commits suicide kills himself for his own private reasons, such as a desperation with life, financial problems, or comparable reasons. If the suicide is motivated by the defense of a cause, it becomes martyrdom. Within the religious vision of martyrdom there is a political dimension. The par excellence example is that of Imam Hussein who fought far numerous enemies for the values of justice, liberty, and the truth.

    Indeed, Sheikh Fadlallah asserts that one's death is determined as martyrdom on the basis of the original intentions rather than the actual cause of death.

  4. How do the Islamist terrorists justify the killing of innocent people?

    Sheikh Abbas al-Mussawi was fully aware of the issue of hurting innocent people in the course of terrorist attacks and bombings and argued that they should not constitute a hindrance to the realization of a divine objective. "There are mistakes sometimes, of course, but our actions are justifiable because we are defending all Muslims in Lebanon against the United States and Israel." All victims, innocent bystanders, and Hizbollahi are parts of the Shi'ite myth of martyrdom.

  5. Do terrorist organizations always reveal their responsibility for acts of terror?

    However, the highly proficient Syrian intelligence did its utmost not to leave its fingerprints while making full use of the large diversity of groups available for credible deniability in overseas terrorism.

    ....The intensity and significance of the terrorist operations were skillfully concealed through a massive campaign of disinformation and deception.

  6. When a terrorist operation is blamed on a single individual, how reliable is that appraisal?

    ....In early 1986, PLO sources pointed out that there were some 300 followers of Abu-Nidal in Western Europe ready to strike. They also claimed that Abu-Nidal, ostensibly dead since 1983, is a cover name for "the secret services of some arab countries." (Indeed, soon after the Rome and Vienna attacks, there were rumors that Abu-Nidal was hospitalized in Yugoslavia.) Dr. Nabil Sha'th of the PLO stated: Abu-Nidal is a alias given to Arab terrorist that operate in collaboration with Arab intelligence services...

    But certain Arab intelligence organs spend large funds in order to maintain his alias, in order to use it in crimes they commit against the Palestinian people in particular and the Arab people in general, so that such crimes will not be traced back to the actual perpetrators.

  7. How are terrorist networks organized?

    The outcome of the conferences and consultations in 1984-86 was the emergence of an entirely new three-tiered pyramid-type organization for the coordination of and control over terrorism in Western Europe. The pyramid consisted of:

    1.the centralized high command;
    2.the field officers, and
    3.the expert trigger-men

    ....The second tier is comprised of field officers in charge of preparing and carrying out the operations and assaults...They provided the trigger men with detailed instructions and weapons and then disappeared after the attack...The expert trigger men constitute the third tier. They are sent from training camps in Iran and Syria to Europe prior to the intended operations. In Europe, they "are" stored for months in safe locations by the local support system.

    ....For back-up, logistical support and services, the terrorist groups rely on local supporters or criminals in order to limit the number of foreigners involved in the conduct of the operation. Further, the key professional elements of the terrorist operations, such as operation officers, sabotage and communications experts, must be installed in Western Europe, in the general area of their intended operation, for at least a year with a credible and clean, non-diplomatic cover, so that the local security authorities will lose interest in them while the operatives get to know their area of operation. Commanders stay in the background during the strike itself. Perpetrators arrive on the scene at the last moment...

    These sleepers were "wonderfully anonymous" and abundant. The members of most of these Iranian networks remained dormant. Their members continued their normal lives and were activated only when the expert bomb makers arrived and needed lodging and transportation.

    ....The entire bombing campaign in 1985-86 was conducted by a 10-man network, all of them included Islamists recruited from diversified walks of life. They included taxi drivers, subway peddlers, university students, a restaurant owner and a perfume company manager. The entire network and its fringe support system did not go beyond some 50-60 members, all of them Lebanese, Iranians, Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians.

  8. How experienced are these networks in avoiding detection?

    The most important recommendation on security issues was the realization that after 15 years of operational experience in Europe, the terrorist organizations had streamlined their operations and have acquired valuable experience to the point that they are basically invulnerable to conventional surveillance-wiretaps, photography and other kinds of surveillance.

  9. How are terrorist operatives recruited?

    .... When some of these Muslim youth are judged ready and ripe for recruitment they are contacted by Arab "businessman" from outside the country, who offer them tempting education and job offers, usually in a foreign country, at first, and then in the Middle East. These Arab "businessmen" promise to compensate the families of the recruited youth so that by signing up they also help their relatives who remain in Europe. Once vetted, cleansed and agitated, those recruited end up in the HizbAllah training camps in Lebanon or Iran...

  10. How are they trained and indoctrinated?

    After basic training and indoctrination, the trainees are dispatched to camps in Syria, Iran or Libya where they receive expert and specialized terrorist training...Average courses have 300 trainees each. They are taught to use explosives, handguns and knives as well as "the latest technology of death." Most important is the Tehran Khomeini training camp where they are thoroughly trained after being brainwashed by Vietnamese specialists. Iran has succeeded in organizing a molding system for the prospective trigger men by which, from the very beginning of their training, they are turned into fanatics, bewitched by the use of slogans. The process of conditioning goes even into creating a false, politically explosive, biography for each of the trainees...

    The special Imam school in Shiraz, whose opening was announced by Rayshahri, specializes in espionage and counterespionage techniques aimed at helping the graduates run clandestine networks overseas. Each class has an average of 250 students, 200 of whom are members of the security-intelligence service of the IRGC. The other 50 are from Persian Gulf countries, mainly Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain who return to their home countries after completing their training...

  11. Where do terrorist states find high quality commanders for their covert terrorist operations?

    ....A most important component of the expected escalation of the terrorist operations in Western Europe is the placement of new high quality commanders. The new field commanders of the Islamist terrorist operation are drawn from a small and highly professional group composed of former junior officers and NCOs of Arab armies, primarily from technical service and elite units. Many of the participating Egyptians, Syrians and Iranians underwent extensive training in the commando and special forces of their countries as well as overseas.

  12. How are suicide bombers handled in practice?

    That night, the two drivers were taken from the Biqaa to the house of Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, who "gave his blessings" and assured them of a place in heaven for their sacrifice. The next morning they woke up an hour before the operation, prayed, had tea with a cookie, kissed the Koran and drove away. The cookies were laced with drugs which were administered by Dr. Aziz al-Abub (whose real name was Ibrahim al-Nahdhir), an Iranian protégé of Abu-Nidal and Fadlallah who had received "special training in the techniques of mind control" from the KGB in the USSR. In the mid-1980s, he emerged as the primary torturer of Western hostages. On October 23, 1983, at 6:17 AM, Martyr Chubtarasha crashed his Yellow Mercedes truck loaded with 300kg of high explosives into the U.S. Marines barracks.

  13. What is the role of embassies in terrorist networks and operations?

    ....Sebri al-Banna (Abu-Nidal) was the other great influence on the fledgling Islamist terrorist movement...Special attention was paid to operative and agent selection, training and indoctrination. Agents and weapons were planted well in advance of potential attacks. A locally-based detachment that would not be involved in the operation conducted target reconnaissance, prepared papers, itineraries, safe houses, etc. This group always cooperated with a locally-based embassy. It was Abu-Nidal's golden rule: never operate without the complete backing of the security and diplomatic sevices of at least one state.

    The Iranian embassy in Rome also directed various clandestine operations, including finding and assassinating anti-Khomeini Iranian exiles. The Iranians maintained a network of Iranian and Lebanese operatives who operated alone as well as in cooperation with the Italian neo-fascists.

    ....the real quality nets, at least in France are yet to be uncovered. Members of these "sleeper" nets have perfectly authentic French identity papers and have been in the country for years. Additional authentic papers were issued by French embassies overseas, especially in Senegal, Tunisia and Guinea where French diplomats and local workers were members of HizbAllah.

    The terrorist leaders who gathered in May 1986 pointed out that it was impossible to prepare and operation and carry it out without the active support of at least one embassy or other diplomatic institution.

  14. Is there a split between "normal" government operations and the operation of terror campaigns in the states that sponsor terrorist attacks?

    In the late 1980s, Mansuri was made Ambassador to Pakistan, a center for the export of the revolution into the U.S. He was then assured by Ali Khamenei, Iran's spiritual guide, that the apparatus he had set up to export the revolution would remain under his control and that Iranian embassies abroad would continue their work according to the programs that Mansuri had especially designed for each of them.

    Indeed, Prime Minister Mir Hussein Mussavi complained on September 5 or 7, 1988 in his resignation letter to Ali Khamenei that the terrorist campaign was being run by Khamenei and Hashemi-Rafsanjani without the participation of the government.

    "External/Overseas operations are carried out without our knowledge and without our orders. You know how damaging the effect of this situation has been for our country. Only after an airplane is hijacked are we informed. Only when a machine gun opens fire in a Lebanese street and the sound of it echoes everywhere do we find out about the incident. Only after explosives are discovered in the possession of our pilgrims in Jiddah [Saudi Arabia] do I find out about it. Unfortunately, and in spite of the damages and harm caused by these actions to the country, such operations can take place, at any hour in the name of government."

    Mussavi confirmed in his letter that these terrorist operations were being conducted under the direct command of Khamenei, and that consequently Mussavi and others are "deprived of any power in the foreign policy sphere."

  15. Can covert terrorist networks be broken and if so how?

    The terrorist groups proved extremely stable, some having been active for 15 years despite attempts to penetrate and break them. However, there is no sure protection against well placed human sources, no defense against good spies. The most professional networks are those which are compartmentalized, organized into isolated cells so that no one has the entire picture. No one is then capable of identifying senior commanders, etc. Their presence should always be taken into account when establishing an operational net overseas.

  16. What was Saddam Hussein's motivation for the Gulf War and in what ways did Iran thwart his aims?

    Saddam Hussein's real war was for the heart, soul, and future of the Muslim world, especially of the Arabs. The invasion of Kuwait which led to the Gulf War and the subsequent missile attacks on Israel were means toward this end of domination. In the summer of 1990, immediately after the invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein tried desperately to draw the Arab world intothe fold of fundamentalist Islam which was, ironically, dominated by his arch enemy, Iran.

    The only way Saddam Hussein could reverse the trend toward Iran was to lead an anti-American Jihad of his own...

    In mid-November, Iraq tried desperately to avert a strategic realignment by sending a high level military delegation led by Izat Ibrahim to Tehran, but to no avail. In late 1990, Tehran and Damascus decided not to join Iraq, but only after Tehran had convinced Baghdad to evacuate to Iran much of Iraq's strategic equipment, such as aircraft, tanks, and artillery, which were ultimately confiscated by the Iranians. However, Tehran declared its neutrality in case of a war against Iraq only on December 31.

    Tehran's position now was that is agreement with Baghdad on the danger of the U.S. Presence in the region should not be confused with acceptance of Saddam Hussein's leadership or support of Iraq. Discussing the U.S. Danger in the Persian Gulf, Fadlallah stated, "the fact that we agree with Saddam on this issue does not make him an Arab hero." For this he lacks the format and the moral standing...

    The most important reason for the failure of the anticipated terrorist campaign was that Iran and Syria had reneged on their deal with Saddam Hussein and actively prevented their terrorists from supporting the Iraqi cause. Since the international terrorist system controlled by Iran and Syria is the best organized and most capable in the industrialized West, there was not much the Iraqis could do once they were denied access to this infrastructure.

Remember: This material was available in a mass market paperback in 1993.

Text Copyright: Yossef Bodansky, 1993
Question and Answer format: Copyright: Ken McCarthy, 2001

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