U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said Sunday that internal Hizbullah factions or Syria may be to blame for the killing of Hizbullah operations chief and arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh.
Speaking with Fox News, McConnell said the United States was still reviewing the case following Mughniyeh's death last Tuesday in a blast in Damascus, Syria. Hizbullah blamed Israel and has vowed to attack Jewish targets worldwide in retaliation. That led the FBI last week to be vigilant for possible threats in the U.S. against synagogues and other potential Jewish targets.
"It is a serious threat," McConnell said. Regarding the assassination of Mughniyeh, he said: "There's some evidence that it may have been internal Hizbullah. It may have been Syria. We don't know yet, and we're trying to sort that out."
McConnell said he considered the threat to be primarily against Israel, but added that U.S. intelligence officials are keeping close watch and taking any necessary action to protect the United States because Mughniyeh has been "responsible for more deaths of Americans and Israelis than any other terrorist with the exception of Osama bin Laden."
Iran Nukes Possible by 2009, Likely by 2012
McConnell also said that the threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons has not changed much, despite the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released in December that concluded Tehran halted its clandestine nuclear weapons program in 2003. McConnell said Iran had terminated one aspect of a technical design but "they could have turned it back on now and we wouldn't necessarily know."
'It may have been internal Hizbullah. It may have been Syria. We don't know yet.'
"They could do it by 2009 — unlikely," he said, referring to the ability to make a nuclear bomb. "The range is 2010 to 2015. And the best guess is about the middle range there for having a nuclear weapon."
Barak: Iran, Syria Could Aid Revenge
Hizbullah might target Israelis and Jews abroad with the aid of Iran and Syria, in retaliation for the death of Mughniyeh, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at Sunday's cabinet session. The Defense Ministry has raised its level of alert due to these concerns, he added.
Barak said Mughniyeh was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians and soldiers over dozens of years in numerous countries. He estimated that it would take Hizbullah time to replace Mughniyeh.
Syria and Hizbullah still do not have a clear picture of who assassinated Mughniyeh, Barak told the ministers, but this has not kept Hizbullah from pointing an accusing finger at Israel
"Hizbullah has many friends," the Iranian military source said.
'The Zionist Entity is Collapsing'
Some hours after Barak spoke, an Iranian military source hinted Sunday afternoon that his country may help avenge Mughniyeh's death. "Hizbullah has many friends," the source told Hizbullah's Al Manar TV.
The chairman of Hizbullah's faction in the Lebanese parliament, Muhammad Raad, also threatened Israel. "The Zionist entity now feels that its end is near and it is acting in hysteria," he said. "The Zionist entity tries, through acts like these, to buy time, but this blood that was spilled will only quicken the pace of the Zionist entity's collapse," he boasted.