Blinken marks 40 years since Beirut Marine barracks bombing, omits Iran

(October 24, 2023 / JNS) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement on Monday marking the 40th anniversary of Hezbollah’s Oct. 23, 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that included no mention of Iran.

Blinken noted that “241 U.S. military personnel, including 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers” were murdered in the attack, and that “a second suicide bomber killed 58 French paratroopers” minutes later. Six Lebanese civilians were also killed.

“The abhorrent and shocking attack on the Beirut barracks remains to this day the single deadliest day for the U.S. Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima,” wrote Blinken. “As we reflect on this day, and in light of the ongoing challenges in Lebanon and the region, we remain committed to building a brighter future for Lebanon, the Lebanese people and the broader Middle East.”

According to Gabriel Noronha, a fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America and a former special adviser on Iran at the U.S. State Department, Blinken’s failure to mention Iran was a “massive omission.”

“As Blinken knows perfectly well, Iran funded, planned and directed the attack,” wrote Noronha. He noted that a Pentagon investigation had found many warnings of an impending attack that did not mention a precise target or time, but that the National Security Agency had intercepted a Sept. 26, 1983 message from the Iranian intelligence minister to Tehran’s ambassador in Beirut calling for “spectacular action against the American Marines.”

“Shortly after the attack, the White House confirmed they knew the Iranian Embassy in Beirut disbursed $1 million to carry out the bombings,” added Noronha. “Just this March, a New York federal judge [found] Iran responsible for $1.68 billion in damages from the attack, something Blinken/State Department staff were certainly aware of.”

This was why Blinken’s omission of Iran was “notable and troubling,” he said. “Let me assure you as the person who used to write the secretary of state’s statements on Iran that this isn’t some innocent/absent-minded mistake. This statement has probably been drafted and debated [for] the past two weeks—and I bet there was an argument over this too.”

Originally Published in JNS.