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The Islamic Republic of Iran’s representative in Lebanon issued the first public announcement of the Iranian regime’s role in the mass murder of American military and diplomatic personnel in the early 1980s in Beirut.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) first located and translated the bombshell interview with Sayyed Issa Tabatabai, who serves as the representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Lebanon.

The state-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quickly scrubbed the damning disclosure that Tabatabai made about Iran’s role in the suicide bombings of Americans, but MEMRI preserved a copy.

Iran and its chief strategic ally, the U.S.-designated terrorist movement Hezbollah, in Lebanon have been blamed for bombing the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983 in which 63 people, including 17 Americans, were murdered, and dual suicide truck bombers blew up the barracks of American and French members of a multinational force in Lebanon in 1983, in which 220 U.S. Marines, 18 U.S. Navy sailors and 3 U.S. Army soldiers lost their lives. Fifty-eight French troops were also murdered in the terrorist attack.

1983 Marine Barracks bombing.

U.S. Marines search for survivors and bodies in the ruins of their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 24, 1983, the day after a terrorist suicide truck bomb killed 241 U.S. servicemen. (Peter Charlesworth / LightRocket via Getty Images)


According to the MEMRI translation of Tabatabai’s interview with the IRNA, Tabatabai said, “I quickly went to Lebanon and provided what was needed in order to [carry out] martyrdom operations in the place where the Americans and Israelis were.” He added, “The efforts to establish [Hezbollah] started in [Lebanon’s] Baalbek area, where members of [Iran’s] Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) arrived. I had no part in establishing the [political] party [Hezbollah], but God made it possible for me to continue the military activity with the group that had cooperated with us prior to the [Islamic] Revolution’s victory.”

The MEMRI report continued, “It is noteworthy that the part of the interview in which Tabatabai acknowledged receiving Khomeini’s fatwa ordering attacks on American and Israeli targets in Lebanon was removed by IRNA from its website shortly after publication. This is apparently because no official representative of [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini, the father of the Islamic Republic, or of Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, had ever said that Iran had any involvement in ordering, planning and carrying out the massive bombings in Lebanon against U.S.,” wrote MEMRI.

Sayyed Issa Tabatabai

Sayyed Issa Tabatabai in an interview boasted of Iran’s involvement in the 1983 terror bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The interview has since been erased from Iranian media. (Anwar Amro / AFP via Getty Images / File)

Tabatabai also said during the interview, “With the victory of the Islamic Revolution [in Iran], Hezbollah was established [in the summer of 1982]. For two years, [Hezbollah’s] military base was located in my home. ‘The group’ [supporters of the Islamic Revolution] signed a contract declaring their willingness to become martyrs. Perhaps more than 70 [of them] signed this contract in my home.”

The significance of Tabatabai for the highest echelons of Iran’s regime was recently on display on the English language website of Iran’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. An entry shows Tabatabai meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Amir-Abdollahian “highlighted [Sayyed] Issa Tabatabai’s significant support and contributions to enhancing ‘the resistance’s’ position in Lebanon, the region, and the Islamic world,” according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry text.


Marine Barracks bombing

Volunteer rescue workers carry the body of a U.S. Marine on Oct. 24, 1983, the day after a terrorist truck bomb exploded at the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. (Peter Charlesworth / LightRocket via Getty Images)

Michael Rubin, an Iran expert for the American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News Digital, “Americans have astonished both Iranians and the victims of Iranian terrorism with the diplomatic contortions undertaken to avoid holding Iran to account. Now that the supreme leader’s representative has confessed, the questions are: (1) Will Americans who carried water for Iranian terrorism apologize? (2) Will Iran pay compensation to the victims of their terror? If [President] Biden prices five Americans at $6 billion, the U.S. should demand no less than $289.2 billion from Iran today.”

Rubin’s reference to Americans who allegedly aided Iranian terrorism covers the allegations that Iranian Americans, one of whom works for the Defense Department, were involved in foreign lobbying for the Islamic Republic. The U.S. State Department has classified Iran’s regime as the worst international state sponsor of terrorism.

The MEMRI revelation could lead to new lawsuits against Iran’s regime for its role in the murder of American military and diplomatic personnel. According to MEMRI, “Iran has always vehemently denied any role in the bombings. It submitted no defense in response to the 2001 U.S. lawsuits filed against it by families of the hundreds of Americans killed or wounded in the barracks bombings.”

Fox News Digital reported in 2016 that a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed families of victims of the 1983 bombing in Lebanon and other Iran regime-linked attacks to collect almost $2 billion of frozen funds from Iran.

Hezbollah fighters hold flags

Hezbollah fighters hold flags as they attend the memorial of their slain leader, Sheik Abbas al-Mousawi, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike in 1992 in Tefahta, Lebanon, on Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo / Mohammed Zaatari)


Banafsheh Zand, an Iranian-American expert on the Iranian regime, told Fox News Digital, “Issa Tabatabai’s admission is a sign of serious divisions among the regime’s top brass. No one within the ranks of either the clergy or the Revolutionary Guards would confess to such an action unless the infighting among the leadership of the Shia Mafia was escalating. For Tabatabai to acknowledge and take responsibility for that hideous act of terror, he must be sure that his superiors would not or could not punish him, otherwise he would have self-censored and skipped over major details.”

She continued, “But he didn’t. He has laid it all out – before the editors cut out swaths of his interview. So, it’s either that, or he feels he has nothing to lose. Either way, given the Biden [and French President Emmanuel Macron] administrations’ desperation for any facsimile of a deal with the Khomeinist regime, they will likely sweep this under the rug.”

MEMRI wrote that Tabatabai noted the “utter confidence placed in him by both Khomeini and his successor Khamenei, and underlined that he is Khamenei’s trusted representative in Lebanon in all things having to do with finance and the spread of the Shi’a.”

Beirut Barracks bombing

Edwin Marian Johnston holds a photo of her son, Marine Cpl. Edward Johnston, who died in the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, outside federal court on Sept. 7, 2007, in Washington, D.C. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)


A Pentagon spokesperson referred questions from Fox News Digital to the State Department. Neither the State Department nor the National Security Council responded to those questions.

Potkin Azarmehr, a British-Iranian expert on Iran, told Fox News Digital, “It seems no matter how many times the Western leaders see the consequences of their appeasement with terrorists they are still resigned to continue the same doomed path they have in the last four decades.”

Numerous Fox News Digital press queries were sent to the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry and its U.N. mission for comment.

Benjamin Weinthal reports on Israel, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Europe. You can follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

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