The Middle East loved the Eighties. Or I should say, the terrorists loved the Eighties. Iran and Iraq were at war with each other, yet both supported terrorist groups. Syria also played the game, as did Libya. It became quite the fashion to send bombers in training to Lebanon, then Southern Europe, especially Italy and Bavaria, the most effective to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan and the most daring to a short mission in Israel. Along the way they built madrassahs everywhere, to recruit and indoctrinate the next generation of sociopaths.
It’s telling to see that the terrorists preferred Soviet or Israeli targets when they wanted to feel effective, and American businessmen when they just wanted a little press. It’s not clear what the Americans did when military forces were attacked, but the world changed when a bomber drove a munition-laden truck into the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, which event caused the U.S. to effectively cede Lebanon to the thugs. From there, terrorists felt that their claims had been proven true; the Americans were just like the Soviets, weak when put to the test, and they rejoiced at the opportunity to establish their control throughout the Mediterranean basin. The timid response from the West German, Italian, and French governments only reinforced this impression.
The air strikes ordered at various times by President Reagan made American military targets relatively less desirable than other options. The terrorists made a pattern clear by choosing softer targets, but ones just as spectacular, as evidenced by the Lockerbie bombing in 1988. Literally dozens of terrorist groups sprang up, and with easy pickings in Europe, International operations became popular, especially with sponsor governments playing the Americans and Soviets against each other.
The focus for the terrorists changed with the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev to power in Moscow. The wily bureaucrat understood that to play the predictable East vs. West game would be disastrous, especially for the East, with rising tensions just to the South of the Soviet borders. Accordingly, Gorbachev did his best to persuade American assistance in the Middle East, which also suited Reagan’s intentions for the region. Israel received quiet but significant assistance from both the USA and USSR, not for its political stance but as an island of stability in the region. Jordan’s King Hussein, ever savvy, also jumped at the chance to be seen as a force for peace, and the terrorists abruptly saw their welcome revoked in many places, at least publicly.
(to be continued in further articles)