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Middle East Terrorist Actions Analysis Introduction

In the course of the 1980s, Americans-diplomats, military personnel, and ordinary civilianswere the the immediate targets and victims of a number of terrorist operations launched by Iranians, by Iranianaffiliated groups, or by radical Palestinian groups. The character of these operations varied widely, from the kidnapping of individual Americans off of Beirut streets through the course of the 1980s (a pattern that peaked in 1985; see Merari et al., 1986, p. 60), to the bomb explosion that killed 241 U.S. Marines in their barracks, also in Beirut, in October of 1983 (Mickolus, Sandler, and Murdock, Sandler, and Murdock, 1989, pp. 45152).

The effectiveness of the terrorist actions directed at Americans also varied widely. The Tehran embassy hostage crisis of 197981 helped precipitate the fall of the Carter Administration (Sick, 1991). The bombing of the Marine barracks drove the U.S. forces out of Lebanon (Hanle, 1989, p. 116), and the kidnapping and hostageholding of Americans in Beirut through the decade led to armsforhostages sales to Iran by the Reagan Administration, and ultimately helped to set the stage for the IranContra scandal. (The roots of the armsforhostages sales and thus of IranContra may, however, go back to the Tehran embassy hostage crisis; see Sick, 1991.) The hijacking of an American airliner from Athens to Beirut in June of 1985 led to U.S. pressure on Israel for the release of several hundred jailed Lebanese Shias (Clutterback, 1987, pp. 19394).

On the other hand, the "seajacking" of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by the radical Palestinian organization of Abu Nidal in October of 1985 failed to produce any gains for the Nidal organization (Clutterback, 1987, pp. 19495). The hijackers ended up in Italian prisons, and Nidal himself was briefly held in custody, though the Italian government released him for lack of evidence. The failure of the Achille Lauro hijacking to pr...

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