BEIRUT: A recently released book by an American author claims that charismatic Shiite Imam Musa Sadr was executed, and that an Iranian figure was involved in his killing.
Rumors surrounding what happened to Sadr, who has been defined as “missing” by the Lebanese state since the late ’70s, are never-ending.
Kai Bird’s biography of CIA agent Robert Ames, “The Good Spy,” claims that Sadr was killed in Libya.
“Ames was told by his Palestinian sources that eventually Imam Musa Sadr and his two traveling companions [Sheikh Mohammad Yaaqoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine] had been summarily executed and buried at an unmarked desert gravesite,” writes Bird, an American author, columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer.
The story goes that Gadhafi was set to hold a meeting between Sadr and Mohammed Beheshti, a Shiite Iranian scholar close to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who would later be assassinated in 1981.
While Beheshti was a proponent for a Shiite theological state, Sadr argued it was prohibited for Shiite imams to exercise political power. Gadhafi, a Sunni, wanted the two to come to an agreement on an anti-Western political agenda and agreed to host the two figures to work out their differences. But although Sadr arrived in Tripoli for the conference, Beheshti never showed.
“ Musa Sadr was an impatient man, and after several days of waiting in his hotel for a meeting with Qaddafi [Gadhafi] that never materialized he announced that he was packing his bags and leaving Libya,” writes Bird. “Arriving at the Tripoli airport, Musa Sadr was escorted to the VIP departure lounge. In the meantime, Beheshti told Qaddafi to detain Musa Sadr by all means necessary.”
Beheshti reportedly gave Gadhafi assurances that Sadr was a “Western agent” and in response, says Bird, the Libyan dictator told his security forces to try and coax Sadr back to his hotel room. Instead, a scuffle ensued and Sadr was thrown into a car and taken to a prison where he would stay for months.
“Qaddafi was angered when he discovered what had happened but he felt he couldn’t release Imam Sadr without embarrassing himself politically,” Bird writes.
Under pressure from Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, Gadhafi later called Beheshti to make a decision about how to handle Sadr. According to Bird, Beheshti told him Sadr was a threat to Khomeini. Sadr was last seen on Aug. 31, 1978 in Libya.
Lebanese government officials regularly promise investigations into Sadr’s disappearance, though little solid information is ever unveiled. The latest attempt was announced two days ago when a new committee was formed to follow up on Sadr’s disappearance. The committee’s formation was announced by former Lebanese MP Hasan Yaaqoub, the son of Sheikh Mohammad Yaaqoub.
Sadr, the founder of Lebanon’s Amal Movement, which is now led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, would be 86 years old if alive today.
“The Good Spy” was released in 2014 and has received a rating of 4/5 stars on Amazon by customer reviews. Kai Bird is a Pulitzer Prize winning biographer for writing “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” (Knopf, 2005).