Few probably remember the day in August 1996 when Bill Clinton signed into law the "Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996" (otherwise known as D'Amato-Kennedy ILSA) during a televised signing ceremony attended by family members of the victims of the Lockerbie Pan Am 103 bombing.
That bill originated in 1995 after the announcement that Russia was helping Iran build a nuclear facility at Bushehr. President Clinton, worried about Iran gaining WMDs, signed two executive orders in mid 1995 enacting sanctions regarding energy trading and the sale of aircraft parts directly to Iran. But when it became apparent other countries were ignoring those efforts Senators Alfonse D'Amato and Ted Kennedy came up with the bill as a way to force other countries into playing ball.
Reaction from around the world was not good. Some considered it a backdoor trade war, while the European Union directed member states not to participate. Keep in mind the world loved us back then.
During this same happy time period, when peace guided the planet and love steered the stars, rumors were that manpad missiles were being smuggled into the country from Canada. The Olympics were coming and it was also an election year so tensions were likely high.
Anyway, the House passed their version of D'Amato-Kennedy, HR3107, on June 19, 1996 by a vote of 415-0. On June 25, 1996 members of the Iranian proxy group Saudi Hiz'allah bombed the Khobar Towers, killing 19 US service people and injuring many more.
Then the Senate passed D'Amato-Kennedy by unanimous consent on July 16, 1996.
One day later, on the 17th, TWA flight 800 crashed off the coast of Long Island. Many witnesses thought a missile brought it down because streaks or flare-like objects were seen prior to the explosion.
The story has been told and retold--despite some odd behavior from various federal entities and the trace presence of PETN and RDX residue on the aircraft the NTSB and FBI concluded that a spark probably occurred in low voltage electrical circuitry inside the fuel tank and blew up the plane, the first and last such occurrence on a US commercial jet in flight.
No terrorist group took direct responsibility, but one group did issue a strange missive around the same time:
"The mujahideen will deliver the ultimate response to the threats of the foolish American president. Everyone will be amazed at the size of that response," it read in part. "Their time is at the morning-dawn. Is not the morning-dawn near?"No one knows exactly what was meant by 'the foolish American president' but one can surmise. The group that issued the communique, the "Islamic Change Movement", had also taken credit for the bombing of US military barracks in Riyadh in 1995 that killed five. The genesis of our sanctions was also in 1995.
The first ILSA was set to expire on August 5, 2001. Although some sanctions were weakened the bill was extended on August 3, 2001. We all know what happened in September.
Fast forward to 2009, where the House just overwhelmingly passed an update to the ILSA act on December 15 by a vote of 412 to 12. Weeks later an airplane was almost blown up approaching Detroit.
Coincidences? Most likely, since it would blow that whole Sunni-Shiite thing wide open and change everything we know about AQ. But it is a little weird.