U.S. concerned about spike in Iran-Israel ‘shadow war’ (WASHINGTON TIMES) By Guy Taylor 07/14/12)
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The “shadow war” between Israel and Iran is escalating, Middle East
analysts say, as a wave of terrorist incidents in far-flung corners
of world unsettles U.S. officials.
Monday’s bombing of an Israeli diplomat’s car in New Delhi, a foiled
attack the same day on Israeli officials in Tiblisi, Georgia, and an
explosion involving a suspected Iranian bomb maker in Bangkok on
Tuesday are just the latest examples.
All three follow attacks that targeted Iranians during the past two
years, but the New Delhi bombing bore striking resemblance to one
last month in which a motorcyclist used magnets to affix a deadly
bomb to a nuclear scientist’s car in Tehran.
“This is part of what we call the ‘shadow war,’” said Uzi Rabi, a
historian at Tel Aviv University. “It means the kind of things that
can be used and done by states without actually leaving behind some
U.S. officials have condemned this week’s attacks but stopped short
of openly endorsing assertions by Israeli leaders, who have blamed
the incidents in India, Georgia and Thailand on Iran, and
specifically the Iranian-supported Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
“These events do come on the heels of other disrupted attacks
targeted at Israel and Western interests, including an Iranian-
sponsored attack in Baku, Azerbaijan, and a Hezbollah-linked attack
in Bangkok, Thailand, before this,” said State Department spokeswoman
Victoria Nuland, who noted that U.S. officials are “concerned” about
a “spike in the number of incidents that we’ve seen.”
Authorities in Thailand last month arrested a Lebanese man suspected
of Hezbollah ties and accused of plotting an attack on tourists. Also
in January, three men in Azerbaijan were arrested on charges of
plotting an attack on Israelis working at a Jewish school in Baku,
the Central Asian nation’s capital.
Iranian officials have denied any involvement in the incidents.
Similarly, Israel denied involvement when Iranian leaders accused
Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, last month of working with
the CIA to carry out attacks in Tehran.
But the specter of a growing proxy war ratchets up an already tense
standoff about Iran’s nuclear program. Western leaders have grown
increasingly dismissive toward Iranian claims that the program is
peaceful, and several world powers have joined in economic sanctions
In recent weeks, U.S. and European leaders have attempted to attract
support for a global embargo on Iranian crude oil.
The crude passes through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the
Persian Gulf. Nerves were on edge there Tuesday when Iranian patrol
boats and aircraft continued trailing a U.S. aircraft carrier strike
U.S., British and French warships entered the Gulf last month in a
show of force against Iranian threats to block the Strait of Hormuz,
through which one-fifth of the world’s crude oil is transported.
The incident in Bangkok, meanwhile, involved a man’s legs being blown
off when a grenade he had been carrying exploded. Four people also
were injured by the blast, which occurred after a separate explosion
ripped part of the roof off a house linked to the man, identified by
authorities as an Iranian named Saeid Moradi.
A stash of explosives apparently detonated by accident in the house,
prompting Mr. Moradi to flee, according to a report by the Associated
Press that quoted a Bangkok police general as saying the
Iranian “tried to wave down a taxi, but he was covered in blood, and
the driver refused to take him.”
He then hurled a grenade at police, but it somehow bounced back and
The incident happened one day after a magnetic bomb attached to an
Israeli Embassy car in New Delhi injured four people, including the
wife of an Israeli Defense Ministry official. A similar attack was
foiled in Tiblisi on Monday, when police defused a bomb found under
an Israeli diplomat’s car.
The incidents, far from Iranian and Israeli soil, fall amid concerns
among some senior U.S. officials about Iran’s terrorism ambitions.
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper told the Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence on Jan. 31 that if Iran feels
threatened, it could seek to carry out terrorist attacks in the
Mr. Clapper cited the charges filed last fall by the Justice
Department, which revealed a failed plot by Iranian officials to hire
an assassin from a Mexican drug cartel to kill a Saudi diplomat in
U.S. foreign policy observers remain skeptical of the plot’s
legitimacy, citing difficulty in identifying a clear Iranian
motive. “I still have a lot of questions about that particular plot,”
said Barbara Slavin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council foreign
policy think tank in Washington.
“I think these incidents of trying to kill Israelis overseas make
more sense to me than a plot against the Saudi ambassador in
“There’s ample evidence of a covert war between Israel and Iran, and
it goes back a long time,” she said, noting significance in the
timing of the current wave of attacks.
The India, Georgia and Thailand incidents happened during a week
marking the anniversaries of two assassinations of former major
Hezbollah operatives. The group’s co-founder and former secretary-
general, Abbass al-Musawi, was killed by an Israeli attack helicopter
Feb. 16, 1992, and its former military chief, Imad Mughniyeh, was
killed by a car bomb Feb. 12, 2008.
“Hezbollah has been trying to retaliate for years, and the timing of
the India attack suggests a connection,” said Ms. Slavin. “But what
is new and more ominous is the fact that Iran now has a maturing
nuclear program and five Iranian scientists connected to the nuclear
and missile programs have been assassinated in recent years, and, of
course, Israel is widely believed to be behind those incidents.”
Mr. Rabi said that Iran’s willingness to employ shadow war tactics
against Israel reflects the Islamic republic’s lack of other options
for aggressively responding to Western pressure.
“They can’t respond by shutting the Strait of Hormuz because doing so
would be perceived by the West as a reason to wage war against Iran,”
he said. “They can’t order Hezbollah to attack Israel from Lebanon
because Israel would retaliate.”
By engaging in attacks similar to those by Israeli agents, Mr. Rabi
said, Iran is sending a “signal that ‘we can do to you what you are
doing to us in our neighborhood — if you can use proxies, we can use
proxies, too.’” (© 2012 The Washington Times, LLC. 07/14/12)
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