INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR: PAPER NO 757
Iran’s covert war using terror against Israeli and Jewish targets continues. This covert war was started by it some months ago against Israeli and Jewish targets in retaliation for what it looks upon as the covert attempts of the Israeli intelligence to disrupt its nuclear programme through suspected assassinations of important Iranian nuclear scientists and disruption of the computer networks of Iranian nuclear establishments through carefully planted viruses.
2. While Israeli covert actions are confined to Iranian territory, Iran, whose intelligence does not have the capability for operating covertly in Israeli territory, has been striking at Israeli and Jewish targets in other countries where Israel has an active presence and which are the favourite destinations of Israeli tourists.
3. The indications are that Iran has been operating through its own intelligence, mainly of the Revolutionary Guards, as well as through elements of the Hezbollah operating from the Lebanon. It has been using the services of pro-Iranian elements in the countries where it wants to operate for the collection of operational information and for providing back-up support to the terrorists chosen and trained by it for carrying out the terrorist strikes against Israeli targets.
4.Since the Iranian intelligence launched its covert war against Israeli and Jewish targets, successful or unsuccessful attempts have been made in Georgia, India, Thailand, Kenya and Cyprus. There was a non-fatal attack against a woman employee of the Israeli embassy in New Delhi married to an Israeli diplomat in February last by using a magnetised improvised explosive device.
5.During the investigation, an Indian Muslim (probably a Shia) reportedly working for sections of the Iranian media was arrested on suspicion of his having played a role in providing back-up support consciously or unconsciously. The investigation does not appear to have made much progress partly for want of clues and partly due to pressure from pro-Iranian elements in the non-governmental community of New Delhi on the police. As a result, our investigation agencies have not been as proactive as one would have expected them to be in identifying and neutralising pro-Iranian terrorism-prone elements in Indian territory.
6.The past strikes directed against Israeli and Jewish targets in different countries, including India, did not cause many fatalities and involve suicide terrorism, a speciality of the Hezbollah. A devastating terrorist attack was carried out by a suicide bomber against a group of Israeli tourists at the Burgas airport in Bulgaria on July 18,2012, causing six fatalities. An injured person was reported to have died subsequently. This has been described as the deadliest terrorist attack against Israeli targets in foreign territory since 2004. It has been reported that the suicide bomber had false US identity papers.
7. Israel has already accused Iran of involvement. The Israeli charges have been vehemently denied by Iran. There has been no claim of responsibility by any organisation. Apart from the Iranian intelligence and the Hezbollah, the only other terrorist organisation having the motive to kill Israelis and with the capability for doing so is Al Qaeda which had in 2002 targeted Israelis in Mombasa. One has to await further evidence before one can be definitive whether Iran and its surrogates or Al Qaeda were involved in the Burgas strike.
8. It is very unlikely that Al Qaeda would have carried out a terrorist strike in support of Iran because there is not much love last between Al Qaeda and Iran and Al Qaeda is greatly concerned over the likelihood of a Shia A-bomb.
9.The present indications direct the needle of suspicion more at Iran and Hezbollah than at Al Qaeda. After the terrorist attack on the Israeli Embassy employee in New Delhi in February last, one thought it might remain a sporadic attack since it would not be in the interest of Iran, which has cordial relations with India, to start a campaign of terrorism against Israeli targets in Indian territory.
10.If the Iranian hand is established in the Burgas attack, it would underline the Iranian determination to continue attacking Israeli and Jewish targets wherever it can, whatever be the political consequences.
11. Even after the February attack in Delhi, I had stressed the importance of our intelligence agencies closely monitoring the activities of the Iranian intelligence and Hezbollah in Indian territory and vigorously investigating the February strike in order to identify and neutralise any terror network Iran might have set up in India. Complacency in this regard due to our close relations with Iran and due to pressures from pro-Iranian non-governmental elements would be dangerous.
12.In the light of the Burgas attack, security for Israeli nationals and establishments should be reviewed and further strengthened. Tourist spots favoured by Israelis would need special attention. (20-7-12)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: email@example.com . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )