- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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 footprints.”

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 against Iran.

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 group.

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 detonated.

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