The covert war between Israel and Iran is heating up. Over the course of 48 hours, three bombings took place targeting Israeli diplomatic staff. They were similar to the attacks that have taken place over the past few years against Iranian nuclear scientists. The rest of the world may be hoping this conflict will go away somehow, but it shows every sign of escalating.
This week's attacks in India, Georgia and Thailand mark the advent of a new phase in the Israeli-Iranian shadow war. They also revealed something of a force mismatch. The attacks against Iranian scientists took place inside Iran, and in the case of Reza Baruni - the mastermind of Iran's drone program - inside his secured home. This week's bombings took place outside of Israel, which suggests the Iranians, if they were behind them, lack the ability to conduct operations inside the Jewish state.
Attacks against Iranian targets have been mostly successful. All but one of the targeted scientists were killed. Yet the anti-Israel attacks failed to kill their intended targets and showed an embarrassing lack of tradecraft. Tuesday's bombing in Bangkok was particularly inept; a man with an Iranian passport first accidentally detonated an explosive in his rented apartment, then shortly afterward blew off one of his legs as he carried another bomb down the street. A reputation for professionalism is critical in the world of covert operations, and whoever these bombers were - whether members of Hezbollah or Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - they did their employers a great deal of harm.
The choice of targets also was revealing. The attacks inside Iran were against nuclear scientists and other high-level people involved with Iran's secret weapons program. Killing highly skilled individuals like this is calculated to have a substantive impact on the ability of Iran to develop an atomic bomb. The Israelis who were targeted were simply those who were available - consular staff in countries where the attackers could make the attempt. Had these innocent Israelis been killed, their deaths would have been tragic but would not have had a direct impact on Israel's security infrastructure. These were not assassination attempts but pure terrorism.
The botched bombings actually were counterproductive. They smell of desperation. They will not improve Iran's standing on the world stage and will not deter Israel from taking further action. In fact, quite the contrary is true. These attacks confirm the worst about Iran and demonstrate to a worried world that the mullahs are willing to conduct operations outside of the Middle East.
The attacks bring to mind the plot to kill Saudi ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir, which the FBI broke up in September. Some were skeptical at the time that Iran would contemplate such a plan because it seemed far-fetched and used inexperienced plotters working through Mexican drug cartels to discuss attacks against Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C., and Buenos Aires. This week's multiple attacks demonstrate that no plan is too absurd and no attackers too incompetent to keep Tehran from lashing out.
The Washington Times
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