Iran accuses Israel of setting up attacks on its own diplomats

After Israeli diplomats were targeted in India and Georgia yesterday, Iran blamed Israel for staging the attacks to heighten international opprobrium against Tehran.

Saurabh Das/AP
A policeman checks the identity of a motorcycle rider at a checkpoint near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, India, Feb. 14. Indian investigators were searching Tuesday for the motorcycle assailant who attached a bomb to an Israeli diplomatic car in the heart of New Delhi in an attack Israel blamed on Iran.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has unequivocally blamed Iran for bombing attacks on Israeli diplomatic targets in India and Georgia yesterday, intensifying an already contentious standoff between Israel and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program.

“Iran is behind these attacks,” Mr. Netanyahu said in an emailed statement, according to Bloomberg. “Israel will act methodically and take strong yet patient action against the international terrorism that originates in Iran.”

Iranian officials have accused Israel of a false flag operation, executing the attacks itself in order to “stir up sympathy from other countries,” Iran’s PressTV reports.

The past record of the Israeli regime clearly demonstrates that its elements have previously carried out such operations to gain popularity and evoke sympathy from other nations, said Deputy Chairman of the Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy Ismail Kowsari on Tuesday.
Kowsari reiterated that Israelis stage such attacks against themselves in an attempt to accuse other countries, particularly Iran, and score political gains for their ominous objectives.

Neither the deputy chairman nor PressTV enumerated any such attacks, however, mentioning only the recent assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist – one of at least four recent murders of nuclear scientists which Iran blames on Israel. However, the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that Israel is not expected to react harshly to yesterday’s bombings.

One reason for this is that if, as is widely believed, Israel is behind a recent series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists in Tehran, government officials presumably knew that Iranian revenge attacks were likely and took that possibility into account. Though an innocent diplomat's wife cannot be compared to a scientist directly involved in Iran's nuclear program, Monday's attacks were still limited enough that they didn't violate the "rules of the game." Indeed, the modus operandi of the New Delhi bombing exactly mimicked that used to kill several of the Iranian scientists. Hence a direct [retaliatory] Israeli military strike on either Hezbollah or Iran seems unlikely.

Nevertheless, two caveats are in order. First, these attacks may not be the last, but rather the first in a series. Second, it could be that the planners were capable of wreaking greater harm, but deliberately chose to cause only modest damage. Israel has repeatedly warned that a mass-casualty Hezbollah attack on Israeli targets overseas would spark a massive Israeli assault on Lebanon, and that is something Iran doesn't seem to want right now.

India is in a difficult spot, with strong ties to both countries.

Indian security experts say that India’s “less-than-stellar intelligence and surveillance capabilities” make it an easier place to stage an attack, the Wall Street Journal reports on its “India Real Time” blog.  “It would be fairly difficult to mount [Monday’s attack] in better policed countries and countries with a better intelligence apparatus,” Ajai Sahni, executive director of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, told the Journal. “India’s vulnerabilities to terrorism are very, very high.”

[Bharat Karnad, a professor of national security studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research] said that India could become “easy ground” for more such attacks if it doesn’t take strong measures. It also needs to send “strong messages to nations to fight their wars in their own land,” he said. Otherwise, “India could see many more attacks of this kind in the future.”

India will likely be under substantial pressure now to weaken its ties to Iran, which it has assiduously maintained despite European and US sanctions, India’s Economic Times reports.

The president of the All India Rice Exporters’ Association will undermine willingness to deal with the  “elaborate” agreements necessary for the two countries to trade despite sanctions that have eliminated many channels of payment they used to use, Reuters reports.

India is Iran’s biggest oil buyer and supplier of rice and it is Iran’s second-largest arms supplier, according to Reuters. The Commerce Ministry is still planning to send a business delegation to Iran this month to look into ways to boost exports to Iran.

In Israel, the whole country has been placed on an increased state of alert, the Associated Press reports, and Israeli officials believe that yesterday’s bombings are the first in “a wave of terror.” This morning, Thailand's capital of Bangkok was rocked by a series of bombings, but there is little conclusive information available regarding those attacks, aside from an identity card found on one of the bombers indicating that he may be Iranian, according to a separate AP report.

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