Wednesday’s suicide bombing of an Israeli tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian tour guide, as well as the bomber himself. Over thirty Israelis were also injured, three of them seriously.
The bomber had a fake driver’s license of the state of Michigan. On Thursday evening Bulgarian media named him as Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish citizen who was in the Guantanamo detainment camp from 2002 to 2004 and whose freedom was basically secured by the Swedish authorities. Sweden, however, denied the report’s accuracy.
Video footage from the day of the bombing shows that the perpetrator, with long hair, shorts, sneakers, a baseball cap, and a backpack, clearly intended to look like something other than a suicide bomber.
On the other hand, the Israeli daily Haaretz reports that “airport security cameras captured the suspect roaming the airport for at least one hour.” If so, it’s hardly to airport security’s credit that their suspicions weren’t even aroused enough to question him—if they were watching at all.
But Iran—to which Israel’s prime minister, defense minister, and foreign minister publicly assigned ultimate responsibility for the attack—has been trying for months to mass-murder Israelis in less-efficient countries like Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, and others. This time the attempt “succeeded”: “Body parts were strewn across the ground, mangled metal hung from the bus’s ripped roof and black smoke billowed over the airport.”
Israel prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: “All signs point to Iran…. This is [part of] a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react firmly to it.” In a press conference Thursday evening he added “that Israel and world security agencies have caught Hizbullah and Iranian operatives in [numerous] countries, after attacks, planning terror attacks and laying the infrastructure to wage their war of terror.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated: “The immediate executors [of Wednesday’s attack] are Hizbullah operatives, who of course have constant Iranian sponsorship.” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also said he had conclusive information implicating Hizbullah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Speculations have attributed the attack to Hizbullah’s desire to avenge the 2008 assassination in Damascus of its terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, for which it blames Israel, and Iran’s desire to avenge the recent assassinations of nuclear scientists, for which it blames Israel as well. But these are, at most, proximate causes; for both these bodies the destruction of Israel is a central goal, and the murder of its citizens has consistently been a means toward it.
Iran, for its part, denied involvement in the Burgas attack—which is meaningless, since it also, for instance, denies involvement in the 1994 bombing attack on a Jewish community building in Buenos Aires. Not only does Argentina openly charge Iran with that atrocity, which occurred exactly 18 years before Wednesday’s bombing and killed 85, but Iran’s current defense minister, Ahmed Vahidi, is wanted by Interpol for his role in it.
The Burgas bombing comes at a time when the defense analyst for Haaretz, Amos Harel, reports that Israel and the United States are not really “on the same page” regarding Iran despite U.S. claims to the contrary. Harel says the Obama administration is worried about Defense Minister Barak’s “uncharacteristic silence” lately.
Israel, for its part, doesn’t share Washington’s optimism about the sanctions on Iran and believes Iran can last them out for another year. Which, from Jerusalem’s standpoint, is too long, since it would enable Iran to “pass the ‘threshold’—the point at which they could produce nuclear weapons without Israel being able to stop them militarily.”
Meanwhile Con Coughlin, defense editor of Britain’s Telegraph, reports that a
specialist team of 60 [Iranian] nuclear scientists has been seconded to a specially-designated unit…which answers directly to the Revolutionary Guards, the elite force under the control of Iran’s supreme leader….
The new unit, which [was] set up last year, has been established to work on the key areas of the weapons programme that still need to be completed before Iran can start work on assembling a nuclear weapon….
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader who has overall responsibility for Iran’s nuclear programme, is keen for Iran’s nuclear scientists to intensify their efforts to achieve the technological expertise required for making an atom bomb….
Many of the scientists working for the new unit are in direct contact with the newly-constructed underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, another top-secret complex whose existence was only revealed three years ago by Barack Obama.
Coughlin attributes the current flurry of top-level U.S. visits to Israel—recently by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta due later this month—to “mounting concern in Washington that the Israelis are in the final stages of preparing an attack.”
Whether or not that’s the case, the reasons that Israel has a shorter timeline on Iranian nukes than the U.S. are clear, and the Burgas slaughter should make them even clearer: that Iran’s rhetoric constantly singles out Israel for genocide; that Iran and its proxies already pursue Israeli diplomats and civilians all over the globe in hopes of mounting murderous attacks on them; that possession of nukes would vastly multiply Iran’s murderous capacity; and that Israel is small and quite close to the Islamic Republic.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator in Beersheva, Israel. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com.