The twin bomb attacks today against Israeli embassy personnel in the capitals of India and Georgia signal an important and dangerous escalation of tensions between Iran and Israel.
Israel is already, perhaps too quickly, blaming Tehran for the attacks. But it wouldn’t be very surprising if Iran, or its ally Hezbollah, is responsible for the bombings.
Although they caused little damage—in India, a bomb wounded the wife of an Israeli diplomat and in Georgia, the bomb was noticed and defused—the bombs could lead to a tit-for-tat worsening of the already tense Iran-Israel confrontation. The Obama administration has sent clear messages to Israel, as did the Bush administration too, that it doesn’t want Israel to carry out a military operation against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Despite hot rhetoric (on both sides), Israel isn’t likely to attack Iran, yet. But the growing tensions are in part calculated by Israel and its US supporters, including the neoconservatives, to pressure President Obama on foreign policy.
It’s widely known that Israel is supporting a campaign of terrorism against Iran, including assassinations of its nuclear scientists. According to many reports, Israel’s Mossad—in alliance with the cult-like Iranian opposition group, the MEK—is carrying out bombings and other covert operations inside Iran.
In a February 9 piece in The National Interest, former US intelligence official Paul Pillar harshly condemned the anti-Iran terrorism and called on the United States to take strong steps to distance itself from Israel:
The assassinations are terrorism.… The United States needs to distance itself as much as possible from this ugliness, for the sake of adhering to its own principles as well as trying to avoid sliding any further toward catastrophe. It was good that Secretary of State Clinton quickly disavowed the most recent assassination, but distancing requires something more. Forget the lockstep business. Israel is out of step with American policy because it evidently is out of step with American values and American interests. Washington needs to proclaim loudly and repeatedly that the sort of terrorism that the NBC report describes is the antithesis of how differences with Iran ought to be settled, and that those differences need to be settled through diplomacy. Then negotiate like we really mean it.
Of course, the attacks on Israel’s embassies are terrorism, too. But in advance of the expected thundering denunciation of Iran coming from Israel’s friends in the United States, it’s important to remember that terrorism works both ways, and that Israel has itself to blame. Now it’s urgent for Obama to tell Israel that this is getting out of hand, and fast.