Who’s Behind Anti-Israel Bomb Plots?

Last month, when three bomb plots surfaced in India, Thailand and Georgia — all with apparent Israeli targets — the immediate assumption was that Iran was seeking revenge for Israeli-connected assassinations of Iranian scientists. But new evidence suggests another possibility, Gareth Porter reports for AlJazeera.

By Gareth Porter

The magnet bomb that exploded on an Israeli Embassy diplomat’s car in Delhi on Feb. 13 seemed on the surface to be consistent with an Iranian-sponsored action.

It was carried out with same method by which Israel’s Iranian proxy, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, had assassinated an Iranian scientist in mid-January. It occurred on the anniversary of the 2008 assassination of Hezbollah operations chief Imad Mugniyeh, which Hezbollah had vowed to avenge. And it happened at the same time as what appeared to be attempted bombings in Bangkok and Tbilisi.

Assassinated Iranian scientist Mostafa Ahmad Roshan and his son (Credit: Press TV)

But a review of the evidence uncovered thus far makes the link to Iran begin to look very dubious. Instead, it points to the distinct possibility that the Israelis planned a carefully limited bomb attack that was not intended to cause serious injury to Israeli diplomatic personnel, but that would advance the larger Israeli narrative on the need to punish Iran.

The evidence surrounding that bomb itself indicates a series of decisions by the terrorist team that is fundamentally inconsistent with an Iranian-Hezbollah revenge bombing.

The preliminary forensic analysis of the bomb itself had estimated it to be 250-300 grams of explosives, but sources in the investigation later reduced the estimate to 200-250 grams. The 250-gram bomb that exploded near the Delhi High Court in May 2011 did not even damage the car under which it had been placed and was characterized by Police Commissioner B K Gupta as a “low-intensity and mild blast.”

Burning questions

The main damage to the Israeli diplomat’s car was not from the explosion but from the fire, which burned so slowly that the occupants suffered no burns.

If the bomb had been filled with shrapnel of iron filings, nails or glass, or if it had been attached underneath the fuel tank or on the door next to the passenger, that bomb would have seriously injured or killed the passenger, Tal Yehoshua-Koren, the wife of the Israeli Defense Attaché.

But Delhi police were able to determine that the bomb contained no such potentially deadly shrapnel. And an examination of the videos and photos of the car after the bombing revealed that the bomb had been attached instead to the rear of the vehicle, where it would have the least impact on the occupants.

Indian investigators obtained a fourth piece of evidence bearing on the intentions of the planners from their interview with Yehoshua-Koren. She told them the bomb did not go off for 30 to 40 seconds after she felt a bump from the rear of the car and saw the motorcyclist go past her window.

Indian investigators had assumed that the bomb had operated on a five- or 10-second delay, like other magnet bombs with which they were familiar – only enough time for the motorcyclist to get far enough away from the blast.

Yehoshua-Koren did not get out of the car before the bomb went off, and suffered what the Israeli Defense Ministry called “moderate” wounds – evidently from metal fragments from the rear hatch. She was nevertheless able to exit the car and get to the Israeli Embassy without any assistance.

Israeli commentary on the bombing suggested that an Iranian-sponsored terrorist team had simply proven to be ineffective in carrying out the bombing. But the combination of these four distinct indicators strongly suggests that the operation was planned so that the passenger in the car would not be injured.

Unclear patterns

Israel claimed that the evidence links the Delhi bombing to other alleged Iranian-Hezbollah plots in Tbilisi and Bangkok. Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon declared, “It is the same pattern, the same bomb, the same lab, the same factory”.

But it turns out that there was no similarity whatsoever among the bombs found in the three capitals. The one in Tbilisi was described as a grenade in a plastic bag taped to the bottom of the car, which hardly suggests a serious terror plot.

Delhi police discovered that the two magnet bombs found in the house in Bangkok, where an accidental explosion had occurred, contained the much more powerful C-4 explosive as well as shrapnel – both of which were absent from the Delhi bomb. And, even more interesting, the Bangkok magnet bombs timed for only a five-second delay.

That information led investigators in Delhi to conclude that the operations in Delhi and Bangkok were “unrelated.”

Despite the fact that a group of Iranian passport-holders were clearly involved with highly lethal bombs in Bangkok, there is good reason to doubt that they were working for Iran’s IRGC or Hezbollah.

They spent their first three days in the country with Thai prostitutes at Pattaya. That profile suggests Iranian mercenaries, like the former kickboxer hired by Mossad to assassinate Iranian scientist Massoud Ali Mohammadi in January 2010, rather than Iranian or Hezbollah operatives.

India’s importance

In the larger context, it is very difficult to believe that Iran would have chosen New Delhi as the location for revenge against Israel, given the importance of India as a buyer of Iranian oil and India’s delicately balanced political-diplomatic position in the larger conflict.

India had just replaced China as Iran’s single biggest crude oil customer, having increased its imports to roughly 550,000 barrels a day in January, which compensated for a drop in sales to China.

And the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had resisted pressure from the United States and Europe to reduce its purchases from Iran, even working with Iran to find ways to get around the planned sanctions against Iran’s National Bank. India’s Commerce Ministry was planning a large business delegation to Iran to discuss increased trade.

India had thus taken on the role of potential “spoiler” in the Western sanctions strategy against Iran. This central geopolitical reality prompted New Delhi’s “Economic Times” to ask, “Why would Iran go and poke its finger in the eye of its best customer, especially knowing full well that Israel will use even the flimsiest excuse to put the blame on it?”

Indeed, it was Israel, not Iran that stood to gain politically from the terrorist car bomb in Delhi. Israel was well aware that a terrorist bombing in Delhi that could be blamed on Tehran was a potential lever to change India’s policy toward Iran.

As an Israeli official told the Wall Street Journal, if India were to adopt Netanyahu’s position that Iran was responsible for the bombing, it would take the India-Iran relationship to “a whole different level”.

Nearly two weeks before the bombing, Israel acted to ensure that Indians would assume that a terrorist attack in Delhi on that date had been carried out by Iran.

letter to the Delhi police on Feb. 1 signed by the Israeli Deputy Chief of Mission in Delhi and the First Secretary responsible for security expressed concern that Iran and Hezbollah would take revenge on the anniversary of the Mugniyeh assassination by carrying out terrorist actions against Israelis. It also referred to the possibility of Iranian revenge for the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mustafa Ahmadi Roshan on Jan. 11.

Although the letter did not specify that an attack might take place in Delhi, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo led a delegation of intelligence officials on a visit to Delhi around the same time and turned over a list of 50 Iranian nationals with the request that they be kept under surveillance.

The Israeli letter referred to an alleged Hezbollah terror plot against Israelis that had been broken up in Bangkok in January. But the idea of a Hezbollah plan to kill Israelis in Thailand had come only from Israeli intelligence – not from any local sources.

The Thai police detained Hussein Atris, a Swedish-Lebanese, in January only because Israeli intelligence officials had told them they “suspected” that he and two other Lebanese, whom they claimed were linked to Hezbollah, might carry out terrorist attacks at tourist sites popular with Israelis.

Atris admitted to owning large supplies of urea fertilizer and ammonium nitrate, which are ingredients in bombs, but Thai investigators concluded that they were not connected to any terror plot in Thailand, because of the absence of any other bomb components. The head of Thailand’s National Security Council, General Wichean Potephosree, a former chief of police, expressed doubt that Atris was a terrorist, as Israel had claimed.

After the Bangkok explosion, the Israelis renewed the claim of an Iran-Hezbollah terror threat in Bangkok, alleging that the bombs found in in all three capitals in mid-February were “exactly the same kind of devices.” But we now know that was not the case.

We may never be able to establish with certainty what happened in Delhi, Bangkok and Tbilisi earlier this month, but the evidence that has come to light thus far doesn’t support the widely accepted notion that Iran and Hezbollah were behind it.

That evidence is consistent, however, with a clever Israeli “false flag” car bombing operation that would not injure the passenger but would serve its broader strategic interests: dividing India from Iran and pushing U.S. public opinion further towards support for war against Iran.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian journalist on US national security policy with a PhD in South-east Asian studies from Cornell University. He has taught international studies at City College of New York and American University and has written several books on Vietnam, including Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War (University of California Press, 2005). He has also written on war and diplomacy in Cambodia, Korea and the Philippines. [This article was originally published by AlJazeera]

36 comments for “Who’s Behind Anti-Israel Bomb Plots?

  1. March 10, 2012 at 13:13

    So little done, so much to accomplish.
    Unfortunately we cannot have a monopoly. We’ve share of the market. There’s a difference.

  2. bobzz
    March 6, 2012 at 18:23

    Here we are again with Republican inconsistency. We gotta control our debt(!!), they say. But wait; we gotta fight another trillion dollar war even though our national security is not at stake; put it on our credit card.

    • georip
      March 8, 2012 at 01:41

      Oh, but it is in our “national interest” they say. Thus we all roll over and go back to sleep. The Hell it is in our interest! Nor anyone else’s but the war profiteers.

  3. March 6, 2012 at 17:33

    IMO, “trolls” are most effective when they take up “opposing” positions, as in a ping-pong game, taking up valuable space in a comment section. I think there’s evidence of this in previous comments.

  4. Frances in California
    March 6, 2012 at 15:13

    Does nobody think that the CIA, Mossad and the Pakistani ISI have been cahooting for, like, decades because that’s what they get PAID to do?

  5. March 4, 2012 at 18:41

    Who is Behind those bombs? To me they are the usual Netanyahu plot to divert attention from Israel assassination and constant attacks on Iran.
    Under normal circumstances I wold say they deserve each other and a plague on both your houses BUT some ……sold our country into bondage to Israel as the President speech made clear today. “we have their back” how nice, “we have their back” said Netanyahu to an interview. Oh my heavens God help us, they have been shooting us IN THE BACK all along. Obama did a good job listing the many times we stood by and defended Israel, what he failed to say was “defend Israel of her ruthless and abusive actions” We have constantly been defense lawyers to the JEWISH MAFIA. I was all most sick like Sartorium, for opposite reasons. The biggest applause when Obama said “Israel is a sovereign nation and is free to make her own decision….” Absolutely, the only thing missing was “and handle the consequences on her own, because we cannot continue to defend her from her foolishness and abusive behavour” . So it is time “we the people” clean out that Congress and elect true American Citizens not DUAL citizens. As for the principle that we share such as democracy, sorry to say we are not even country cousing, for Netanyahu democracy is for Israeli, the Palestinian and all others, including us, are usable resources for the welfare of Israel” How different can you get.

  6. Judah the Lion
    March 4, 2012 at 11:56

    The usual antisemitic “Zionists” nonsense. The country is called ISRAEL

    • Roger Thomas
      March 5, 2012 at 00:26

      Judah -your accusation of racism is ‘the last resort of the scoundrel’ and is, of course, totally unfounded. Zionists are not a race, they are part of an aggressive, vicious, barbaric, and apartheid cult whose crimes against humanity, abuses of human rights, war crimes etc are atrocious and loathsome. You may accuse me of anti-Zionism and I am proud to be so labelled but you may not accuse me of anti-semitism.

      • Judah the Lion
        March 6, 2012 at 14:33

        you are antisemitic by any measure period…

        • georip
          March 8, 2012 at 01:37

          I was glad to see the Hasidic Jews at the protests against AIPAC last weekend with a sign that said, “Zionism is contrary to Judaism”. Zionists and Neocons are a force of evil and should be confronted and jailed for their plotting. They are not representative of the Jewish people.

  7. Roger Thomas
    March 4, 2012 at 06:17

    The Zionists are well-known for their false flagging – not only the infamous Lavon Affair but, especially for the attack on the USS Liberty which saw 300 American sailors killed or maimed. There is also strong evidence that Mossad was behind the 9/11 atrocity. These precedents together with their constant attempts at demonising Iran and the ineffectiveness of the bombs provide sufficient evidence to be pretty sure that the Zionists have been ‘at it’ again. IMO, the Zionists are the scum of the Earth and I fail to understand the reason for Jewish communities worldwide not being thoroughly ashamed of the ruthless and callous atrocities carried out in their name – people of the holocaust, themselves, visiting a holocaust on others!

    If anyone is destabilising the Middle East, to put it mildly, then look no further than the Zionists – their brutal invasion, colonisation and occupation of Palestinian lands, the barbaric treatment of a defenceless people and their denial of basic human rights have scarred the region for years to come. What gives them the right to deny others a nuclear capability when they possess a huge nuclear arsenal, a powerful incentive for the many enemies, which their terrorist actions have created, to be seek the only possible deterrent. Go for it, Iran!

    • Paolo
      March 4, 2012 at 08:52

      Hey roger,
      I guess you’re right. after all the majority of the nations supporting the sanctions against Iran must be under Israeli control.
      I guess Saudi Arabia is under their control as they are supporting a military strike against Iran.
      I guess Iran’s ally, Syria, is the epitome of democracy and the majority of nations and the people of the region want to get out from under the various theocracies.You are aware of the ‘Arab Spring” movements aren’t you?
      Let’s just throw out the evidence against Iran and blame Israel because they’ve done things in the past just to stay alive.
      Indeed, what’s sad, is the number of people who blindly hate.Have you considered going to Church or Mosque and reviewing real meaning of faith?

      • Roger Thomas
        March 4, 2012 at 10:50

        Thanks Paolo, you guess correctly. And yes, most of the countries supporting sanctions are under the thrall of the Americans who are controlled by the Zionist American plutocrats. You condemn Syria’s regime which has been implementing reforms including a referendum on a new constitution last Sunday whilst ignoring the autocratic hypocritical Saudi and Qatar autocracies which deal brutally with any protests.

        The Zionists had an alternative to their terrorisation of a defenceless population and the theft of their lands and that was to create a truly democratic state rather than the oppressive apartheid regime that jackboots across the region. There are many civilised Israelis and highly-respected Jewish intellectuals who condemn the excesses of the Zionists done in the name of Jewry

        I have to say that you seem rather ignorant of the outcomes of the Arab Spring to date. Far from wishing to escape from under theocracy, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt have all voted in the Muslim Brotherhood.

        I believe that, because the Zionists possess a nuclear arsenal, it is imperative that Iran arms itself with a nuclear deterrent. If the Americans do not wish to see Iran so armed then it should turn its attention against the Zionist nuclear capability. In extremis, the Zionists intend to resort to a nuclear response – and they constitute a very real threat to the World’s future.

        As far as the Zionists are concerned, there is no blind hate. Any person with a modicum of humanity should loathe what they have done to the Middle East and the suffering they impose on the Palestinians – the Zionists are loathsome and the World would be a better place without them.

        I cannot see any role for faith in any god doing any good.

        • Judah the Lion
          March 6, 2012 at 14:32

          antisemitic drek

    • bobzz
      March 4, 2012 at 16:10

      Roger makes a good point here: “The Zionists are well-known for their false flagging – not only the infamous Lavon Affair but, especially for the attack on the USS Liberty which saw 300 American sailors killed or maimed.” Israel does this sort of thing, which takes away from their credibility.

      But I can’t go along with Roger on this one: “There is also strong evidence that Mossad was behind the 9/11 atrocity.” It is difficult to imagine Mossad collaborating with bin Ladin, who we know was the perp behind 9/11.

      Every nation (with two notable exceptions) is against Iran having “the” bomb, because America is dragging them into it. The only reason other nations are in Afghanistan is because America has dragged them into it. If America pulled out, every other nation would be out instantly. Back to the bomb, most ISRAELI CITIZENS are not worried about Iran’s getting the bomb.

      • georip
        March 8, 2012 at 01:30

        You say “we” know that bin Laden was responsible for 9/11, operating from his cave? You have to be kidding. You believe it because that is what the official story tells you?! The official story that even the members of the official report want to disown. There is plenty of evidence that the Mossad was involved, along with the Bush cabal. Zionists and Neocons, same rat pack. Whether or not there were any Muslim hijackers even involved, those planes did not cause the spectacular free fall destruction of those buildings. Please look into it. The clash of civilizations is a fraud, purposefully provoked by racketeers seeking eternal war.

  8. Jimbo
    March 4, 2012 at 05:00

    “Atris (terror suspect) admitted to owning large supplies of urea fertilizer and ammonium nitrate, which are ingredients in bombs, but Thai investigators concluded that they were not connected to any terror plot in Thailand, because of the absence of any other bomb components.”

    Did Atris have a garden?

  9. javad
    March 4, 2012 at 03:01

    Beautiful article with good sense of reasoning.Of course it is not Iran who did it.iranian are not that crazy to affect their relations with India and Tiland by such a kids play.Nobody hurt,and it is amazing to see that in Georgia the guy knew about the bomb under the car!!!.These stupid acts have only one finger print and guess who? Israil.Please give us a break.For sure Iran will do it inside Israil and not out.

  10. Kenny Fowler
    March 3, 2012 at 20:27

    What we do know is the explosions in Bangkok did not target anyone. The gang blew themselves up. We can safely assume they did not intend to blow themselves up in their house. We do not know is what their real intentions were or who they were working for we just know they had Iranian passports. The only thing we know about the Tiblisi story is the police found a plastic bag with a grenade in it taped to the bottom of a car. How it got there and for what reason is totally unknown. In Delhi the police have not arrested anyone and have said the bomb was unrelated to the Bangkok devices. So we don’t really have anything to tie these incidents together other than the statements by Israeli officials that they are. That’s apparently enough for those with an agenda to declare Iran guilty. I say we investigate further and find the answers to the unknowns. Unless of course you’re afraid of the truth.

  11. bobzz
    March 3, 2012 at 19:26

    That is what is strange about the whole thing: numerous explosions, no serious injuries, truly amateurish. The Iranians are not without expertise in such matters, so I have to wonder. Porter makes good sense.

    • arnnyc
      March 3, 2012 at 19:42

      only if you are prepared to substitute conjecture with no evidence for fact.

      • bobzz
        March 4, 2012 at 15:43

        The ‘Iran did it’ is also conjecture in light of Porter’s facts. It is easy to ignore facts that do not fit your world view.

  12. arnnyc
    March 3, 2012 at 18:50

    Hey Charles Sereno, I did use my own reasoning and knowledge of known facts (like the Thai arrests, UN vote, DC planned murder) to draw my conclusions. These out weigh the speculation of an other without a shred of evidence to support it. And no the fact they failed to kill their targets doesn’t amount to evidence just pure luck in the case of the targeted diplomats.

    • March 3, 2012 at 19:15

      1) The Thai arrests ARE treated as facts in the article. 2) I doubt if you want to go to the UN for its record of votes on Israel. 3) The DC plot, in abeyance, requires an incredible belief in the practical stupidity of the Iranian government. I grant you that Iran is sadly and dangerously wrong-headed in many its policies. But they’re not stupid. Neither was Hitler. I’m just calling for sunshine and sensible debate.

      • arnnyc
        March 3, 2012 at 19:55

        Hitler wasn’t stupid, now that’s an interesting unsolicited bit of counterpoint. How does Hitler get into this unless you are comparing the intentions of the Iranians to the Nazis. As for an example of the “practical stupidity of the Iranian government” what do you call holding American diplomats captive for 444 days in total contravention of international law?

        • March 3, 2012 at 20:53

          Iran is neither racist nor as ambitious as Hitler was (as nations go). The rise to power of the present regime, however, resembles Hitler’s in many ways. Primarily, it united the nation and, atrocity that it was, those 444 days consolidated its hold on power.

  13. arnnyc
    March 3, 2012 at 15:28

    Sorry forgot to add:
    Gee what a surprise this piece of “investigative” speculation first appeared on that balanced,fair & unbiased towards Israel website Aljazeera

    • March 3, 2012 at 16:44

      Hey Paolo and arnnyc, G Porter has laid out many suspicious facts and circumstances. They are surely arguable. Are you so puny of mind and bereft of intelligent response that all you can come up with is — “probably paid by the Iranians,” “bias is showing,” “appeared on…Aljazeera?” Start “investigating” your own reasoning.

  14. arnnyc
    March 3, 2012 at 15:18

    I guess the fact that the individuals arrested by the Thai police all were holders of Iranian passports is of little importance when you want to claim that these attacks against Israeli diplomats were put-up jobs by the Israelis. The fact that the UN (which has hardly been a tool of Israeli diplomacy) voted to condemn these as genuine attacks on diplomats also doesn’t matter nor does the Iran proxy planned murder of the Saudi US Ambassador seem relevant. It seems like you set out to lay this at the feet of the Israelis & constructed your arguments to fit that storyline. Your bias is showing

    • Ma
      March 4, 2012 at 16:15

      “I guess the fact that the individuals arrested by the Thai police all were holders of Iranian passports is of little importance when you want to claim that these attacks against Israeli diplomats were put-up jobs by the Israelis.”

      you probably are not aware of Israelis stealing other people’s passports and using their identities to assassinate in foreign lands. Can you tell us which countries expelled Israeli diplomats in protest as a result?

  15. Paolo
    March 3, 2012 at 14:44

    Another tragedy in all this is that this writer is probably being paid by the Iranians. The government of India has proof of who carried out the raids, they have the guy who did it or at least one of them, they have his belongings, they searched the place he was staying, and has given the evidence to the Israelis and the Americans, but is withholding the evidence from the public so as not to inflame the Iranians.
    Those of us who believe in freedom pray for the downfall of the Iranian government.

    • laoma
      March 3, 2012 at 22:29

      Shoe string speculation is pretty easy. If you are going to use the concept “freedom”, define it and show an argument. Make some contribution or troll somewhere else. If you were the least bit aware of Israeli tactics this is spot on. Also, not mentioned here but numerous car bombings in Lebanon in the 70s and early 80s can be attributed to the Israelis.

    • MajWilliamMartin
      March 6, 2012 at 07:34

      If he was to had written about the USS Liberty would you had said that too?

      Or what about Israel having to travel 75 Miles out into International Waters to board a ship flying the flag of another country and starts killing it’s Citizens?

      The Medical Examiner said of the Dual Citizenship American/Turk that he had been Shot 3 Times in his head while in a Laying Position.

      Yes Israel, Their Mossad have a 007 License to kill with no action from the World Courts.
      If you want, Google IRANIAN TERRORIST, JEWISH TERRORIST and AMERICAN TERRORIST and see for yourself how many Page Result’s come back for each and Who is 1st and 2nd.. I don’t worry about Iran as they don’t pose a risk to the US. Also if our Foreign Policy was better we would not occupy their lands to begin with.

  16. Kenny Fowler
    March 3, 2012 at 14:24

    ” That evidence is consistent, however, with a clever Israeli “false flag” car bombing operation that would not injure the passenger but would serve its broader strategic interests: dividing India from Iran and pushing U.S. public opinion further towards support for war against Iran.”

    Ahh yes, the evidence. I wondered where this story went. After the initial media splash quickly concluding it had to be revenge attacks sponsored by the Iranian government it disappeared from sight.

    If something smells fishy, it’s a fish.

    • MajWilliamMartin
      March 6, 2012 at 07:25

      This is no different then the Correct Translation of Ahmadinejad’s statement and the LIE that Iran wanted to “Wipe Israel from the Map.”

      However, Obama has stationed US Boy’s Recently… in Israel on Military Bases. So that WHEN Iran does defend its self (Although the US has said that they had “Better NOT Fight back.”) The US equivalence of a Cop kicking the hell out of your head and when you raise your arms to protect your face, The Cop goes ballistic and starts screaming, “Stop Resisting” and then really goes to town kicking you in the head.


      By placing the USS Enterprise Nuclear Air Craft Carrier due to be decommissioned next year into the Straight’s so that one of Iran’s 250MPH underwater Torpedo’s can sink it. Thus sending IT and 6,000 US Boys to the Bottom if the Straights. Both designed to draw the US into the War.

      Remember Henry Kissinger? “military men as “dumb, stupid animals to be used” as pawns for foreign policy.”

      The Iraq war was a Lie, The Reason for Afghanistan is a Lie (Although our Troop’s are supplying Seed and Fertilizer and Growing Opium and Heroin for the Afghan’s, So that is a Public Service I guess? That would be Illegal HERE under the War on Drugs. But hey, If you can get our Military to do it, It saves the CIA a lot of time and money.

  17. M Hatherstone
    March 3, 2012 at 11:25

    Good article and well done for getting it on Al Jazeera, though I won’t lower myself to the plagued rat sewer which is the comment section on that site. Just as a sort of unofficial addenda, the Israelis have previous for this. The “Lavon affair”, which is the most well known case (Israelis were putting bombs targeting Britons – old habits die hard, I guess – and Jews in Egypt) is by no means the only example. Similar operations were going on in Iraq and Jordan.

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