UPDATE: No sooner do I publish a post than I have to update and temper what I’ve written! Swedish officials are denying that the suicide bomber was the suspect I named below. It’s not clear on what basis they’re doing that, though since the U.S. released him from Guantanamo into their custody, if he was the attacker it would make Swedish intelligence look like utter fools. Swedish journalists report that their secret service is denying the subjects identity, but refuse to offer any further support or explanation for its claim. If they produce a real, live Mehdi Ghezali, then I’ll believe them!
In the swirl of events yesterday related to the Burgas suicide bombing, in which six young Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian driver were killed, Bibi Netanyahu blamed Iran for the attack. It now appears he was dead wrong. Haaretz reports that he was Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish citizen and resident of Switzerland who was born in Algeria. He had been captured in Pakistan and imprisoned in Guantanamo. It appears that any affiliations he might have had would be more likely connected to Al Qaeda than Iran. His Algerian origin serves as a tantalizing clue, since the Spanish rail bombing of several years ago was linked to Algerians affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Though it’s possible that Iran may’ve tried to recruit bombers with such background or contracted the attack to a third-party, my hunch is this would be unlikely, as Iran would’ve given up operational control to independent actors, always a danger in such complex, dangerous actions.
Clearly, Netanyahu desperately wishes to link the bombing to Iran so as to ratchet up international pressure against the regime and bring a military attack that much closer. His rush to judgment (he blamed Iran from almost the moment the news came out, even before anything substantive was known about the origins of the attack) has only further besmirched his credibility. People believe anything this man says at their risk.
Haaretz also notes the abject failure of the Mossad to warn Israelis of the danger of the attack. It regularly warns Israeli tourists when there is danger of attacks in the Sinai or Kenya. But Israelis never received such a warning regarding this one. To me, this indicates the attackers were not part of any group that Israel was used to monitoring, which points away from Iran. You’ll recall that the Eilat terror attack similarly was undetected and Israel sought to blame the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, when it was proven that the attack was the responsibility of shadowy Sinai Al Qaeda operatives perhaps affiliated with Bedouin tribes in the region. The truth is that when attacks come from previously unsuspected groups, Israel has a lousy track record in detecting them.
There’s no shame in such errors if they’re admitted. But Israeli leaders cannot admit mistakes. Instead they heap blame on easy targets like Iran. Now that he’s failed in blaming Iran directly for the assault, Bibi’s trying to blame Hezbollah. Since that group is an Iranian proxy, that at least gets him within six degrees of fixing guilt upon Iran. But given his track record, the Lebanese attribution is very likely wrong as well. It’s worth noting that Bibi’s playing the blame game serves to divert attention domestically from Israeli security services failure, which should be politically embarrassing to him.
Given that his Grand Coalition has just disintegrated after only 70 days in office, all he needs is a major security failure like this to further damage him. It should only bring elections that much closer if any of his current partners decide to bolt.