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Bibi’s Twofer: Bulgaria Bombing Allows Him to Flay Hezbollah, Iran, Possibly Go to War

imad mugniyeh

Hezbollah’s Imad Mugniyeh and Hassan Nasrallah

Anonymous U.S. officials are quoted by the NY Times stating explicitly that a Hezbollah suicide bomber attacked the Israeli tourist bus yesterday.  While this is entirely possible, I think we should remember the bizarre bombing plot of a few months ago in which a small-time Iranian drug dealer was alleged by the Justice Department to have direct links to the Revolutionary Guards, and to have plotted the assassination of the Saudi ambassador.  By the way, this is the same person, Bandar ibn Sultan,  just appointed chief of Saudi intelligence.

We haven’t heard a peep from the government about the so-called Saudi bomb plot though Obama had it all over the front pages at the time, since it was a useful cudgel to use against Iran.  So I think caution is warranted in approaching this latest claim.

But let’s assume the news is true and review the issues surrounding possible Hezbollah involvement. Why would they do it?  Yesterday, former Israeli national security advisor, Uzi Arad, gave a fascinating interview (Hebrew audio beginning around the 5:00 mark) to Israeli Army (Galey Tzahal) radio.  You’ll recall that the irascible Arad left the prime minister’s office (or was fired) in a huff, after being accused of leaking prejudicial information that angered the Obama administration.  When he left, he was not a happy camper.  As I recall, he even threatened a lawsuit.

Yesterday, Arad got a dose of revenge. He revealed for the first time (Hebrew) a secret that most of the world already knew: that the Mossad assassinated Hezbollah’s second in command, Imad Mugniyeh in 2008. But this statement seemed extraordinarily candid considering it came from an ex-Mossad spy and hardline Israeli national security official.  It was made in response to Bibi Netanyahu’s claim that Iran was behind the Bulgaria attack and, as such, was the “world’ leading exporter of terror:”

We are to a great extent the initiator. We attacked Imad Mugniyeh and we are conducting a battle against Iran [an allusion possibly to Israeli assassinations there].  We are not passive.  The other side is responding [to us], deterring and [counter] attacking.  If Israel responds to this [the Bulgaria bombing], then we must take into account that the other side will respond in kind.  That’s the dynamic.

…Both Syria and Iran are in retreat.  The side that is on the attack is the one seeking to stop Syria and Iran and that will, at the right moment, deal with this problem called Hezbollah.

He said about yesterday’s attack: “now is Iran’s revenge.”  How is the assassination of a Hezbollah leader Iran’s revenge?  First, Mugniyeh was the chief liaison between the Lebanese Islamist movement and Iran.  He was rumored to have played a role in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in which 250 U.S. soldiers died.  He certainly played a key role operationally in Hezbollah’s defense of southern Lebanon during the 2006 war.

In that sense, Iran might’ve wanted revenge just for Mugniyeh’s killing.  But personally, that wouldn’t make sense to me.  That wouldn’t be enough to motivate Iran to take such a large risk that might lead to war.  But given today’s claim of Hezbollah authorship, Arad’s comment yesterday makes much more sense.  It isn’t Iran’s revenge, but rather Hezbollah’s.  Of course, the two maintain such close relations that there might’ve been some Iranian involvement.  And certainly Iran can count this as some sort of revenge (however twisted) for the Mossad murder of its nuclear scientists.  But Hezbollah has clear motivation and the least to lose from orchestrating this act of terror.

With such an act it avenges the murder of Mugniyeh and strikes a further blow in return for Israel’s devastation of southern Lebanon during the 2006 war.  But what disturbs me about this claim is that Hezbollah hasn’t engaged in such an act of international terror in nearly 20 years.  And that’s considering you accept disputed claims that it was involved in the 1994 Argentina bombings.  For it to return to such activities seems out of character for the movement.  Until now, it has kept the scope of its activities confined to Lebanon itself and its direct feud with Israel.

Israel has warned periodically since 2006 of Hezbollah’s intent to take revenge on its targets abroad.  Recently, a suspected Hezbollah operative was arrested in Cyprus for allegedly planning to attack Israeli targets.

If Hezbollah authored the attack, it is willing to go on the attack against Israel despite the heavy losses it incurred in 2006.  It is prepared to absorb whatever losses it may incur from expected Israeli counter-attacks.  In short, it’s willing to turn back the clock to those dark days of war.  With the major difference, that it now has several times the missiles it had then to fire at Israel if hostilities are renewed.  It also means that Iran is prepared to see a possible renewal of hostilities on the Lebanese front as well.  Which is important to Hezbollah because Iran is its major arms supplier.

I don’t know how the unrest in Syria factors into this.  It certainly complicates things for Iran, as Syria was the major arms conduit for matériel it sent to Lebanon.  Further, if major hostilities break out in northern Israel alongside a possible Syrian civil war, one wonders how much instability this small region can take at the same time.  Not to mention that the more instability there is, the easier it would be for a single incident or even a single bullet to blow the entire region to smithereens, along the lines of the 1914 Sarajevo assassination that precipitated World War I (Trita Parsi picked up on this reference in his post at Open Zion yesterday).

Finally, let’s reiterate a message I’ve stated here countless times (and it was Arad’s too): terror isn’t born ex nihilo.  It comes from a context.  The context here is that Israel’s acts of vengeance (for example, its launch of all-out war against Leabanon in response to the death of several of her soldiers) have spurred retaliation from the other side.  If the U.S. and/or Israel believe that their own acts of terror can bring Iran to heel or force it to do anything it refuses to do (like end its nuclear program), it will pay dearly for the presumption.

To be clear, this is not justification for Iranian or Hezbollah terror.  It is a factual, realistic prognosis of what will happen if each side continues to believe it can bomb the other into submission.  Blood is blood.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Israeli or Iranian or Lebanese.  If you shed their blood they’ll shed yours.  Should we get to the point where we have to measure which side has the most blood to spare, and can thereby outlast the others?  If that’s the case we might as well abandon our pretence of being a civilization and resort to primal wars of conquest and extermination of the sort recounted in the Old Testament.  Or better yet, to quote Randy Newman, “Let’s drop the Big One now.”

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  • lifelong July 20, 2012, 3:50 AM

    That’s the beauty of the MSM:

    Iran tried to kill the Saudi ambassador and an Israeli house wife, blew up a bus of tourists, and wants to genocide the Jews by building exactly 1 nuclear bomb to drop on Tel-Aviv. There’s no evidence or proof for any of it, but hey, if the NYT says so it must be fact.

    One massive miscalculation all these other ‘regimes’ are making though, is that it’s no longer 2001. Where 10 years ago 95% of the people were sheeple, today i’d like to be much more optimistic and say that only 1 in 2 takes everything their governments say as fact. Whether it’s the highly mediatised fiasco’s of the Bush administration, the financial crisis reprioritising their focus to domestic issues, the hundreds of thousands of futile deaths of two long wars that ended in failure, or just simply the overwhelming access to information the internet provides etc., something HAS changed.

    I’d love to believe that the strong division in opinion regarding an attack on Iran continues to make it impossible for these cretins to gather enough support to go through with it…

  • OperationRedPill July 20, 2012, 9:36 AM

    Hezbollah would not indiscriminately kill Israeli tourists of no strategic value in the middle of Bulgaria. People need to wake up. The only goons who would want to start a war have already been named. Name one other time a former spymaster called the sitting head of state of a country a messianic person with a plan for public suicide?

    Could have been Mehdi Ghezali? Nope. Could have been…. Al Qaeda? Nope. Could have beeeeen…. Hezbollah! Ah ha!

    How about: FALSE FLAG. If Hezbollah or Iran wanted to start a war with Israel it would start with a “shock and awe” blitz, because in war there is only one thing: “attack attack attack”. That’s it.

    Lavon Affair’s reunion is coming up soon by the way.

    • Richard Silverstein July 20, 2012, 1:00 PM

      That’s a very sly, subtle allusion my friend. But you know as well as I that I’m not going to entertain even allusions to the claim that Israel was involved in this attack. Stay far away from that.

      • OperationRedPill July 20, 2012, 1:13 PM

        We’re all entitled to make our own conclusions given the lack of evidence in many directions.

        But, why the Israeli exceptionalism? Suddenly, Netanyahu is too honest to commit a false flag a la every other warmongering militaristic entity in known human history? Israel has an exceptional record of employing false-flags as historical fact. Netanyahu is the poster child for dishonesty.

        How do you think Bibi is going to try to kick start his war? Hanukkah presents from Ayatollah Khamenei? C’mon, Richard.

        • Richard Silverstein July 20, 2012, 1:57 PM

          Crack jokes all you want. You know where the red lines are. Respect them. I don’t like conspiracy theories offering no credible evidence whatsoever, including this one. If anyone wants to spin such theories it’ll have to be somewhere else.

          • OperationRedPill July 20, 2012, 5:49 PM

            Okay, then how do you suppose Bibi is going to start his Iran war without any support for it?

  • alyce leibowitz July 20, 2012, 10:26 AM

    Why do you refer to the”Bible” or Torah as the “Old Testament”? There is nothing “Old” about it, unless you are not Jewish and if you are not still do not refer to it as “Old”.

    • Richard Silverstein July 20, 2012, 12:45 PM

      No lectures please about proper usage. I was studying Tanach, Talmud & other Jewish texts possibly before you were born. I use terms deliberately. If you don’t have the sensitivity to understand why I used that deliberately chosen one, don’t convey your ignorance by trying to tutor me.

  • G Sherman Cole July 20, 2012, 5:02 PM

    Israel’s threats to attack Iran and/or Hezbollah are almost certainly a bluff since such actions would cost many Israeli lives. And while Israel can sure dish it out they cannot take it. Iran, in fact, has recently ridiculed the Israeli military. It is almost as if they are goading Israel to take the fatal misstep of attacking.

    The goal of these threats is to frighten the West into imposing drastic sanctions on Iran. And in in this they have very successful.

    The suffering imposed on the Iranian peoples by the global Israel lobby will be remembered for a LONG time and poison relations between these two peoples for generations to come.

  • Jacob Reimer July 20, 2012, 6:18 PM

    If it turns out that Hezbollah was responsible for this attack (despite their denials), is there any action that you think Israel ought to take in response?

    • lifelong July 20, 2012, 6:46 PM

      Start a war on terror by attacking two nations that have absolutely nothing to do with the attack, kill 1’000’000 people, destroy your own economy in the process, and then go home ten years later having achieved absolutely nothing.

      That’s what they should do.

      And to return the question, what do you reckon Iran should do in response to the hundreds of Iranian pilgrims that are murdered every year by armed Wahabi groups funded by Saudi Arabia?

      • Jacob Reimer July 20, 2012, 8:16 PM

        That seems like a very bad idea. There has to be something more reasonable than killing so many people.

    • Richard Silverstein July 21, 2012, 1:09 AM

      Yes, amass evidence & present it to the ICC & demand referral to it. Then offer to free all Lebanese prisoners & return Lebanese territory in exchange for full peace. Virtually same offer Assad made to Israel repeatedly before 2006.

      But they’ll make a few bombing runs, try to assassinate Nasrallah again, kill a bunch of Lebanese. All for naught.

      • Jacob Reimer July 21, 2012, 2:46 AM

        Israel holds Lebanese prisoners? How many are there? Did they commit crimes in Israel? When I Google this topic, it says that Israel released such prisoners a few years ago (including a man who murdered Israeli civilians/children), but not that they are currently holding any. Admittedly, I am not the best Googler – what am I missing here?

        The Lebanese territory being held by Israel – is that Shebba farms? If so, has Lebanon said that they would offer full peace with Israel in exchange for the return of this? Would Hezbollah be bound to such an agreement also? Isn’t Assad the leader of Syria not Lebanon? Why would he get to offer what you described on behalf of Lebanon – wouldn’t the Lebanese leadership have to do that?

        • Richard Silverstein July 22, 2012, 1:54 AM

          Hezbollah captured those IDF soldiers in 2006 because Israel holds 100s of Lebanese prisoners who have never been tried.

          Assad is Hezbollah’s ally & patron & would’ve helped guarantee any peace deal had Olmert accepted the deal offered. Instead, he went to war.

          • Jacob Reimer July 22, 2012, 4:36 AM

            Israel holds 100s of Lebanese prisoners who have never been tried? Are you sure about that?

            This is from Al Jazeera (July 2008):

            Five Lebanese prisoners have been handed over to the Hezbollah movement by Israel, as part of a swap for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.

            The freed men arrived to a heroes’ welcome at the Naqoura border crossing on Wednesday, just hours after Israel received coffins containing the remains of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, two Israeli army reservists captured in 2006.

            The prisoners released were Samir Kuntar, who was jailed for three murders in Israel in 1979, and four men captured during the 34-day war sparked by the capture of Goldwasser and Regev.

            They were the last remaining Lebanese in Israeli custody.

            http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2008/07/2008716143549351623.html

            Why would the Al Jazeera article note that these five released prisoners were the last remaining Lebanese in Israeli custody if there are 100s more? Am I missing something?

          • Richard Silverstein July 22, 2012, 9:55 PM

            Either the rpt or way you’re interpreting it are wrong, i believe.

          • Wow July 24, 2012, 8:01 AM

            This is an interesting exchange. Richard, do you have a source to back up your belief that Israel “holds 100s of Lebanese prisoners who have never been tried” or are you going to withdraw that statement as ill-informed?

            This BBC report also claims that the 2008 deal “left no Hezbollah militants in Israeli jails” – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5211930.stm

            Given this contradictory evidence, would you like to revise your original response and try again to answer the question about what Israel should do if it turns out that Hezbollah is responsible for the attack in Bulgaria?

            Cheers.

          • Richard Silverstein July 24, 2012, 9:24 PM

            I said Israel held Lebanese prisoners, not Hezbollah prisoners. There’s a difference. Let’s see if you can figure it out. But nice try.

            And since your e mail address is “wasteoftime” why don’t you stop wasting ours and go waste someone else’s?

          • Wow July 24, 2012, 11:52 PM

            And nice try on avoiding providing a source for your claim in the face of sources that claim the exact opposite. There’s only one person wasting people’s time here, Richard.

            You wrote that Israel ““holds 100s of Lebanese prisoners who have never been tried”. Can you please either provide a source or withdraw the claim?

          • Richard Silverstein July 25, 2012, 7:58 PM

            I asked Dalia Kerstein of Hamoked about this question and she replied that it’s likely israel still holds holds “a few.”. So my earlier statement saying there were “hundreds” still detained is wrong. This Wikipedia article notes Hezbollah claims Israel holds two Lebanese citizens, while Israel denies this. The article also contains a list of 20 or so Lebanese who were last seen in Israeli custody, about whom Israel claims to know nothing. The families of many of these detainees believe they remain in Israeli custody.

            So it is likely Israel continues to hold at least two or more Lebanese citizens. If it doesn’t, then it is responsible for their deaths and should account for them.

  • Wow July 26, 2012, 1:54 AM

    Thank you for responding and thank you for using the word “likely” which, as I’m sure you appreciate, really has no place in journalism, but is perfectly acceptable for a blog. I think, though, based on the use of the word likely your last sentence should properly read “So it is likely Israel continues to hold at least two or more Lebanese citizens. If it doesn’t, then it may be responsible for their deaths and, if so, should account for them.” Just for the sake of consistency. Given the lack of proof you have for the original claim, I think it’s a bit much to say that if you’re wrong and Israel is not holding two or more Lebanese citizens then Israel is definitively responsible for their deaths, no?

    I had seen that Wikipedia article, but wasn’t sure if you would accept it as a source. Over at Mondoweiss, they refer to Wikipedia as “Zionist Occupied Territory” (http://mondoweiss.net/2012/07/susan-abulhawa-demolishes-itamar-marcus.html/comment-page-1#comment-478603).

    Cheers.

    • Richard Silverstein July 26, 2012, 10:07 PM

      I didn’t ask you to speculate on what any sentence I write should say. You write your own sentences & I’ll write mine.

      If Lebanese prisoners went into the maw of the IDF detention system and never came out, who would you blame? The bogeyman? Osama bin Laden?

      Thanks for offering me credit for conceding an error. But I wish you would concede that Israel needs to account for the whereabouts or bodies of all those Lebanese who’ve disappeared while in Israeli custody.

      I’d also like you to acknowledge that despite reports from the Guardian & right wing commenters here, that there are credible reports that Israel continues to hold Lebanese prisoners.

      Regarding Wikipedia there are many articles that are garbage & many that are credible. Unfortunately, sometimes you need to know more than those who wrote the article to tell the difference.

      I find that many on the right also need to understand that there are differences between my views & those of Phil Weiss on a number of issues.
      .