After one of the assassinations of a nuclear scientist in Tehran, it was written in these pages that who is behind it doesn’t matter – what matters is that the Iranians are convinced it’s the Israeli Mossad. The question remained what they’d try to do in retaliation, and over the last month, it has happened – in three failed attempts at attacks in Thailand, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and an attack actually carried out in India.
In February 1992, Israel assassinated Hezbollah’s then-secretary general Abbas al-Musawi. The mission was deemed a success, but brought with it a violent response by the Shiite organization that included, among other things, an explosion at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. The rules of the game between Israel and Hezbollah were redrawn: from now on, said Hezbollah, hitting the organization where it hurts would result in Israel being hit where it hurts – at its representations and at Jewish targets around the world.
This equation deterred Israel from attempting to hit senior Hezbollah figures until the Second Lebanon War, when Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah became a target, and until 2008, when Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus, according to foreign reports, by Mossad agents and other forces. The attack and attempted attack yesterday were attempts by Iran to redraw the rules – just like Mughniyeh did in the early 1990s when he sent his people to blow up the embassy in the capital of Argentina.
Hezbollah promised to retaliate against the death of Mughniyeh “even if it takes 100 years,” but what is happening cannot be divorced from the latest incidents in Iran. It’s no wonder that the assassinations of the scientists, which are delaying the Iranian nuclear program and are a source of embarrassment for the Tehran regime, are causing the regime of Ayatollahs to try to similarly harm those they see as behind them – Israel. The method of action: a motorcyclist attaching a bomb to the vehicle is an attempt (unsuccessful, thank God) at imitating the method used to assassinate the scientists.
The United States denied its involvement in the assassinations, thereby defending its citizens from an Iranian retaliation. Israel didn’t respond, except for a weak denial by President Peres. Some spokespeople even “winked,” thereby strengthening the Iranian side’s motivation to retaliate. Israel should also have issued a sweeping denial. We don’t always have to be strong and brave.
The bottom line is that the secret war being attributed to Israel against Iran and Hezbollah is going full steam ahead. For now, Israel is winning by knockout, but there’s no devaluing the determination and capability of the other side. What we saw yesterday is likely only the beginning.