Terrorism Investigations

New York Times: Senior U.S. Official Confirms Israel's Assertion that Hezbollah Was Behind Bulgaria Bombing

By Alan Z. Rozenshtein
Thursday, July 19, 2012, 5:05 PM

The New York Times has just published a story in which it quotes an unnamed "senior American official" who confirms Israel's assertions that the Bulgaria bombing was carried out by a Hezbollah cell operating in Bulgaria:

The official said the current American intelligence assessment is that the bomber was “acting under broad guidance” to hit Israeli targets when the opportunity presented itself. That guidance was given to Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, by its primary sponsor, Iran, he said.

The attacks, the official said, were in retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists by Israeli agents, something that Israel has neither confirmed nor denied. “This was tit for tat,” said the American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the investigation was still underway.

If true, this casts additional doubt on the early Bulgarian news reports that identified the bomber as Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish citizen and former Guantanamo detainee who was suspected of ties to al-Qaeda.

On a related note, the Christian Science Monitor has an interesting story on what it calls a "soft[er] response" to Iran taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjaming Netanyahu today:

After a pointing a finger at Iran and promising a harsh retaliation for a terrorist attack in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today revised his accusation and toned down his threats for revenge.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Netanyahu said it was Hezbollah, acting as the "long arm" of Iran, which actually carried out the attack. And instead of a vague threat of a "strong retaliation," Mr. Netanyahu spoke of a protracted manhunt to exact revenge on those responsible.

The more muted response suggests that, rather than opting for a harsh and swift retaliatory strikes as it has in the past, Israel will keep a low profile and seek revenge in covert hits over time to avoid destabilizing an already chaotic region in the present.

That’s because a knee-jerk response would undermine Israel’s larger goals: weakening the Iranian regime and preventing it from getting nuclear weapons.