Is Israel Behind Blast at Iranian Military Base?
On Monday a news story linking the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to a fatal explosion at a military base in Iran on Saturday is gaining traction in Israel and around the world.
Iranian officials deny the blast at Bid Ganeh was a covert operation. Instead, they maintain it was an accident caused by a munitions transfer.
But US blogger Richard Silverstein claims the Mossad worked with the Mujahideen e-Khalq (MEK) to implement the blast. Among the dead was Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam, who was reportedly responsible for arms development and inventory in the IRG.
Founded in the 1960s, the MEK originally functioned as a Marxist group in opposition to the Shah. Although a participant in the 1979 Revolution, its ideology was at odds with the new Islamic Republic, and since its leadership’s exile to Paris the MEK has orchestrated and executed several terrorist attacks in Iran and on its embassies. A summary of the MEK’s history and activities can be found here.
Within the US, there has been a campaign to remove the MEK from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. According to a report by the Christian Science Monitor, the MEK has curried endorsements across the political spectrum in the US because it is seen as a potential instrument in destabilizing the current regime in Tehran. But given its roots and violent history, it is hard to take the MEK’s pro-democracy claims at face value. As of September 15, the MEK remains on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The foreign media allegations that the Mossad is behind the supposed attack in Iran follow a long history of surgical hits or strikes attributed to, but never confirmed by, one of the most potent (and impenetrable) spy agencies in the world. But as this CNN overview from 2010 illustrates, Israelis are not always comfortable with the extant of the Mossad’s fatal reach, especially when its activities appear less than clandestine.
A day before Saturday’s blast, Haaretz reported that the UK government anticipates an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities before 2012. While the report stemmed from a report in British tabloid the Daily Mail, speculations about an Israeli strike have reached a feverish pitch in recent months. Today, a Sydney Morning Herald article states that US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta received a noncommittal answer from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak when he asked that Israel first obtain US permission before any strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
It is unclear how much the frosty relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu has affected US-Israeli security cooperation. On one hand, lobbying pressures, domestic political realities in the US, and the ‘sacrosanct’ nature of the US-Israel alliance nearly assure that any personal bitterness between the two leaders would be tabled for the sake of being on the same page in the event of an Israeli surgical strike. On the other hand, historical precedent and Mr. Netanyahu’s bullish reputation suggest Israel will not bend easily to American calls for restraint (or at least coordination).
Although it is unlikely that the allegations that the Mossad was behind Saturday’s blast will be officially confirmed within Israel, it is reasonable to see the blast as one in a potential series of strikes. And more alarmingly, it increasingly seems that it is no longer a matter of if but when an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities will occur.
More Faster News:
Leak Claims Israel Plans to Attack Iran: Is Netanyahu Too Heavy-Handed?
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