Defense officials in Israel believe Iran is behind Friday’s bombing near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi. The working assumption is that the attack was carried out by contractors as revenge for the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the Iranian military nuclear program, near Tehran on Nov. 27.
Israeli and Indian officials are treating the incident as a terrorist attack despite its exceedingly amateurish nature. The explosive device was placed relatively far from the embassy and exploded on Friday at 5 p.m.—after Shabbat had already begun and after most of the embassy staff had already left (aside from those on special weekend duty).
Assuming it was a terrorist attack, these factors indicate the low level of the perpetrators’ expertise; the first step in any operation of this sort is to gather intelligence about the target. On regular weekdays, embassy employees indeed leave work at around 5 p.m., but not on Fridays. That the attackers did not have this basic information testifies to their lack of professionalism. Even the bomb itself was improvised and appears to have been hastily made and detonated.
Iran’s impressive operational capabilities across the globe are overseen by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, via the clandestine Quds Force, whose previous commander, Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad last year. In the early part of the previous decade, Soleimani spearheaded a globe-spanning Iranian effort to avenge a series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, which were attributed to the Israeli Mossad.
Attacks were foiled in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Thailand, where Iranian agents, who had built bombs in their home labs, were arrested. They were apprehended 24 hours after the wife of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s attache to India was wounded in a bomb blast near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi. Several months later, the Iranians were able to carry out a lethal attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, which left six Israeli tourists dead.
It was Hezbollah, Iran’s most capable and dangerous protege, that orchestrated the terrorist attack in Bulgaria. Meanwhile, an unknown group calling itself “Jaish-ul-Hind” claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack. Now this group is the focus of the joint investigation launched by Israel and India. The Indians have already vowed to keep Israel in the loop, and from past experience, we can assume that Israeli defense officials have already departed for India to aid the investigation.
Israel has a vested interest in proving that Iran is connected to the attack. It is a dramatic event at a dramatic point in time, as the United States appears poised to re-enter nuclear talks with the regime in Tehran. Israeli officials believe a return to the original deal signed in 2015 would be a “disaster,” and fresh information about Iranian involvement in a terrorist attack could help Israel persuade the new administration to adopt a more aggressive approach to Iran.
The Iranian logic—assuming Tehran is indeed responsible for the bombing—is less obvious. Although the mood in Iran is tempestuous following the series of assassinations and attacks attributed to Israel, pursuing revenge at this juncture seems like a very dangerous risk from their perspective.
Unlike the past, and due to the years of terrorist attacks carried out by the Islamic State group, the world these days has zero tolerance for terror. While a high-profile terrorist attack with mass casualties would send shock waves across the globe and score the regime points at home for rehabilitating Iran’s eroded pride, it would likely harm them strategically.
In the past, the Iranians have miscalculated in this regard. It’s possible that someone in Tehran assumed it would be possible to evade direct blame by using a seemingly anonymous group to do its bidding. This will be the focus of the investigation now: to determine who perpetrated the attack itself, and subsequently, who sent them. For Israel, this piece of the puzzle is of utmost importance and justifies the considerable investment of resources in an effort (which might not succeed) to expose the Iranian regime.
Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.