ATbar The Campaign of Iranian Terrorist Attacks against Israeli Targets in Central and South-East Asia
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The Campaign of Iranian Terrorist Attacks against Israeli Targets in Central and South-East Asia

09/03/2012 | by Karmon, Ely (Dr.)  

Background and Patterns of Activity

In an article published in 1998 by the Middle East Quarterly, “Why Tehran Starts and Stops Terrorism” I described the patterns of Iranian terrorism and its ideological and strategic motivations since the beginning of the Khomeinist regime in 1979.

My recommendation at that time was that the West must convince the hardline Iranian leaders that any future resort to terrorism will be met with determination and that its price for Iran generally and the leaders personally would be too high to pay.

Since the middle of the 1990s Iran and Hezbollah have avoided to stage attacks in Europe, especially after the April 1997 trial of the so called “Mikonos restaurant” affair, when a German court convicted four Iranians in the 1992 murders of dissident Iranian/Kurdish leader Sadiq Sarafkindi and three of his colleagues in the Berlin restaurant and found that the killings were ordered by the highest state levels in Iran.

But the modus operandi of the Iranian agents and their proxy Hezbollah terrorists has remained unchanged since they began to act outside the Middle East.

The use of an infrastructure based on Shias from the local Lebanese communities:

In Argentina:

  • The suicide bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires on March 17, 1992 was most probably planned in the Tri-Border area (Argentina-Paraguay-Brazil) which has a large Lebanese Shia Muslim population. Messages intercepted by the American National Security Agency revealed Iranian knowledge of the impending attack, as well as the complicity of Hezbollah operative leader Imad Mugniyeh.
  • The suicide bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community building in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994.

According to the investigation of Attorney General Alberto Nisman and District Attorney Marcelo Martínez Burgos Argentina was infiltrated by Iran’s intelligence service, which in the mid-1980s began establishing a vast spy network that then became a complete ‘intelligence service’ that basically comprised: the Iranian Embassy and its cultural attaché in Buenos Aires; extremist elements that were associated with the Shiite mosques At-Tauhíd in Floresta, Al Iman in Cañuelas and El Mártir in San Miguel de Tucumán; the businesses referred to as ‘fronts’ – GTC and Imanco – and other radicalized members of the Islamic community who were in Argentina for the sole purpose of gathering the information and making the arrangements that paved the way for the attack on (see article at

In November 2005, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman charged 21-year-old, Lebanese, Ibrahim Hussein Berro as the suicide bomber who blew up the AMIA.

In November 2006 Argentine Judge Corral issued international arrest warrants for seven upper echelons of the former Iranian government, including the former President, Iranian diplomats posted to Buenos Aires and Imad Moughnieh, head of Hezbollah’s External Security Service.

The use of an infrastructure based on local Sunni citizens

In France:

During the years 1985-87 Hezbollah was responsible for 13 terrorist attacks in the Paris Metro and big stores. French authorities arrested the members of a terrorist network headed by Paris-born Tunisian Fouad Saleh, who had received military training in Iran in 1981-1982. The arrest led to the uncovering of a widespread operational apparatus consisting mainly of North African Muslims while the bombings were perpetrated by Hezbollah Lebanese terrorists who left the targets before the explosion and were not arrested.

In South East Asia:

In 1995, Hezbollah operatives began surveilling Singapore's coastline collecting intelligence on U.S. Navy and Israeli merchant ships in the Malacca Straits. Two years later authorities thwarted the group's plans to blow up US Navy ships passing through the Singapore Straits with a suicide speed-boat in a USS-Cole style attack

In 1999, Philippine officials arrested Pandu Yudhawinata, an Indonesian Hezbollah operative who revealed that Hezbollah had recruited a small number of Malaysians and Indonesians and sent them to Lebanon for training in order to carry out terrorist attacks in Australia, Southeast Asia and in Israel. An Iranian intelligence officer stationed in Malaysia in the early 1980s had originally recruited Pandu, who only later became the Southeast Asian point-man for Hezbollah operations activities.

In Azerbaijan

In May 2008 police foiled a plan to blow up the Israeli embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan in revenge for the assassination of senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh. The Iranian terror plot would have also harmed the Japanese embassy in the city, which shares its building.

Two Lebanese citizens, Karaki Ali Muhammad and Najmaddin Ali Hussein (sentenced to 15 years in prison each) and 4 Azerbaijani citizens arrested. Some Lebanese, Iranian and Azeri operatives escaped to Iran.

The group received support and orders from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah. Group leader Karaki visited Baku several times since 2007 (before the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in February 2008) to collect information about Israel’s embassy, the Jewish Cultural Center in Baku and a number of Iranians who “help Israel.”

The group was also planning to bomb the Qabala radar station, which belongs to Azerbaijan and is leased to Russia until 2012. Russia offered the U.S. to use the Qabala facility jointly with Russia instead of deploying the planned U.S. missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

United States

At a press conference in Washington on October 11, 2011 Attorney General Eric Holder said Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who holds an Iranian passport, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iranian-based member of the Quds force, which is an arm of the Iranian government's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were charged in an "international murder-for-hire scheme" to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. "The conspiracy was conceived, sponsored, and was directed from Iran," Holder said. Manssor Arbabsiar had been recruited by his cousin - a high-ranking officer in the Quds Force - to pay a member of the Mexican Zeta drug cartel to carry out the killing.

The January - February 2012 campaign of Iranian terrorist attacks against Israeli targets


In January 2012 Azeri authorities arrested two local people allegedly plotting an attack on the Israeli ambassador and a rabbi of the Jewish community. They had worked with a criminal figure who had links to Iranian intelligence.

On February 21, 2012 Azerbaijan authorities announced that a number of people had been arrested in connection with an alleged plot against foreign citizens organized by Iran. The National Security Ministry said the plotters had acquired weapons and explosives. The officials suspect elements within the Quds force paid Azeris to attack Jewish targets in the capital, Baku.


In January 2012 Thai authorities arrested a Lebanese man, Hussein Atris, who has been charged with possession of prohibited substances. A warehouse he rented in the Thai capital contained several tons of fertilizer and a large amount of ammonium nitrate, used to make explosives. Atris, who was once a hairdresser in Sweden, has denied any links to Hezbollah and insisted the materials were destined for export.

But on February 14, 2012, Saeid Moradi, a 28-year old Iranian, was injured as he tried to throw a device at police. Minutes earlier, an explosion rocked the house he rented with two other Iranians in the Thai capital. Two improvised bombs were found at the house. All three are under arrest - one detained in neighboring Malaysia as he tried to board a plane for Tehran. All the men carried Iranian passports and are suspected of planning attacks on Israeli targets in Thailand.

Two Iranian suspects remain at large and arrest warrants have been issued for them.

Police in Thailand suspects that Thai nationals could also be involved in the plot to murder Israeli diplomats.

On 13 February 2012, there were attempts to blow up Israeli diplomatic vehicles in New Delhi and the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.


In the New Delhi attack on 13 February, Tal Yehoshua Koren, wife of the Israeli defense attaché, was seriously injured by a “sticky bomb” which a motorcyclist attached to her car, a short distance from the Indian prime minister’s residence.

Delhi Police arrested an Indian journalist, Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi, a Shi’ite with longstanding Iranian connections. He is said to be a part-time employee with an Iranian broadcaster and wrote columns for Iranian newspapers and filed reports for the official Iranian Islamic Republic News Agency. He was a frequent visitor to Iran since 1983 and has visited several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq and Syria.

According to the Times of India (March 8, 2012) the arrest of Kazmi has blown the lid of a plot to launch multiple attacks against Israeli nationals in India and the Israeli embassy.

The terrorists contacted Syed Kazmi in February 2011 and told him about the plan. The attackers promised him big money to help plot the bombings. He was given 5000 American dollars in the first installment. He was in regular touch with terrorists for over a year and had visited Iran and West Asia several times.

The bombers came to Delhi on a tourist visa 15 days before the blast and stayed at a hotel. The man who bombed the diplomat's car has been identified and had stayed in New Delhi for over a month and visited Kazmi's house several times. He fled India the day after the bombing and is now in Malaysia.

On February 13, the bomber hired a black Hero Honda Passion Pro bike and waited for Yehoshua's car. After sticking the bomb on the car, the terrorist returned the bike to its owner.

By February 14, the bomber and others had reportedly fled the country, but they did not leave for Iran on a direct flight, instead used a different route.

Intelligence agencies are trying to ascertain whether the bombing was planned by an Iran-based terror organization or the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah.

It should be noted that the Indian government has been hesitant to openly name Iran as a collaborator in the attack because of its major economic and political interests in Iran.

Interestingly, some Indian journalists have even hinted at a conspiracy theory, accusing the Israeli Mossad of organizing the attacks.


Turkey's Hürriyet Daily News reported on February 8 Israel had warned Turkish authorities that four terrorists associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force “have entered Turkey from Iran” equipped with weapons that could be used in an attack on Israeli diplomats.

Iran/Hezbollah “meme combat” (same fight)

For those who doubt the symbiosis between Hezbollah and the Tehran regime, and more specifically the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), it suffice to compare the flags of the two organizations, the black IRGC and the yellow Hezbollah. The IRGC, which was responsible for the formation and training of Hezbollah in Lebanon between 1982-83, considers that the whole globe is its fighting arena, not only the Persian Gulf or the Middle East. Thus, the infrastructure and the terrorist activities of the two organizations are spread worldwide.

There has been speculation that the plots in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Thailand and India may have been planned by Hezbollah because the attacks coincided with the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Imad Mughniyah, the famous terrorist operative leader, by saboteurs in Damascus believed to have been agents of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah Secretary-General, called the speculation absurd, asserting that its operatives would have picked a much more valuable Israeli target. "Those who we will take revenge against know very well who they are; and they will need to keep taking precautions for their safety," he said.

Iran also has threatened lately to avenge the killing of several of its senior nuclear scientists. The Kayhan daily, a mouthpiece for the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and for the Revolutionary Guard Corps, wrote: "The Islamic Republic has gathered much experience in 32 years, thus assassinations of Israeli officials and military members are achievable."

The decision to stage the latest wave of attacks was probably the result of the huge international pressure on the Iranian nuclear project and the successful covert operations against its nuclear and military infrastructure and personnel.

However, the effort by Iran and Hezbollah to create simultaneous major terrorist strikes against Israeli targets was marked by poor operational capabilities and even blunders.

As there is a clear motivation of Iran to raise the stakes in the following weeks and months, on the background of the mounting diplomatic and political pressure, it could be evaluated that the attempts to stage similar attacks will continue, mainly in countries which are considered “soft belly” targets.

Therefore, the states already involved in this campaign, and the international community at large, should take a firm diplomatic, political and economic stand against the destabilizing international terrorist campaign led by Iran and Hezbollah.