Neither the timing nor the location of the simultaneous attacks on Israeli diplomats in New Delhi and Tbilisi were hardly surprising. The week of the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, which no one has ever taken credit for but is widely attributed to Israel, was always going to be a red-letter date for attacks on Israeli targets.
The choice of the target was dictated by a number of considerations. If this attack was indeed carried out by Hezbollah or another Iranian-linked affiliate, the decision not to carry out a revenge attack on Israeli soil was made so as not to give Israel an excuse for retaliating against Hezbollah's military apparatus in Lebanon. That is being kept for the day after Israel attacks Iran.
Hezbollah's and Iran's focus therefore has been centered on Israeli representations abroad. Attempts to attack targets in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and most recently Thailand were nipped in the bud through close cooperation between Israeli intelligence and the local security services. A Hezbollah cell operating in Western Europe was also apprehended last year before it could launch an operation. Two years ago, a shooting at cars carrying Israeli diplomats in Jordan resulted in no casualties.
There were multiple intelligence warnings of a pending attack - and the recent assassinations of nuclear scientists in Tehran and mysterious explosions at various Iranian installations only added impetus. The twin locations, India and Georgia, are countries where Israel has close relationships with the local political leaderships and especially with the defense establishments. They are also countries where the security forces are not in total control of wide regions and borders.
Georgia borders Azerbaijan, Iran's neighbor, which in recent years has become a hotbed of regional intrigue with Israeli and Iranian agents operating at will. India, bordering on another Iranian neighbor, Pakistan, has long suffered from the highest number of terror attacks of any country in the world. Each target offered the perpetrators multiple channels to smuggle in explosives and willing accomplices to provide safe houses and logistical assistance. As was amply proven in the 2008 Mumbai attack, India has no lack of radical Islamist elements prepared to facilitate attacks, and while the ten percent Muslim minority in Georgia has little history of violence, the country has been intensifying its relationship with Iran over the last couple of years, including visa-free travel for the growing number of Iranian tourists and businessmen visiting Tbilisi and the Batumi resort. And just over the Russian border in Chechnya, there is no shortage of well-trained jihadists.
While the attacks will certainly lead to a review of security arrangements at Israeli embassies and consulates, it is hard to see how these could be intensified. The fact that despite multiple attempts, this is the closest the terrorists have got so far, should serve as validation for the dual strategy of reliance on Israeli security along with cooperation with local intelligence services.
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