Bulgaria Terror Attack

Netanyahu Wants to Turn the Israeli Intelligence Failure Over Bulgaria Into an Excuse to Strike Iran

ANALYSIS: The prime minister is trying to turn the failure to prevent the deadly attack into an accomplishment - two hours after the fact he was saying ‘all signs lead to Iran.’

The attack in Burgas is a failure for Israeli intelligence. This is not an accusation, but a fact of life that is part of the difficult reality of constantly fighting terrorism and the nations and organizations that support it.

That there are successes and failures are the nature of such a struggle; though there are more gains, the few failures come at a price.

Had the Israeli intelligence – aided by local services - not failed in exposing and foiling the plot, the Counter Terrorism Bureau (which is part of the prime minister’s office) would have issued a travel warning under the name “Bulgaria,” to be disseminated worldwide.

Barring such a warning, and with no heightened security in Burgas, it is safe to assume that those who planned and executed the attack managed to conceal their activities – intelligence gathering ahead of the operation, training a suicide bomber or an operative to plant the explosives, and smuggling weapons.

Israel is not alone in these kinds of failures. The intelligence and security apparatus surrounding Bashar Assad – who knows he’s being targeted – has been breached (even if it only his aides who have been hurt.)  A suspicious, professional and counter-intelligence savvy man such as Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat, who was snared precisely the same way Syrians managed to assassinate Bashir Gemayel thirty years ago.

If the core of Assad’s struggling regime is breached – by one of it own loyalists – one can’t blame Israel for detecting a breach in its security net – what proved to be a lethal hole - in a foreign country.

And yet Benjamin Netanyahu, for his own reasons, is trying to turn the failure into an accomplishment. Two hours after the attack, he was saying that “all signs lead to Iran.”

Naturally, this is a well-founded suspicion; but from a prime minister – as opposed to a commentator – one expects a little more proof. And until he has proof, Netanyahu is talking about a worldwide pattern “in recent months” and the 18th anniversary of attack on Jewish community in Buenos Aires (which did not justify, in his eyes, a heightened alert concerning terror attacks). The conclusion: “This is an Iranian terror attack.” The aspiration that follows: “Israel will react forcefully to Iranian terror.”

Even if Netanyahu’s wish comes true, and evidence to Iran’s responsibility is found, it would not justify moving beyond the shadow war of what appears to be mutual terror attacks and onto a big war, the one that according to Ehud Barak would only take the lives of 500 Israelis – all in all, Burgas times 70.

Netanyahu and Barak are eager to deploy IDF forces on an attack mission targeting nuclear facilities in Iran. They lack a convincing excuse, since the Iranians have not yet decided whether to manufacture nuclear weapons, and U.S. President Barack Obama is busy with other things until November – issues that could only be sidetracked by the sounds of explosions in the Persian Gulf.

Mitt Romney, who Netanyahu’s benefactor Sheldon Edelson wishes to usher into the White House, looks like he’s going to lose. An Israeli-Iranian war, one that would pose significant economic threats – is the last hope harbored by Obama’s rivals.

Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz and his contingent, recently exiled from the coalition, are itching to redeem themselves after being exposed as vulnerbale, by scratching away at Netanyahu’s and Barak’s steadfast political support.

The impending Knesset recess, however, leading up to the elections which will take place in early 2013, is likely to instill Barak and Netanyahu with renewed strength.   

There will be much temptation to create a serious of incitements and counters, and during the third phase, after an Iranian retaliation for an Israeli retaliation, the jets will take off for the east.

If it happens quickly, Netanyahu and Barak will be spared having to deal with two bothersome events set for August, the second evacuation of some thirty people from Migron, and the first IDF call up for ultra-Orthodox conscripts.

Heightened American activities near the Persian Gulf, and military policy, like sending National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon and General James Mattis of “USCENTCOM” or central command, for talks with senior officials in Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region, show that Obama is not subscribing to the doctrine of keeping quiet until the elections.

Talks that took place on Wednesday night between Barak and his American counterpart Leon Panetta, who is scheduled to visit Israel and the Middle East, did not necessarily calm the government.

Further talks are expected between Obama himself, or one of his agents, Vice President Joe Biden, or Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and Netanyahu.

Officially, talks of condolences over Burgas. In reality, a warning about Iran.

As in Lebanon in 1982, Iran is a war looking for an excuse. The “Belli” is ready; It only needs the “Causus.” Netanyahu and Barak must not be allowed to find them in Burgas.

Amit Shavi