Haggai Carmon: Attorney and Author

The Bangkok Bombing Attributed to Iran: A Scene From a Keystone Kops Movie or a Clever or Rushed Maneuver by the Iranians?

Did the three suspected Iranians terrorists in Bangkok reenact a scene from the early 1920s silent film comedies — the Keystone Kops featuring clumsy and incompetent fictional policemen? At first look, it would seem so.

On Monday, Feb. 13, an explosion shattered a house in Soi Pridi Banomyong 31, in the Klongtan district of Bangkok, an upscale neighborhood where many Thai Muslims live. Thailand’s chief of police, Gen. Prewpan Dhamapong, said the explosive devices found in the rented house resembled those found in Georgia and New Delhi terror attacks this week, and were intended to be used against the Israeli ambassador in Thailand. The C-4 explosives were hidden inside two radios. C-4 is favored by terrorists because it can only be set off by a small detonator, or blasting cap, because a fuse or fire will only make it burn. Three men fled from the house. One of the men, Iranian citizen Saeib Moradi (28) fled to the street bleeding, holding three hand grenades. He tried to stop a passing cab, and when the driver refused, Moradi hurled a grenade toward the cab. The driver escaped unscathed. When police arrived at the scene, Moradi, standing in front of Kasem Phithaya School, hurled a second grenade at them. Trying to flee, Moradi hurled a third grenade at the police, but it hit a civilian pickup truck, bounced back, exploding, amputating his legs. In Moradi’s bag, Thai police found Iranian, US and Thai currency. Moradi arrived to Phucket, Thailand on February 8 on a flight from Seoul, South Korea, and travelled to Chonburi, a region two hours away from Bangkok. On the same day, Mohammad Hazaei also arrived in Thailand. Mohammad Hazaei and Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, a third Iranian national, were seen leaving the house after the explosion in hurry, carrying backpacks and a portable radio and boarding a taxicab. Mohammad Hazaei was later apprehended at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport as he tried to board an Air Asia flight to Malaysia, and Masoud Sedaghatzadeh (31), was arrested by the Malaysian police on February 15, 2012 in Kuala Lumpur. When arrested, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh was scheduled to board a flight to Tehran. A third terrorist, Leila Rohani, an Iranian woman managed to escape to Iran. She rented the house in Klongtan for the terrorists’ use about a month ago.

The media rushed to label the incident as an Iranian-backed terror attack. The veracity of that allegation, which currently seems to be accurate, will soon be determined. Intriguing questions linger.

Why now? Feb. 12 marks the anniversary of the violent death of Imad Fayez Mughniyah, the head of Hezbollah’s security section, and one of the founders of the organization. Mughniyah has been linked to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing and U.S. embassy bombings that killed over 350, and with the kidnapping of dozens of foreigners in Lebanon in the 1980s. Mughniyah was indicted in Argentina for his role in the 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy attack in Buenos Aires. Mughniyah is believed to have killed more United States citizens than any other terrorist before 9/11. Little wonder that he has been under the sights of every intelligence service in the region. On Feb. 12, 2008 he died when his car exploded. Hezbollah and Iran promised revenge, and therefore an attempted attack by Iranian citizens on that day could be attributed to Hezbollah and Iran making good on their promise. Incidentally, Feb. 12 is also the 31st birthday of Masoud Sedaghatzadeh. There are no reports as to whether he received a birthday cake in prison.

The three Iranians appeared to be so clumsy that one wonders what motivated their planned attack. First, the house in Bangkok was rented for the three of them using Iranian passports. Hello! Was it a clandestine operation or a scene from a Keystone Kops movie? What trained terrorist would do that? The names on the passports are probably fake. At least two of these Iranian passports have almost sequential numbers. But the photos?

Second, when the devices in their house exploded, probably as a result of a “work related accident” of untrained terrorists, they fled the house without a pre-planned escape route, failing to use false passports to ease their escape out of the country. Thirdly, like another scene from Keystone Kops, instead of running away, one of the clumsy wannabe terrorists threw grenades in the street, drawing attention to himself and losing his both legs.

Was that for real? A botched terrorist attack by one of the world’s renowned terrorist-sponsoring state and its proxy terrorist organization? Since neither the Iranian Quds Forces of the Revolutionary Guards or Hezbollah can be regarded as stupid or incompetent, there are at least two plausible explanation: One, the planners, whether Iranian, Hezbollah or both, wanted the perpetrators to be identified. The planners wanted the attack on the Israeli ambassador to Thailand to be painful, sending shockwaves throughout the region, but at the same time, by sending untrained men to do the job, the planners allowed themselves tongue-in-cheek plausible deniability. However, to make sure that Israel and the U.S would take the “hint” the planners probably sent individuals without proper guidance or training, allowing them to use their real names and Iranian passports. Thus, the planners hoped, they could kill a few birds with one stone: cause damage, deny responsibility, but not hide too deeply who was behind the perpetrators. The second plausible explanation is that the pressure on the Iranian leadership caused by the increased sanctions is resulting in orders to carry out immediate attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets. Such pressure led to the unprofessional manner in which the three Iranian terrorists acted. If that is the case, then expect some heads to roll in Tehran.

Now, compare that botched operation to another terror attack on the same day in New Delhi, India, also attributed to Iran or Hezbollah. A man on a motorcycle attached a sticky bomb to the car of an Israeli diplomat, occupied at the time by his wife and a local driver. Both were injured but the perpetrator fled without a trace. The modus operandi resembled the recent assassinations of Iranian scientists in Tehran. Although no one took credit for these assassinations, Iran was quick to blame Israel. Was the attack in New Delhi a copycat retaliation by Iranian intelligence?

Based on past experience and unveiled threats made by the Israeli Foreign Minister, it is likely that Israel will retaliate. When and where is yet to be seen. To be continued, etc. etc.