Is Iran Pathetic?

The question: If the series of attacks this week on Israeli targets in India, Georgia and now, qute possibly, Thailand are indeed the work of Iran and its terror proxy, Hezbollah, the question is, why aren't these guys better at killing people? At one point, they were the masters. Did the assassination of Imad Mugniyeh, the man who ran Hezbollah's terror wing and who was one of the most clever terrorists the world has ever seen, remove from the scene someone truly irreplaceable?

Of course, I write this knowing very well that in the year or so leading up to the 9/11 attacks, the dominant theme of al Qaeda coverage was: These guys are more incompetent than we thought. Still, the relatively ineffectual attacks over the past two days suggest that, at the very least, Hezbollah and Iran are forcing plans into action before they are actually ready to execute. Perhaps this is because, as Jackson Diehl has suggested, Iran is panicking. Only panic explains Iran's decision -- if this was indeed a decision made in Tehran -- to attack an Israeli diplomat in the capital of the one major power, India, that has said it would continue to buy Iranian oil.

Here is Avi Issacharoff on, among other things, the "pathetic" nature of these recent attempts:

It must be said that the attempt to execute two bombings in India and Georgia should theoretically point to a high level of sophistication and ability. However, the final outcome points to the pathetic nature and the relative failure at achieving the goal.

Exactly one month ago, a Hezbollah attack on Israeli targets was thwarted in Bangkok. Thailand's Police Chief Priewpan Damapong said then that Hezbollah had cancelled its attack in the wake of the publishing of the arrest of a Lebanese man connected to the organization. Three weeks ago, it was the Iranian intelligence which sent several terrorists to attack members of Chabad as well as the Israeli ambassador in Azerbaijan. Hezbollah has attempted to carry out several revenge attacks in Turkey and Azerbaijan over the past four years.

Despite the limited damage done, the attempts at attacking Israeli targets will likely continue. It is possible that even the recent failures will only strengthen Hezbollah's motivation to continue and prove that it did not forget the "Secretary-General" Imad Mughniyeh. It is possible that in this context, one must understand Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's surprising comments to a Shiite crowd that amassed in Beirut last week to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad's birthday in which he said that the organization is not taking orders from Iran. It should be assumed that Nasrallah knew that the attacks were to take place a day after the anniversary of Mughniyeh's assassination, since he hinted to his crowd that Hezbollah has been acting independent of the Islamic Republic, a notion he has been pushing for quite a while.


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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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