Israel blames Iran for Bulgarian bus bombing

A bus bombing on Wednesday that killed up to six Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver was likely carried out by a suicide attacker with fake U.S. documents, according to Bulgaria’s interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. Dozens of people were injured in the attack. Minister Tsvetanov told reporters the bomber was carrying a fake Michigan ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

A bus bombing on Wednesday that killed up to six Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver was likely carried out by a suicide attacker with fake U.S. documents, according to Bulgaria's interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. Dozens of people were injured in the attack. Minister Tsvetanov told reporters the bomber was carrying a fake Michigan driver's license and attempted to blend in with vacationers as they traveled from Bulgaria's Burgas airport. According to security camera footage, he was a long-haired Caucasian in sportswear. Bulgarian authorities said their priority is to determine the identity of the attacker and are working alongside the F.B.I., C.I.A., Israeli intelligence services, and Interpol. Israel has blamed the Iranian-supported Lebanese militant group Hezbollah for the attack, "with the close cooperation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "All signs point to Iran," noting that it was the 18th anniversary of a bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina for which authorities suspected Iran. There have been a string of attempted attacks in the past months that Israel believes Iran has been behind in Thailand, India, Kenya, and Cyprus. Conversely, Iran has blamed Israel for the assassinations of Iranian scientists working for the country's nuclear development program. Iran has denied involvement in the Bulgarian attack, but Israel has promised retaliation.

Syria

Heavy fighting continues for the fifth day in the Syrian capital of Damascus and a day after a bombing killed three top Assad regime officials. The attack, which killed the Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, Assad's brother-in-law Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat, and the head of Assad's crisis team Hassan Turkomani, was a blow to the regime. According to a Western diplomat, "The killings yesterday were a huge blow, but not fatal." White House spokesman Jay Carney said it was "clear that Assad is losing control." The bombing appears to be part of a coordinated assault referred to by opposition fighters as the "liberation of Damascus." The assassinations have triggered severe retaliation by Syrian forces, who have increased heavy shelling and machinegun fire from helicopters in the capital. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, over 150 people died in fighting on Wednesday, in one of the worst days since the beginning of the uprisings in March 2011. President Bashar al-Assad's location remain uncertain. However according to opposition sources and a Western diplomat, he is trying to maintain control from his palace in the port city of Latakia. The United Nations Security Council delayed a vote to Thursday on a draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Syria, which Russia has committed to veto. Jordan's King Abdullah said there might no longer be a political solution, stating "The realities on the ground may have overtaken us, therefore I think the clock is ticking and we have ... reached the point where the political option is too late."

A bus bombing on Wednesday that killed up to six Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver was likely carried out by a suicide attacker with fake U.S. documents, according to Bulgaria’s interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov. Dozens of people were injured in the attack. Minister Tsvetanov told reporters the bomber was carrying a fake Michigan driver’s license and attempted to blend in with vacationers as they traveled from Bulgaria’s Burgas airport. According to security camera footage, he was a long-haired Caucasian in sportswear. Bulgarian authorities said their priority is to determine the identity of the attacker and are working alongside the F.B.I., C.I.A., Israeli intelligence services, and Interpol. Israel has blamed the Iranian-supported Lebanese militant group Hezbollah for the attack, "with the close cooperation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "All signs point to Iran," noting that it was the 18th anniversary of a bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina for which authorities suspected Iran. There have been a string of attempted attacks in the past months that Israel believes Iran has been behind in Thailand, India, Kenya, and Cyprus. Conversely, Iran has blamed Israel for the assassinations of Iranian scientists working for the country’s nuclear development program. Iran has denied involvement in the Bulgarian attack, but Israel has promised retaliation.

Syria

Heavy fighting continues for the fifth day in the Syrian capital of Damascus and a day after a bombing killed three top Assad regime officials. The attack, which killed the Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, Assad’s brother-in-law Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat, and the head of Assad’s crisis team Hassan Turkomani, was a blow to the regime. According to a Western diplomat, "The killings yesterday were a huge blow, but not fatal." White House spokesman Jay Carney said it was "clear that Assad is losing control." The bombing appears to be part of a coordinated assault referred to by opposition fighters as the "liberation of Damascus." The assassinations have triggered severe retaliation by Syrian forces, who have increased heavy shelling and machinegun fire from helicopters in the capital. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, over 150 people died in fighting on Wednesday, in one of the worst days since the beginning of the uprisings in March 2011. President Bashar al-Assad’s location remain uncertain. However according to opposition sources and a Western diplomat, he is trying to maintain control from his palace in the port city of Latakia. The United Nations Security Council delayed a vote to Thursday on a draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Syria, which Russia has committed to veto. Jordan’s King Abdullah said there might no longer be a political solution, stating "The realities on the ground may have overtaken us, therefore I think the clock is ticking and we have … reached the point where the political option is too late."

Headlines  

  • Omar Suleiman died in the United States while undergoing medical treatment. He was the former head of Egyptian intelligence under Hosni Mubarak and briefly served as vice-president.
  • Yemen’s President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi warned Iran to stop meddling in Yemen after uncovering an alleged Iranian spy-ring.

Arguments & Analysis 

U.S.-Israel Military Ties Face Long-Term Strains‘ (Andrew Exum, World Politics Review)

"A few weeks ago, a couple of articles appeared in two Israeli newspapers — Israel Hayom and Maariv — criticizing U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. At first glance, there was nothing terribly significant about the articles. After all, one can hardly open a newspaper in any language these days without reading a criticism of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. I have written several myself in these pages. But what stood out about these two articles is that they were written by people working for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As such, they represented a departure from a historical norm on both sides to avoid airing public criticism of the other’s military operations and strategy."

Deaths in Damascus’ (Steve Coll, The New Yorker)

"Assad is finished. What seems left to discover is how much time will be required before he is either killed or flees; how many more Syrian civilians will die before the war turns to a struggle for post-Assad ascendancy; and how much longer the United Nations, undermined by Russia, will continue to embarrass itself by failing to craft a political transition or reduce the indiscriminate killing of Syrian civilians by state-security services…As it becomes clearer that Assad is doomed, it should become easier to persuade Russia to act. If Russia is to salvage any access to a post-Assad government, it may want to bargain away its intransigence at the right moment, in order to bring some post-Assad grouping of Alawite military officers to a political negotiation-if it is not already too late for that."

The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2013: Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights in the Middle East & North Africa‘ (Stephen McInerney, Project on Middle East Democracy)

"This spring, President Obama submitted his annual budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year 2013, the final such budget of his current four-year term of office…President Obama set a high bar for the U.S. response to these changes, promising in May 2011 that the U.S. would support democratic principles with "all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal," and that this support would not be secondary to other strategic interests. More than a year later, it is difficult to argue that the administration’s policies and engagement with the Middle East have lived up to such lofty pronouncements, and changes to foreign assistance and support for democracy and governance programming reflect that. Nonetheless, the administration does deserve credit for intensifying its focus on support for democracy, governance, and human rights in some instances."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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