Af­ter foiled bomb plot, Iran could be plan­ning at­tacks in Europe

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Shane Har­ris, Souad Mekhen­net and Joby War­rick

WA S HING TON» On the evening of July 1, po­lice in Bavaria sur­rounded the rented van of an Ira­nian diplo­mat af­ter he pulled over at a gas sta­tion on the au­to­bahn. Fear­ing that he might be trans­port­ing ex­plo­sives, the au­thor­i­ties sum­moned the bomb squad.

The diplo­mat, based at Iran’s em­bassy in Vi­enna, had been un­der sur­veil­lance for some time and was sus­pected of in­volve­ment in a plot to bomb a rally of Ira­nian dis­si­dents in Paris. De­spite his diplo­matic sta­tus, he was ar­rested and ex­tra­dited to Bel­gium, where two oth­ers, sus­pected of plan­ning to carry out the at­tack in France, were de­tained.

The foiled plot has sparked grow­ing anx­i­ety in France, Ger­many and sev­eral other coun­tries, in­clud­ing the U.S. and Is­rael, that Iran is plan­ning au­da­cious ter­ror­ist at­tacks and has stepped up its in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions around the world.

Ira­nian lead­ers, un­der pres­sure from do­mes­tic protesters, Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tives and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which is reim­pos­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions lifted un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, are mak­ing con­tin­gency plans to strike at the coun­try’s ad­ver­saries in the event of open con­flict, ac­cord­ing to Amer­i­can, Euro­pean, Mid­dle East­ern and Is­raeli of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss sen­si­tive in­tel­li­gence.

Iran has as­signed dif­fer­ent units and or­ga­ni­za­tions to con­duct sur­veil­lance of op­po­si­tion fig­ures, as well as Jewish and Is­raeli or­ga­ni­za­tions, in the U.S. and Europe, the of­fi­cials said. The Ira­ni­ans are pre­par­ing what one Is­raeli of­fi­cial called “tar­get files” of spe­cific peo­ple or groups that Iran could hit.

One Mid­dle East­ern in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion that his name and na­tion­al­ity be with­held, cited a “def­i­nite uptick” in the level of ac­tiv­ity by Ira­nian op­er­a­tives in re­cent months, adding that the Ira­ni­ans are “pre­par­ing them­selves for the pos­si­bil­ity of con­flict.”

Iran’s reach ex­tends to the U.S. In Au­gust, the Jus­ tice De­part­ment ar­rested two Ira­nian men, one a dual na­tional with U.S. and Ira­nian cit­i­zen­ship and the other an Ira­nian who is a le­gal U.S. res­i­dent, for al­legedly spy­ing on be­half of Iran. They are ac­cused of con­duct­ing sur­veil­lance on a Jewish or­ga­ni­za­tion in Chicago and ral­lies in New York and Wash­ing­ton that were or­ga­nized by the Mu­jahideen­e Khalq, or MEK, a dis­si­dent group that seeks regime change in Iran.

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