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