BERLIN – A leading Balkan-based website covering the region’s politics published
in late March a comprehensive study on Israeli-Balkan relations and the threat
of Hezbollah, along with its chief sponsor Iran.
“While the Israelis are,
of course, concerned by the occasional manifestations of neo-Nazism, they are
currently focusing on Hezbollah – and behind it, Iran – as the main potential
threat to their own interests. Israeli diplomats, tourists and local Jewish
populations are all regarded as potential targets. In contrast to the case with
Balkan-Sunni extremists, however, relatively little research has been published
on Hezbollah in the Balkans today,” wrote Chris Deliso, the author of the
The new report, titled “Israeli security concerns and the
Balkans,” was published on the website Balkanalysis.com.
investigation is based on interviews with leading Israeli counterterrorism
Dr. Ely Karmon, senior research scholar at the International
Institute for Counter- Terrorism in Herzliya, was quoted in the study as saying
that “there is a clear pattern. Iran begins [in small countries] with
diplomatic relations, investment promises and cultural relations. But all
Iranian diplomatic and cultural activities carried out are under the control of
their intelligence services.”
“For Iran, the Balkans is a good platform
for two reasons. First, countries like Bosnia have already been long
penetrated. Second, the local security and law enforcement are not
sufficiently prepared for an adversary like Iran,” he continued.
study cited the cases of Hezbollah’s involvement in Bulgaria and Cyprus, and
noted that Hezbollah operatives traveled with passports from Western European
countries, permitting greater latitude for avoiding suspicion from the local
Bulgarian former interior minister Tsvetan Tvetanov
reiterated his claims in Brussels on Thursday that the bombing of an Israeli
tour bus last July in Burgas, Bulgaria, was the work of Hezbollah.
can make a grounded assumption that the militant wing of Hezbollah is the
mastermind and perpetrator of the terrorist act in Burgas,” said Tvetanov,
according to the Standart, a Bulgarian daily.
The bombing resulted in the
deaths of five Israelis, a Bulgarian national and one of the three suspected
Meanwhile, a Cypriot court last month convicted
Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, a self-confessed member of Hezbollah, of plotting to
He was sentenced to a four-year prison term.
Melman, a veteran Israeli journalist on intelligence and strategic affairs who
wrote for Haaretz and now contributes to The Jerusalem Report, told Deliso,
“Israeli agencies know that Iran’s MOIS [Ministry of Intelligence and Security]
and the Quds Force [a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
responsible for foreign operations] have established sleeper cells of agents and
they try to locate weak links in the European chain. One such a weak link is the
The report noted that local conditions in the Balkans make for
“an attractive target for Hezbollah and Iran,” according to Melman, and that
“the decision to expand the Israeli diplomatic presence [in the Balkans] is a
by-product of budgetary reasons, economic potential and yes, also the desire to
challenge and stand up to Iran and Hezbollah terrorism.”
The study cited
the journalist as stating that “excellent cooperation” exists between Israel and
local Balkan intelligence services. He added that those agencies that “lack
technological capacities and are weak in analysis, and certainly in monitoring
outside elements like Iran – here enter the CIA and the Mossad to help them. The
Burgas inquiry is a good example of such an international cooperation, combining
local and international knowledge and understanding,” he
Discussions are under way among the 27 European Union member
nations to ban Hezbollah because of the Cyprus and Bulgarian cases.