Friday February 15th Big News Network
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts - The Bulgarian government earlier this month made a mockery of its political independence by publicly implicating Lebanon's Hezbollah in last year's attack on an Israeli bus in the resort city of Burgas, despite the fact that its "official investigation is still going on".
Sofia has yet to make an official announcement and there is an absence of trustworthy evidence to back the claim.
Under pressure for months by Washington and Tel Aviv to name Hezbollah as the culprit for the attack that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver, as well as the terrorist carrying the bomb, Sofia has appeased Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who within half hour of the bombing last July publicly pointed the finger at Hezbollah and Iran.
Unsurprisingly, Netanyahu was extremely gratified by the news from Sofia and wasted no time in calling on Europeans to put Hezbollah on their list of terrorist organizations, a significant move that would likely exacerbate the present civil rights of Muslims in Europe, particularly those who are involved in charitable fund raising for Hezbollah's plethora of social welfare services in Lebanon.
The US government likewise conveniently interpreted as "conclusive" the preliminary finding in the Burgas investigation that the "military formation of Hezbollah might be involved" in that attack, to paraphrase carefully chosen words from Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.
According to a Bulgarian expert, Professor Vladimir Chukov, Tsvetanov made a "hybrid statement" that "like Britain" makes the distinction between Hezbollah as a group and its "military wing". "This is a hybrid situation that goes on to suggest that there is little chance that Bulgaria will name Hezbollah and Iran as culprits," Professor Chukov has told the Bulgarian media.
Tell that to the mainstream media that wasted no time in its avalanche of reports that Bulgaria has implicated Hezbollah in the Burgas bombing. Case in point, in the various reports in the Wall Street Journal, London's Guardian, BBC, etc, there is virtually no mention of the fact that there is no official position of the Bulgarian government as of yet, and that the investigation is still on-going. According to Professor Chukov, the interior ministry's news leak was meant simply as "a test". Yet by all indications this is a poor and politically motivated move by an official of the Bulgarian government.
"It is obvious that Bulgaria's government has chosen a political approach and is only repeating the interpretation alleged by Israel on the very next day following the attack, when the investigation had not even started," said Sergey Stanishev, the head of Bulgarian Socialist Party, who is also the Chair of Party of European Socialists. "The investigation is currently under way and there is no way one can be talking about decisive evidence regarding the direct perpetrators, much less regarding the organization that is behind this tragic event ... This is absolutely unjustified in view of national security and the risks that are taken with respect to people in Bulgaria."
There is no dearth of suspicion in Bulgaria and beyond that the government official's statement that the bombing "was most likely" the work of Hezbollah militants and that there are "obvious links" to Hezbollah is based less on hard facts and more on external political pressure. According to Minister Tsvetanov, two individuals - one Canadian and the other Australian - who have lived in Lebanon since 2006 and 2010 respectively, have been linked to the attack and "there is data showing" their "obvious links to Lebanon."
Tsvetanov's statements are backed by Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, claiming that there is "reasonable assumption" based on "forensic evidence, intelligence sources and patterns in past attacks" that "point to Hezbollah's involvement." Not so according to Stanishev, who has labeled as "poor evidence" the data cited by officials to point accusatory fingers at Hezbollah. In fact, there is a great deal of contrary evidence to suggest the attack was a carefully orchestrated Israeli "false flag" operation aimed at smearing Hezbollah and Iran and pressuring the European Union to brand Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
The distinct possibility of an Israeli 'false flag' operation can be garnered by a careful and methodical examination of the public information, including the photographs, amateur videos and instant reports on the bus attack that occurred at exactly 5:30 pm last July 18, on the anniversary of the 1994 bombing in Argentina that Israel insists was the work of Iran and Hezbollah. That was perfect timing for Israel's propaganda machine.
As stated in this author's investigative article written immediately after the bus attack, there are at least 10 valid reasons to question the official story that a busload of Israeli tourists was the target of a terrorist bombing. Lest we forget, the autopsy results in Sofia have shown that the dead terrorist was "white and had light eyes" and initially was identified as a member of al-Qaeda, much to the chagrin of Israelis who have shown zero interest in any suspect other than Hezbollah-Iran.
To reiterate the gist of this author's own probe of this matter, a good deal of evidence exists that suggest the targeted bus was empty and the only passengers hurt were inside the adjacent bus and received light injuries.
This author has carefully examined dozens upon dozens of photographs of the Israeli tourists in question, who no doubt would have received much worse facial and other bodily injuries if they were inside the targeted bus. After all, the severed head of the bomber had been discovered some 60 meters away from the bus and an instant video shows the bus in full flames, ie, impossible for the majority of 42 purported passengers, especially the elderly females seen on stretchers en route to the hospital in various photos, to escape with little or no bodily harm, thus warranting the following 10 questions:
1. Why the amateur video of the bus taken within seconds of the explosion doesn't show anyone jumping down the bus?
2. Why so many passengers survived with only light hand and foot injuries in an explosion involving (according to the Bulgarian officials) three kilograms of TNT in front of the bus?
3. Why did the Israeli group known as Zakar appear immediately on the site and collected the bodies of the dead, per several images, when this should have been done by Bulgarians? Why was this group at the airport at that time? And where were the Bulgarian security officials during the whole time monopolized by the Zakar individuals (in yellow uniforms)? Indeed, the fact that the Bulgarians allowed the Zakar all over the crime scene and move the dead victims (who were then frisked quickly to Israel) speaks volumes about the travesty of police investigation in Bulgaria.
4. Why did the bomb kill the Israelis sitting in the back of the bus (per reports in the Israeli media) while simultaneously killing the bus driver in the front and leaving the vast majority of bus passengers only lightly harmed?
5. Why have some bus witnesses told the media that they tried to get out through the front door but found it locked and managed to get out through a "hole on the side" when both the videos and reports indicate an instant fire following the explosion engulfing the bus?
6. Why is there no report of any injuries to the bus driver in the next bus, which sustained major damage especially on the driver's side? Could the bus driver killed be the one in the second bus?
7. Why was there no extra security precaution even though according to the Israeli media prior to the landing of Israeli passengers the tour company had received a call that they would be "greeted with two bombs"?
8. Why was the trunk of the targeted bus empty and no sign of any luggage (per numerous images that also show the inside of the bus and the absence of any section for luggage contrary to the claim of one of the Israeli passengers who is quoted widely)?
9. Why did the passport and license of purported terrorist remain intact despite the raging fire in the bus?
10. Why did Israel rush all the passengers back to Israel early next morning instead of allowing the Bulgarian investigators to interview them? After all, Israel made no similar attempt to protect the lives of thousands of other Israeli tourists vacationing in Burgas, bottom line since it had no real worries about any terrorist attack against them after having pulled off its spectacular 'false flag' that must surely be a source of current pride among its Mossad intelligence officials.
Mossad agents must be patting themselves on the shoulder now for a job well-done, but then again their script perhaps was too neatly executed, given Netanyahu's instant finger toward Hezbollah and Iran, or the widespread use of a replica bus on full flame, which on closer examination shows to be different from the actual targeted bus.
The Israelis have now mastered the art of political manipulation and their latest victory in Bulgaria simply educates us about why they are ahead of the game and keep winning the battle for the world public opinion.
(The writer Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, has worked as a consultant to CBS's "60 Minutes" and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Voice of America, and Al-Jazeera. He is a regular contributor to The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Global Dialogue, and Asia Times. Afrasiabi is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press). He is author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing, October 23, 2008) and Looking for Rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations CreateSpace (November 12, 2011).