Nov 29, 2022 - World

Scoop: Iran committed to Thailand that it won't target Israeli tourists, cable says

An El Al Israel Airlines plane at Bangkok airport. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty

The government of Thailand notified the Israeli government that it received a commitment from Iran not to conduct attacks against Israeli targets on Thai soil, according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry cable and two Israeli officials briefed on the matter.

Why it matters: Thailand is a major tourism destination for Israelis, and Israeli officials have accused Iranian operatives several times in the past decade of attempting to conduct attacks on Israelis in the country.

  • Last June, Thai media outlets reported that Thailand's security forces were on high alert due to concerns about possible Iranian agents in the country, and the arrest of an Iranian agent in nearby Indonesia.

Behind the scenes: On Nov. 15, the political director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Aliza Bin-Noun, met with a senior Thai Foreign Ministry official in Bangkok, according to a copy of the diplomatic cable seen by Axios.

  • The official briefed Bin-Noun on a trip he took to Tehran in August, in which the main issue discussed was security.
  • According to the Israeli cable, the senior Thai diplomat said he had asked the Iranians to reiterate a commitment, first made one year earlier but not publicly known until now, not to target Israelis in Thailand, and the Iranians stressed that they would adhere to that commitment.
  • Two Israeli officials confirmed the account but spoke on condition anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the meeting.
  • Thailand's Ambassador to Israel Pannabha Chandraramya told Axios this account was inaccurate but would not specify which aspects. An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “We don’t comment in the media on the contents of diplomatic conversations."

The big picture: Over the last year, Israel's Mossad intelligence agency has claimed to have thwarted numerous plots against Israeli officials, businessmen and tourists in countries including Turkey, Georgia and Cyprus.

  • Israel is particularly concerned about potential attacks on its citizens overseas because the Iranian government has threatened to avenge the assassinations of several Iranian military officials and nuclear scientists, for which it blames Israel.
  • Iran has repeatedly denied targeting Israelis in third countries, dismissing reports of an alleged plot against Israeli tourists in Istanbul this summer, for example, as "baseless."

Flashback: Three Iranians were imprisoned for an attempted bomb attack in Thailand in 2012, a day after Israeli diplomats were targeted in India and Georgia.

  • They were released in 2020 as part of what the Thai government called a prisoner transfer that included the release of Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was arrested in Iran in 2018.
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