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There have been signs that Iranian operatives in Thailand are posing a heightened terrorism threat there. But this seems to be specifically targeted against Israeli interests rather than the wider population.

This assessment was issued to clients of Dragonfly’s Security Intelligence & Analysis Service (SIAS) on 8 June 2022.

Reports have been circulating in international media of Thai police being ‘on alert’ over the issue. And while Thai officials have denied this, there is some evidence that suggests Iran has tried to expand its influence in the region recently. Iranian nationals have also tried to mount attacks against Israeli diplomats in Thailand in the past.

Al-Monitor, a US-based news outlet, reported on 7 June that the Israeli authorities have added Thailand to a recent travel warning over a threat to Israeli citizens from ‘Iranian terrorist operatives’. We suspect the updated warning is in connection to Thai press reports that on 6 June said that the national police in Thailand had also issued a ‘secret order’ to monitor Iranian nationals suspected of working as spies. However, none of the outlets cited official sources in their reporting and both the Thai Foreign Ministry and the Royal Thai Police have denied this.

In our analysis, the reports appear credible despite the lack of official information. There have been signs suggesting that Iran-backed operatives have been active in the region recently; reporting has referred to an arrest of a suspect in Indonesia last year who reportedly indicated that there were ongoing efforts by Iran to attack Israeli citizens in Thailand. The suspect, who said he was recruited by an Iranian diplomat in Malaysia, used a fake passport and travelled to Thailand on several occasions.

That being said, the reports seem to reflect ongoing and longstanding efforts by Iran to mount attacks against Israeli interests globally rather than indicate an immediate terrorism threat in Thailand. Iran has a long history of foreign covert operations that aim to target Israeli interests abroad. And it has previously done so particularly in countries with less strict travel restrictions on its nationals, including Thailand. In 2013 two Iranians were convicted of a bomb plot against Israeli diplomats after a bomb went off prematurely in Bangkok in 2012.

Any attacks by Iranian operatives in Thailand are likely to be opportunistic and targeted mainly against Israeli diplomatic interests and Jewish religious and cultural interests. This is based on years of efforts by Iran-backed entities to mount attacks abroad that fit with Iran’s self-proclaimed political objective to ‘destroy’ the state of Israel. Still, Iranian operatives are almost certainly willing to carry out attacks that result in civilian casualties, even if these discriminate and target Israeli nationals specifically.

Image: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) stands at attention beside Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha as they inspect the honour guard at Government House in Bangkok on 13 June 2022. Photo by Manan Vatsyayana/AFP via Getty Images.