U.S. and Western intelligence sources say that Iran is secretly smuggling arms into Lebanon via commercial flights that are then transferred to Tehran’s long-time proxy, Hezbollah, as well as Iranian weapons factors,Â Fox News reported exclusively.
Intel sources note further that they have uncovered the unanticipated routes that Iran has taken in order to avoidÂ having those shipments detected.
The report noted further that intelligence services have identified an Iranian civil aviation firm as being behind the suspected arms smuggling. Sources said intelligence services have identified two rare and unusual Qeshm Fars Air flights taking off from Tehran and landing at Beirut International Airport over the past two months.
The first flight occurred on July 9, sources said, and involved a Boeing 747 that left an air force base in Tehran, then stopped for a short layover at the international airport in Damascus, the Syrian capital, before proceeding on an “uncharacteristic flight path” to the airport in Lebanon.
“The second flight was conducted on August 2. Flight number QFZ9960 landed in Beirut at 5:59 pm, after departing Tehran’s international airport two and a half hours earlier. This time, the plane did not stop in Damascus, but it followed a slightly irregular route north of Syria,”Â Fox News reported.
Fox News obtained flight path data, viaÂ FlightRadar24/Google Maps.
A regional intelligence source who asked to remain anonymous said:Â â€œThe Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and defying the Westâ€™s abilities to track them down.â€
Intelligence sources said that the plane carried parts for making precision weapons at Iranian-run factories inside Lebanon. The U.S., Israel, and other Western intelligence services have collected evidence that Iran is operating weapons factories inside Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
Recently, theÂ Reuters news service cited Iranian, Iraqi, and Western sources to claim that Iran had managed to transfer short-range ballistic missiles to its Shiite allies inside Iraq.
Analysis: This is a familiar tactic: Iran has used commercial flights to mask weapons-smuggling in the past.
However, these flights are in line with previous Iranian action to strengthen its Hezbollah proxy and to build a weapons-making infrastructure within host countries as part of Tehran’s objective of encircling Israel.Â
Earlier this year, tensions were so high between Iran and Israel that many analyses projected war would break out between the two regional powers, a conflict that — should it eventually occur — is likely to draw in the great powers. Russia has consistently backed and supplied Iran, while the U.S. has been Israel’s most reliable ally and regional partner. There is no reason to expect that Moscow and Washington would steer clear of any Israeli-Iranian conflict, especially when both countries have so much invested in the outcome.
Israeli leaders have consistently said they will not allow Iran to encircle the Jewish state and threaten it from various points, so this new intelligence is very likely to be actionable — that is, we should expect that Israel will target these weapons-making facilities as well as weapons storage depots and caches soon. Israel has regularly struck Iranian depots and targets inside Syria, and it struck targets inside Lebanon in April following a Hezbollah rocket attack that killed an Israeli soldier.
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