Diplomacy

Israel: Iran is Smuggling Missile Technology to Hezbollah Inside Commercial Flights

Iran is smuggling weapons to the terrorist group Hezbollah inside commercial flights to Lebanon, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations has charged in a letter to the UN Security Council. Such actions would violate several Security Council resolutions.

Citing reports from Israel’s intelligence agencies, Ambassador Danny Danon wrote that “the Iranian Al-Quds Force packs weapons, ammunition and missile technology to Hezbollah in suitcases and puts them on Mahan Air flights.” The transfer of arms to Hezbollah violates Security Council resolutions 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, and 2231, which implemented last year’s nuclear deal with Iran.

The arms were either shipped directly to Hezbollah on commercial flights to Lebanon, or flown to Damascus, Syria, and then shipped to the terror group over land, Danon wrote.

Danon’s accusations echo those made by Emanuele Ottolenghi, a researcher for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who has tracked Iranian air traffic to Damascus. Ottolenghi noted in February that the United States government had repeatedly pledged to take action against Mahan Air—which is on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list for supporting terrorism—but has failed to do so. The airline notably acquired rights to fly commercial routes to European and Asian cities despite objections from Washington, the Associated Press reported in November.

Hassan Nasrallah, the general secretary of Hezbollah, said in June that “We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran.” And earlier this month, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, the chief of staff of Iran’s army, bragged that Iran had provided Hezbollah with the rocket technology it needed to target Israeli civilians.

Secretary of State John Kerry last year that the U.S. would ensure that Iran could not arm Hezbollah, despite the lifting of nuclear sanctions against Tehran. “Our primary embargo is still in place,” Kerry said at a Senate hearing last year. “We are still sanctioning them. And, I might add, for those things that we may want to deal with because of their behavior, for instance, Hezbollah, there is a UN resolution, 1701, the prevents the transfer of any weapons to Hezbollah. That will continue and what we need to do is make sure that we’re enforcing it.”

However, when Danon’s predecessor, Ron Prosor, asked the Security Council in January 2015 to condemn a Hezbollah attack on Israeli soldiers, the Security Council failed to act.

[Photo: ERIC SALARD / Flickr ]