Diplomacy

Reuters: Iran Transfers Ballistic Missiles to Iraqi Proxies, Threatening Israel, Saudi Arabia

Iran has transferred a number of short-range ballistic missiles to proxy forces in Iraq, which could threaten Israel, Saudi Arabia, or American forces in Iraq, Reuters reported Friday, citing multiple sources.

The sources included three Iranian officials, two Iraqi and two Western intelligence sources. A number of the sources said that Iran was teaching its proxies how to manufacture the missiles on their own.

An Iranian source described the transfer as a “backup plan if Iran was attacked.” The senior official also told Reuters, “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.”

According to Reuters, there are locations in southern and western Iraq where the missiles would be within range of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, or Tel Aviv, Israel. The missiles reportedly transferred include the Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar, which have ranges between 200 kilometers (125 miles) and 700 kilometers (435 miles).

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, the Iranian force in charge of operations in foreign countries, according to several sources, has bases in those areas.

According to Reuters, the transfer by Iran of advanced weapons to its Iraqi proxies could “embarrass France, Germany and the United Kingdom,” who are trying to rescue the nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that Iran “cannot avoid” talks about its ballistic missile program or its aggression across the Middle East.

“But Iran cannot avoid discussions, negotiations on three other major subjects that worry us — the future of Iran’s nuclear commitments after 2025, the ballistic question and the fact there is a sort of ballistic proliferation on the part of Iran… and the role Iran plays to stabilize the whole region,” Le Drian said at a meeting of European foreign ministers in Vienna.

Bassem Qassemi, a spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, dismissed Le Drian’s remarks, saying, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly declared its clear and transparent stance on unwarranted concerns rooted in some countries’ wrong perceptions and ignorance.”

The Reuters report comes at the same time that satellite photos were released that appear to show Iran building a new missile factory in Syria. The Times of Israel reported Thursday that photos released by ImageSat International show construction of a facility similar to Iran’s Parchin military base in northwestern Syria.

The base under construction is near a battery of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system, considered one of the most advanced in the world.

Israel considers Iran’s military presence  in Syria a red line and is believed, in recent years, to have struck numerous military sites with advanced weaponry in Syria.

[Photo: IRNA ]