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Iran secretly smuggling weapons to Lebanon, intelligence sources say

EP-QFA Yak-42 of Fars Air Qeshm on the ramp at Dubai on March 5, 2011. (Steven Byles/Flickr)
September 04, 2018

Iran’s weapons activities have ramped up and extended beyond their borders, according to a new report.

Intelligence sources revealed that civil aviation company Fars Air Qeshm in Iran is suspected of smuggling weapons into Lebanon to support the militant group Hezbollah and other Iranian weapons factories, according to a Fox News exclusive report on Monday.

The company has taken unconventional air routes in an attempt to avoid detection. In the past two months, intelligence sources identified at least two unusual flights between Tehran and Beirut’s international airport.

The first flight took place on July 9 and involved a Boeing 747 that departed a Tehran air force base, took a short layover at an international airport in Damascus, Syria, and continued its “uncharacteristic flight path” to the international airport in Beirut, Fox reported.

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The route, which took the plane over northern Lebanon, is not a typically used flight path.

An anonymous regional intelligence source told Fox News, “The 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 West’s abilities to track them down.”

The second flight took place on Aug. 2, following another unusual route from Tehran straight to Beirut, this time not stopping in Damascus.

The planes were said to be carrying weapons components to be manufactured in Iranian factories within Lebanon. Iran maintains weapons facilities in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, according to various intelligence agencies.

Fars Air Qeshm is known as one of the numerous civil aviation companies used to smuggle weapons for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Three IRGC representatives currently serve on the company’s board of directors.

Over the past several months, Iran transported short-range ballistic missiles to Shi’ite allies in Iraq, Reuters reported last week, citing intelligence sources from Iran, Iraq and the west. Officials said the missile delivery was intended to help ally groups manufacture their own missiles.

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“The logic was to have a backup plan if Iran was attacked,” a senior Iranian official told Reuters. “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.”

Iran has claimed repeatedly that their ballistic missile efforts are solely for their defense. However, Iranian officials refused to comment on their latest weapons transfer activities.

These latest activities go directly against the efforts of the U.S. to support Lebanon against Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization. The U.S. has supplied Lebanon with more than $1.7 billion in security resources since 2006.