Evidence of Iranian Regime’s terrorist efforts

Nov 09, 2009 Published under Iran, Israel, Leadership, Middle East, Syria, United States

Good summary by IPF of Iranian efforts to arm Hezbollah and Hamas, and the stunning Israeli interception of 320 tons of weapons.  The world community needs to do more to prevent the Iranian regime from sabotaging peace efforts.

Published on Israel Policy Forum (http://www.israelpolicyforum.org)

The Taking of the Frankop

By Josh Smilovitz

At midnight on November 4th, some 100 miles off the coast of Israel, a team of Israeli commandoes and military engineers boarded the Antiguan flagged Frankop freighter. Missile boats surrounded the ship, airplanes hovered above and the Israeli army was on alert. Upon boarding the ship, the Polish captain was cooperative, enabling the Israelis to peacefully inspect the ship. Searching the vessel the commandos and engineers found a cache of 320 tons of weapons, including mortars, Katyushas, rockets and bullets.

In this military maneuver, the Israeli army, navy and military intelligence, perhaps tipped off by the US, identified the suspicious movement of cargo that had originated in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. The cargo snaked its way through the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, eventually picked up by the Frankop this past Tuesday at the Egyptian port of Damietta bound for the Syrian port of Latakia. The Israelis coordinated with the concerned countries, Antigua where the ship is flagged and Cyprus where its operating firm is based, before boarding.

The timing of this operation was fortuitous on many fronts for the Israelis. As Maya Bengal on Thursday commented in Ma’ariv:

Officials in Jerusalem had not dared even to dream of better timing for the capture of the vessel carrying so much arms and ammunition bound for Hezbollah. For all practical purposes, in light of the discussion of the Goldstone report that began in the United Nations yesterday and the campaign against Iran, the capture of the ship was, for Israel, like a gift from heaven.

The Israelis are fighting an uphill battle against these continued smuggling efforts. Ofer Shelah in Ma’ariv observes that:

The Iranians are following the law of large numbers, and despite the best efforts on the part of the intelligence and executive branches of the IDF, it appears to be paying off. These very same officers said in recent months that Hezbollah and Hamas today possess weapons of longer range, with warheads of greater power, than they did on the eve of the Second Lebanon War or Operation Cast Lead.

Facing this onslaught of shipments, the Israelis are going public. Alex Fishman in Yedioth Ahronoth comments on the potential of turning a military/intelligence success into a diplomatic one:

Israel is already prepared to expose its intelligence capabilities so that the world will wake up and realize that the Iranians are about to blow up the region. But it seems that the world has grown tired of us. They no longer believe that we are the victim. In this kind of situation, there is no alternative. We must make the world see who is really under a blockade here.

Nevertheless, the military mission was a clear diplomatic success for the Israelis. It patently demonstrated that the Iranians are secretly arming Hezbollah in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1701 and 1747. While Hezbollah would never admit as much, their silence was deafening. Nib Yahav in Walla remarks:

Immediately after the Israeli report about the capture of the vessel at sea, the Arab television stations and Internet sites broadcast the item, except for one that ignored it: Al-Manar, which is subordinate to Hezbollah. Instead of dealing with the hot news item, station officials chose to report about the never-ending efforts to establish a national unity government in Lebanon and of the criticism of American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Cairo. Not a word about the captured arms ship. On the other hand, the television stations that oppose Hezbollah, such as Al-Arabiya or Saad Hariri’s newspaper, Al-Mustaqbal, had difficulty concealing their joy over the ship’s capture.

As expected, Syria and Iran responded with clear denials of any involvement in the weapons shipment and labeled it ‘propaganda’ and a fabrication.

Right now, there is an ongoing confrontation of sorts being fought between Israel and Iran. In many respects, this fight is reminiscent of Cold War battles between the US and the U.S.S.R. Though this conflict is more hot than cold, it is mostly fought behind the scenes, with little bits floating into the public domain from time to time. Ronen Bergman in Yedioth Ahronoth explains:

The list of success stories by what the other side believes to be Israel’s intelligence agents is quite impressive. In the past four years, several strange mishaps maligned the Iranian nuclear project and significantly hindered the uranium-enrichment process. The disappearance of an Iranian nuclear scientist, the crash of two planes involved in the project, and fires that broke out in two labs only reinforced the sense that someone was trying to undermine the nuclear project.

How much of this is subterfuge and how much is reality is hard to tell in the murky world of intelligence. What is clear is that Iran is arming Hezbollah and Hamas, while Israel is attempting, by hook and by crook, to stymie Iranian efforts to do so, in addition to targeting its nuclear facilities and personnel.

Copyright 2009 Israel Policy Forum

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