Back in March, Israeli Special Forces succeeded in intercepting a ship in the Red Sea, which Israel claimed was transporting Iranian supplied weapons bound for Gaza. Israeli commandos boarded and took control of the “Klos-C” merchant ship about 1500 kilometres from Israel’s border in the Red Sea. The ship was believed to have had an intended destination of Port Sudan. Dozens of missiles and other arms were found hidden amongst the cargo. The ship was subsequently towed to Eilat for a full inspection.
Last week the UN released a report detailing the arms shipment and confirming the ship’s origin was Iran. According to the report carried out by a UN Security Council expert panel, the ship was carrying a plethora of arms concealed in a cement shipment. The experts said the concealment of the weapons was similar to other alleged cases of Iranian arms smuggling in which arms were hidden amongst marble, lentils, cotton and other inconspicuous items.
Hidden in around 20 containers were: 40 M-302 rockets and fuses, including four different variations of the rockets; 181 120 mm mortar shells; and roughly 400,000 pieces of 7.62 calibre ammunition. The 14 page report confirmed that such a shipment from Iran violates the UN arms embargo on Teheran under Security Council Res. 1747.
Meanwhile, Teheran has denied the Iranian origins of the containers and Iran’s UN mission has issued no statement in response to the report.
The discovery of the shipment of Iranian arms raises pertinent questions on several fronts. Firstly, while the UN report did not speculate as to why the arms were being sent to Sudan and did not mention Gaza as an endpoint for the weapons, it did conclude that the final destination of the ship itself was indeed Sudan. While not confirming that the weapons were ultimately bound for Gaza, the finding does not contradict Israeli claims that this is where the weapons were ultimately heading. For years Hamas-run Gaza has received weapons from its Iranian ally. The weapons are often smuggled through Sudan, then to Egypt, and finally across the Sinai border, through tunnels into Gaza.
While the existence of such an arms shipment in itself was not such an exceptional revelation, as the “Klos-C” is not the first Iranian arms shipment captured by Israel in recent memory, its high value cargo did come as a surprise. The Times of Israel noted:
“While previous shipments had carried mortars, mid-range rockets and light-weapons ammunition, the latest captured cargo carried missiles with a much larger range and warheads of a much heavier payload.”
Of particular note is the shipment of M-302 rockets. Hezbollah used these rockets during the Second Lebanon War to target citizens of northern Israel- particularly in Haifa and Afula. These were the longest-range rockets to be used by Hezbollah during that war
With a range of a 100 kilometres (as opposed to the 12-40 km Grad and 3-20 km Kassam), terrorists in Gaza would be able to target large population centres in Israel. The shipment of these advanced rockets to Gaza is further evidence of the increasing Iranian-supplied capabilities of Hamas and other Gaza terror groups. It is possible that the next escalation between Israel and Hamas will see more rockets launched toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem than during Operation Cast Lead in which sirens were sounded in the Tel Aviv area only on a few occasions.
The evidence of Iranian arms shipments also raises questions about Iran’s credibility in regards to the ongoing nuclear negotiations and its willingness to abide by international agreements. The arms shipments and supplies to terrorist groups by Iran are consistent with its pattern of seeking to portray itself as a good-faith partner of the West with its words, while showing the exact opposite with its actions.
With the negotiations set to resume for a presumable final round of talks today, the P5+1 should keep in mind Iran’s behaviour in this area as further cause to be sceptical of its intentions. The West should be wary of signing a deal with a regime that has not hesitated to dupe them before and still offers ongoing support for terror in the Middle East, and worldwide.