Amman, Jordan (UPI) Apr 19, 2011
Iran has reportedly stepped up arms smuggling to its proxies in the Persian Gulf and the Levant to take advantage of the political tumult shaking Arab regimes and expand Tehran's influence.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have all recently accused Tehran of either arming or seeking to arm Shiite militants in those countries.
Several clandestine arms shipments apparently destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip have been intercepted by Israel and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Tehran has used the preoccupation of the region and the West with the political shock waves jolting the Arab world since January to boost its gunrunning operations.
It quoted intelligence sources as saying that "only a relatively small quantity of smuggled weapons is being intercepted.
This include the Israeli navy's seizure of several tons of Iranian arms aboard the German-owned freighter Victoria, registered in Liberia, in international waters 200 miles off the Israeli coast.
The ship had sailed from the port of Latakia in Syria, Iran's key Arab ally, and was en route to Alexandria, Egypt, when it was boarded. The Israelis say the arms were to be smuggled from Egypt through underground tunnels to Hamas in Gaza.
Soon after that interception, the latest in a long line of such seizures by Israel in recent years, Turkey announced that it had stopped two Iranian cargo planes that were found to be hauling mortars and others arms to Syria. These, say intelligence officials, would be passed on to Hezbollah or Hamas.
The intercepts took place on what the Israelis call the northern route from Iran, via Syria, which borders Lebanon. But Iran also runs a southern smuggling corridor from the gulf port of Bandar Abbas, a major Revolutionary Guards base, through Eritrea and Sudan on the Red Sea.
Most of the arms shipped on that route are for Hamas in Gaza. Before Egypt's long-ruling president, Hosni Mubarak, was toppled in a pro-democracy uprising Feb. 11, his regime had sought to curb the gunrunning.
But now that he's gone, the Israelis fear that the military council currently running Egypt, or a successor regime possibly dominated by Islamists, will be more willing to aid Hamas against Israel.
Sudan's government claimed April 5 that Israel was behind the assassination of two men killed when their car was mysteriously blown up outside Khartoum. Arab media reports identified one of the men as a senior member of Hamas' military wing who was involved in a gunrunning operation through Sudan.
The increase in covert Iranian activity is more noticeable in the Persian Gulf, where longtime rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia are locked in an intensifying cold war for domination of the oil-rich region.
Saudi military intervention in Bahrain, an island kingdom linked to Saudi Arabia by a 16-mile causeway, on March 14 to aid the 200-year-old Al-Khalifa dynasty aggravated this rivalry.
The Khalifas were struggling to crush by force an opposition movement by Bahrain's Shiite majority demanding the ouster of the Sunni monarchy.
Iran has long laid claim to Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet, the main component of the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf.
Tehran has clearly intensified its covert activities in the gulf and the Levant amid the upheaval in the Arab world that has already brought down the leaders of two longtime U.S. allies, Egypt and Tunisia.
The U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, long a buffer against Iranian expansionism until the Americans invaded and toppled Saddam Hussein, gave Iran its opening to expand its influence.
"As Iran has reminded every U.S. ally in the region amid the recent unrest, from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia and from Yemen to Israel, Tehran is the rising power and the one filling the vacuum as the Americans leave," observed the global security consultancy Stratfor.
"While it is difficult to fully or accurately assess the extent and limitations of Iran's overt and covert capabilities geopolitics suggest that Iran, in deliberately sending a signal the region, has not yet activated all of its tools nor exerted maximum effort -- indeed, this the heart of the Iranian threat: there is more to come."
Share This Article With Planet Earth
The Military Industrial Complex at SpaceWar.com
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com
Saudis 'offer to widen huge U.S. arms buy'
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UPI) Apr 19, 2011
As Saudi Arabia's confrontation with Iran swells amid claims Tehran is exploiting political turmoil in the Arab world, Riyadh reportedly has offered to expand its $60 billion arms deal with Washington to keep it on the kingdom's side. Under that deal, first mooted in 2007, Saudi Arabia will get 85 Boeing F-15S combat jets, upgrades on 70 already in Saudi service, helicopters, missiles a ... read more
Biden, Putin discuss trade, missile defense|
Sea-Based Missile Defense Flight Test Results In Successful Intercept
Aegis BMD System Engages Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile For First Time
'Most challenging' US missile defense test a success
LockMart Tests JAGM Tri-Mode Seeker On Sabreliner
MBDA Demos VL Mica Proficiency Against Stand-Off Weapons
LockMart To Respond To Joint Air-To-Ground Missile Request
Answering The Warfighter's Call For Joint Air-To-Ground Missile
LockMart Tactical Reconn Radar Completes UAV Test Flights
US drones kill six militants in Pakistan: officials
Drone 'friendly fire' kills two US troops: officials
Northrop Grumman Fire Scout Hits New Single-Day Endurance Flight Record
Preparations Underway As US Army Gears Up For Large-Scale Network Evaluations
Global Military Communications Market In 2010
Raytheon BBN Technologies To Protect Internet Comms For Military Abroad
Gilat Announces New Military Modem For Robust Tactical Satcom-On-The-Move
RAF Typhoon Project 'Under Control And Back On Track'
Northrop Grumman T-38 Talon Honored For 50 Years Of Service
New Warhead Reduces Size Of Raytheon Small Tactical Munition
Australian military abuse could lead to payouts
Canadian Defense Budget To Reach Twenty Billion By 2015
Republic Of Korea Air Force Receives First LockMart Sniper Pods
Seoul: No barter deal for T-50 jet trainer
EADS offer for Vector valid until May 26
Outside View: America strikes out
Clinton vows full support for disaster-hit Japan
Senior US senators launch week-long China trip
Weakened America a 'laughingstock,' Trump laments
MLD Test Moves Navy A Step Closer To Lasers For Ship Self-Defense
US Navy And Northrop Grumman Accomplish Goals For At-Sea Demonstration Of Maritime Laser
Scientists Build World's First Anti-Laser
Yale scientists build 'anti-laser'
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|