Iran-Hezbollah Axis Worries US, Israel
A growing military alliance between Iran and the Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah is worrying leaders of the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies.
Last week’s lifting of sanctions on Iran will give the country some US$55 billion once debts are paid off, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry told CNBC. Some of that money, Kerry admitted, will likely go to groups Iran funds.
“I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” Kerry said, referring to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented.”
Kerry later stressed to reporters, “We are confident that this will not result in an increase somehow in the threat to any partner or any friend in the region.”
On Saturday, Kerry told reporters in Saudi Arabia that Hezbollah, which is funded by Iran, currently has 80,000 rockets. This weaponry comes from Iran through Syria into Lebanon.
Kerry spoke after attending a meeting with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir and other foreign ministers from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. He also announced that the Syria Support Group of 20 nations and organizations will meet “very shortly” to help push peace in the war-ravaged country.
Saudi Arabia and some of its allies in the region cut diplomatic relations with Iran after protesters burned Riyadh’s embassy in Tehran and a consulate in the second city of Mashhad in response to the Saudis execution of dissident Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
“Iran remains the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism,” Jubeir said during the press conference. “Overall I think the United States is very aware of the danger of Iran’s mischief and nefarious activities [….] I don’t believe the United States is under any illusion as to what type of government Iran is.”
Iran is also the main backer of Huthi Shiite rebels in Yemen, a country on Saudi Arabia’s southern border. A Saudi-backed coalition to destroy the Huthis has so far not succeeded.
Iran has been a main backer of Hezbollah for years. In 2008, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, head of the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) research department, provided evidence that the Islamic Republic was smuggling missiles to Lebanon via Turkey.
Baidatz said at the time that the missiles first arrive in Syria and are then shipped through Turkey on to Lebanon. They are either flown through Turkish airspace or disguised as humanitarian aid.
Baidatz noted the arms shipments are in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which accompanied the U.N.-brokered cease-fire of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.
According to BaidatzBaidatz’s source, Iran has shipped missiles with a 185-mile range, which when fired from Beirut can reach the southern Israeli city of Dimona. The general said these missiles are more accurate than Hezbollah’s cache of 155-mile range rockets, plus they can carry a larger payload.
Turkey has stopped Iranian weapons shipments. In May 2007, it confiscated some 300 missiles disguised as cleaning supplies.
Israel is currently trying to negotiate a better financial aid deal with the United States, reports CNN. It seeks to increase the yearly US$3 billion a year it gets to US$5 billion, arguing the amount of money Iran is getting through its sanctions relief is much larger.