WikiLeaks: U.S. Secretly Blocking Syria and Iran Arms Flow, With Help From Israel

The United States pressured Arab governments not to cooperate with arms smuggling to Islamist groups and accused Syria of continuing to smuggle Scuds and other long-range missiles to Hezbollah, according to cables.

Washington has worked discreetly to block the supply of Iranian and Syrian weapons to Islamist groups in the Middle East amid evidence showed Scud-D missiles had been supplied to Hezbollah, according to U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

The United States, in many cases using secret intelligence provided by Israel, had pressured Arab governments not to cooperate with arms smuggling to Palestinian group Hamas or Lebanon's Hezbollah, said a report in the Guardian.

Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas' Qassam Brigades, March 26, 2010

The details were part of 250,000 diplomatic cables obtained by the website WikiLeaks that are being made public.

U.S. State Department cables showed Washington warned Sudan in January 2009 not to allow the delivery of unspecified Iranian arms that were expected to be passed to Hamas in the Gaza Strip around the time of an Israeli offensive there in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed, the Guardian said.

U.S. diplomats were told to express "exceptional concern" to Sudanese authorities, it said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Chad were informed of the alleged Iranian plans and warned that any weapons deliveries would be in breach of UN resolutions banning Iranian arms exports, the newspaper said.

Sudan said it had never handled arms shipments for Iran or any other country or organization.

"We don't allow any kind of weapons to be shipped through Sudan to any destination," said foreign ministry spokesman Moawia Osman Khalid.
The suggestion of a link between Sudan and Hamas arms shipments come at an awkward time for the Khartoum government which is petitioning for its removal from Washington's list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In March 2009, CBS News reported that Israeli aircraft had attacked a suspected arms smuggling convoy in Sudan two months earlier, killing more than 30 people, to block an arms delivery to Hamas in Gaza.

State Department documents record that Khartoum then privately accused Washington of carrying out two air attacks in eastern Sudan: one in January 2009, with 43 dead and 17 vehicles destroyed, and another on February 20, with 45 dead and 14 vehicles destroyed.

In March 2009, the United States informed Jordan and Egypt about new Iranian plans to ship a cargo of "lethal military equipment" to Syria with onward transfer to Sudan and then to Hamas, the Guardian said.

Washington asked that the planes be forced to land for inspection or denied over-flight rights, it said. It is not known whether any deliveries went ahead.

In April 2009, Egypt's interior minister, Major-General Habib el-Adli, was described in U.S. cables as being behind the dismantling of a Hezbollah cell in Sinai as well as "steps to disrupt the flow of Iranian-supplied arms from Sudan through Egypt to Gaza", the paper said.

At the end of that month, Egypt's intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, told U.S. officials Egypt was "succeeding" in preventing Iran from channeling financial support to Hamas.

"Egypt had sent a clear message to Iran that if they interfere in Egypt, Egypt will interfere in Iran, adding that EGIS (Egyptian intelligence service) had already begun recruiting agents in Iraq and Syria," Suleiman said, according to the Guardian.

In a separate report on the same topic Tuesday, the New York Times reported the Obama administration lodged an official complaint accusing Syria of lying in its assertions that it was not facilitating the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.

“In our meetings last week it was stated that Syria is not transferring any ‘new’ missiles to Lebanese Hizballah,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in a cable in February, using a different spelling for the militant group.

“We are aware, however, of current Syrian efforts to supply Hizballah with ballistic missiles. I must stress that this activity is of deep concern to my government, and we strongly caution you against such a serious escalation,” she wrote.

Syria denied the allegations but a Pentagon official later said that Hezbollah had amassed a weapons cache of up to 50,000 rockets and missiles – including long-range Fateh 100 missiles and 10 Scud-D missiles.