An Iranian civilian airline is thought to have smuggled weapons into Lebanon for use by Hezbollah and Iranian weapons factories, Fox News reported on Monday, citing Western intelligence sources.
The sources pointed to two Qeshm Fars Air flights from Tehran to Beirut that took unusual routes in the past two months. The first was a July 9 flight that stopped in Damascus passed over northern Lebanon, which intelligence sources told Fox carried components for producing precision weapons. The second was an August 2 flight that took a "slightly irregular route" north of Syria.
"The Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and defying the West’s abilities to track them down," the report quoted a regional intelligence source as saying.
Qeshm Fars Air is believed to be one of several supposedly civilian airlines that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps uses to smuggle weapons, according to the report.
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Iran recently denied a report by Reuters saying that Tehran had sent missiles to proxy militias in Iraq. Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources told the news agency that Iran provided Shi'ite proxies in Iraq with ballistic missiles and is developing the capabality to build more there.
The Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles in question have ranges of about 200 km to 700 km, putting Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh or the Israeli city of Tel Aviv within striking distance if the weapons were deployed in southern or western Iraq.
Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Reuters contributed to this report.