Western intelligence sources said on Monday they have uncovered the unexpected routes that Iran apparently took to avoid detection of smuggling arms into Lebanon for the the militant Hezbollah group and Iranian weapons factories using an Iranian civil aviation company, according to exclusive Fox News report on Monday, 3 September 2018.
The sources identified two rare and unusual flights by Qeshm-Fars Air from Tehran to the Beirut’s international airport during the past two months.
The first flight, involving a Boeing 747 that departed from an air force base in Tehran on July 9, stopped for a short layover at the international airport in Damascus, Syria, and then continued with a rather “uncharacteristic flight path” to the Beirut international airport where it landed shortly after 4 p.m. local time.
According to flight data obtained by Fox News, the route passed over northern Lebanon, not following any commonly used flight path. A regional intelligence source who asked to remain anonymous said: “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.”
Western intelligence sources said the airplane carried components for manufacturing precise weapons in Iranian factories inside Lebanon. The U.S. and Israel, as well as other western intelligence agencies, have previously provided evidence that Iran has been operating weapons factories in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
Last week, citing Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources, Reuters news agency reported that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to its Shiite allies inside Iraq in recent months. However, Tehran and Baghdad formally denied that report.
The second flight was conducted on August 2 when Flight number QFZ9960 landed in Beirut at 5:59 p.m. after departing Tehran’s international airport two and a half hours earlier. This time, the plane did not stop in Damascus, but followed a slightly irregular route north of Syria.
Qeshm Fars Air is considered one of the various pseudo-civilian airlines used for arms-smuggling by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the terrorist Quds force led by Qassem Soleimani. Back in October 2017, President Trump imposed sanctions on the IRGC and Quds force.
The airline had ceased operations in 2013, citing poor management, but restarted under new management in March 2017. It is said to have two Boeing 747 in its fleet. Three IRGC representatives, Ali Naghi Gol-Parsta, Hamid Reza Pahlvani and Gholamreza Qassemi, are among the members of the company’s board.
The United States, according to the State Department, is Lebanon’s primary security partner. Since 2006, the U.S. has provided Lebanon over $1.7 billion in security assistance in part to counter Hezbollah’s influences.
Hezbollah, backed and funded by Iran, is considered a terror organization by the U.S. and many other western countries.