As Lebanon-Hezbollah Tensions Rise, Turkey's Pro-Iran Stance Is Trouble for Israel
Lebanon may be on the verge of a new explosion. The forthcoming indictment of the murderers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 will reportedly point fingers at senior Hezbollah leaders. What happens next, no one knows.
With Hezbollah stronger than the Lebanese army, and with Syria attempting to re-insert its many tentacles into Lebanon, the likelihood of the murderers being arrested is nil. The likelihood of a Lebanese eruption is great.
Last month, Israel released detailed intelligence on Hezbollah’s build-up in civilian areas in southern Lebanon. Armories, missile batteries, and headquarters were situated in the midst of homes, schools, and clinics. Tens of thousands of missiles, some with deadly accuracy, have flowed into Lebanon from Syria and Iran since the 2006 war and UNSC Resolution 1701, which banned such shipments.
Some of those shipments for Hezbollah were sent by sea, and Israel and Western countries have been successful in intercepting at sea hundreds of tons of missiles and artillery shells. Other shipments arrive overland or in flights to Syria via Turkey. Al Jazeera reports:
In May 2007, Turkish authorities seized weapons hidden on a Syria-bound train from Iran after Kurdish separatist fighters derailed it with a bomb.
According to one account, the weapons on the train included a rocket launch pad and 300 rockets.
One little-publicized case in 2006 involved an aircraft loaded with C-803 anti-ship missiles (one such Chinese-Iranian missile hit an Israeli navy ship, killing four sailors). According to USA Today:
A spy satellite photographed Iranian crews loading three missile launchers and eight crates, each normally used to carry a Chinese-designed C-802 Noor missile, aboard a transport plane at Mehrabad air base near Tehran. The Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane left for Damascus, but Iraqi air traffic controllers denied it permission to enter Iraq's airspace. The Iranian flight crew then requested permission to fly over Turkey. Turkish controllers granted permission -- but only if the plane would land for an inspection. The plane returned to Tehran, where the military cargo was unloaded.
Turkey’s role in blocking Iranian weapons destined to Israel’s enemies has been crucial. But this week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a closed meeting that the new head of Turkish intelligence is a “supporter of Iran.” Barak continued:
There are a lot of our secrets in Turkish hands. The thought that they could have been exposed to the Iranians is very troubling.