By Heshmat Alavi
Friday, 17 March 2017
Looking for means to continue spreading havoc across the Middle East and maintain a grip on its dwindling influence across the region, new alarming reports indicate Iran is now digging dangerously deep to establish a long-term strategic foothold in Lebanon.
A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) general has recently informed a Kuwaiti newspaper of the launching of rocket and missile factoriesfor the Lebanese Hizb’allah. To further raise eyebrows, these factories are reported to be over 50 meters underground, protected by layers of armored concrete in the face any possible Israeli airstrike.
The al-Jarida daily ran a report on Monday quoting an IRGC deputy explaining how Iran in recent months has placed the final touches on manufacturing sites making Hizb’allah capable of manufacturing missiles, rockets, and firearms. Mohammad Ali Jafari is the chief commander of the IRGC and yet the al-Jarida report did not specify which of his deputies exactly made the comments.
Just recently,Iranian Defense Ministher Hossein Dehghan, himself a former IRGC brigadier general, boasted of Hizb’allah currently establishing itself as an entity capable of producing missiles and rockets with a variety of ranges, including over 500 kilometers, and able to target any and all parts of Israel. Dehghan’s comments did not go as far as to provide any specific details on Hizb’allah’s new capabilities.
Reports indicate these new missiles include surface-to-surface, land-based anti-ship missiles that maybe replicas of China’s C-802s, and torpedoes fired from light high-speed craft.
However, there are speculations about how the Lebanese Hizb’allah is actually obtaining necessary materials, and going forward with the production of components described as sophisticated, and yet very necessary for the output of advanced weaponry. The truth is Iran itself is facing difficulties in ballistic and anti-ship missiles.
The factories have reportedly been active for the past three months, with IRGC advisers and Lebanese experts trained in Tehran’s Imam Hossein University stationed amongst its staff. The Imam Hossein Universityis used as a key training institution to prepare IRGC personnel for its most sensitive missions, including Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missile drive, and exporting terrorism abroad. Reports indicate hundreds of IRGC personnel and foreign elements have received training at the facility, especially on how to master techniques of rocket and missile manufacturing.
These clandestine sites are said to be constructed deep underground, as Hizb’allah continues to fear potential airstrikes. The multiple layers of defensive measures also reveal the distance Iran will go and the budget it is willing to allocate in its disastrous support for terrorism. No single facility in this network spread across Lebanon produces complete rockets or missiles. In fact, each site is designed for separate aspects of the ordinance needed which are then sent to a specific assembling facility to finalize the effort.
This new initiative to establish indigenous rocket/missile factories came after Israeli attacks against a weapons factory based in Sudan and various supply routes from Syria used by Iranian elements to transfer Iran-made rockets to Hizb’allah.
According to Long War Journal, “…the Revolutionary Guard began building the factories in Lebanon ‘after Israel destroyed an Iranian weapons factory in Sudan years ago which provided arms to Hezbollah’ – likely referring to an Oct. 2012 air strike attributed to the Israelis on the Yarmouk weapons factory in Khartoum – ‘and targeted weapons shipments to Hezbollah from Syria.’”
The new underground facilities signal a significant advance in the capability enjoyed by Hizb’allah to obtain more sophisticated rockets/missiles and increase its dangerous stockpile like never before. The report indicate Hizb’allah has been test-firing these rockets/missiles and using such weapons in large numbers in its Syria campaign. The production of armor-piercing rounds and anti-tank missiles are amongst the most sensitive concerns.
This trend has been an ongoing process for over a decade. Hizb’allah’s deputy chief Naim Qasem in late 2014 claimed the group had already acquired the capability to produce some of the components of rockets used in the 2006 war. Months later, Iran’s export of missile production technology was confirmed by IRGC Air Force chief General Amir Ali Hajizadeh. Hizb’allah, Iran’s proxy in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine, were the recipients of this technology. The latest developments add to the signs of Iran’s widespread effort of making its proxies capable of practicing autonomous and domestic fighting tactics.
This new development underscores the dangerous nature and depth of Iran’s involvement in Syria, Lebanon and across the region. This further proves the correctness of CENTCOM chief General Joseph Votel’s recent remarks at a Senate hearing describing how “Iran poses the great long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”
Considering the fact that Iran also uses Syria as a ground link to provide arms and other logistics for Hizb’allah, there is a need to fully implement measures stated by Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., on bring an end to Syria being a “safe haven for terrorists” and the necessity “we get Iran and their proxies out.”
Alarming is also the fact how the nuclear dealsealed between six world powers and Iran has provided a windfall of billions of dollars for Tehran, money that should be used to benefit the Iranian people’s interests.
These latest reports of Iran launching underground rocket/missile factories for Hizb’allah in Lebanon highlight how Iran has taken advantage of a weak international position to this day to spread its support for terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, and how urgent measures are needed to bring an end to such lethal meddling across the Middle East. The first necessary step in this path is todesignate Iran’s IRGC according to its true identity: a foreign terrorist organization.
Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist. His writing focuses on Iran, ranging from human rights violations, social crackdown, the regime’s support for terrorism and meddling in foreign countries, and the controversial nuclear program.