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Many of the rockets Hezbollah is firing into Israel are made in
Iran, demonstrating the Islamic republic's success in copying
Chinese and Russian technology to build its own weapons
The Shiite Muslim group's arsenal includes Iranian-built portable
Katyusha rockets, Israeli Reserve Brigadier General Yossi
Kuperwasser said. Hezbollah struck an Israeli ship on July 14 with
an Iranian-made C802 Noor guided missile. The militia also has
Iran's Zelzal rocket, with a range of 120 miles, enough to reach
Tel Aviv from south Lebanon, said Yaakov Amidror, a retired major
general who ran Israel's National Defense College.
The conflict, which began three weeks ago, provides the first test
for Iranian-made weaponry, giving the country an opportunity to
show it can retaliate if attacked. The fighting comes as Iran faces
the threat of economic sanctions if it doesn't accept United
Nations Security Council trade incentives to stop its nuclear
program by the end of this month.
“The success of Hezbollah reflects well on the regime in Iran
in military terms,” said David Schenker, a senior fellow at
the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It adds a
deterrent in terms of making the West think twice about putting
damaging economic sanctions against Iran, and it will make people
in the West think twice about the military option.”
To supply Hezbollah, Iran flies arms to Syria, where they're loaded
on trucks and shipped into Lebanon under Syrian supervision, said
Yiftah Shapir, editor of the “Middle East Military
Balance,” an annual survey published by Tel Aviv University's
Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
Since the start of the conflict, Hezbollah has hit Israel with 1
978 rockets, killing 56 people and wounding 580, Israel's army said
yesterday. The Muslim militia, designated a terrorist organization
by the US and Israel, captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12,
sparking the hostilities.
Israeli attacks have killed more than 900 people and injured 3 000,
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said yesterday.
Iran developed its homegrown arms industry in response to shortages
experienced during its 1980-1988 war with Iraq, said Vali Nasr, an
Iran expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey,
With Saddam Hussein sidelined, Iran has “every intention of
becoming a major regional power,” William Cohen, secretary of
defense under US President Bill Clinton, said in an interview in
Washington. “They've been testing a variety of
missiles,” said Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine
who founded the Cohen Group, a Washington-based lobbying and
Iran no longer relies on imports from China, Russia and North Korea
for its weapons, said Guy Ben-Ari, a fellow at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Instead, state aerospace and defense industries are copying and
even improving on those countries' technologies, he said.
“The Iranians are at a stage now where they can build most of
these weapons themselves locally,” Ben-Ari said. There have
been sightings of Iranian military air transports landing at
Syria's main airport in Damascus, he said.
The Zelzal, which means “earthquake” in Arabic,
contains a 600-kilogram (1,322-pound) warhead, said Doug
Richardson, editor of Jane's Missiles and Rockets, published in
That compares with the 90- and 175-kilogram warheads on the
shorter-range Fajr-3 and Fajr-5, which Hezbollah also has,
Richardson said. The Fajr-5 is based on China's WS-1, according to
a Web site run by the Federation of American Scientists.
The Noor missile is modeled after China's C802, which has a
radar-jamming device that gives it a 98 percent hit rate, according
to the website.
The Israeli ship that was hit by a Noor missile didn't have its
defense system turned on because ``the truth is we didn't know
Hezbollah had that specific missile,'' said Kuperwasser, who until
two months ago was head of the assessment division in a military
intelligence unit. “It was a surprise,” he said by
telephone from Tel Aviv.
While other weapons Iran supplies to Hezbollah aren't very
sophisticated, they are effective at provoking fear, said Andrew
Brookes, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic
Studies in London and a former Royal Air Force pilot.
“Obsolete technology can be used as terror weapons,” he
Hezbollah may have even more deadly weapons in its arsenal, said
Schenker, formerly a Middle East adviser at the Pentagon. “It
raises the specter that Iran has provided Hezbollah with other
capabilities,” he said.
Iran still gets some military equipment from China and sources
around the world, according to the US government. Several people
and companies have been accused or convicted in the US of selling
sensitive technology to Iran and Hezbollah.
In May, a Singapore businessman was convicted by a federal jury in
Brooklyn of obtaining US parts for C-130 military transport planes
and P-3 naval aircraft and diverting them to Malaysia for shipment
to Iran, the Justice Department said in a statement.
The US Treasury Department on June 13 froze the US assets of China
Great Wall Industry Corp. and three other Chinese companies after
accusing them of supplying Iran with missile components or
technology that can have military use. China Great Wall issued a
statement denying any role in weapons proliferation.
China began selling ballistic and Silkworm cruise missiles to Iran
during the 1980s, according to a 1999 report by the US National
Intelligence Council. It also sold gyroscopes and guidance systems
to help Iran develop indigenous weapons based on its cruise
missiles, the report said.
While the communist country can legally sell missiles to Iran under
international law, any transfer to Hezbollah is illegal, said Ralph
Cossa, president of Honolulu-based Pacific Forum CSIC, part of the
Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“There is, no doubt, a very extensive Chinese cooperation
with the Iranian ballistic missile program,” John Bolton, US
ambassador to the United Nations, told a Senate hearing last week.
He said it's critical China adopt the same non-proliferation
objectives as the US because sales of such technologies and weapons
“ultimately are threatening to them as a destabilizing force
in the world as a whole”.
China only sells weapons to sovereign states and requires that
buyers pledge not to transfer technology to third parties, the
country's Foreign Ministry said in a faxed statement responding to
questions from Bloomberg News.
“China's weapons exports follow these principles: We only
sell defensive weapons, exports will not destablize regional
stability, and our exports will not cause internal
stability,” the ministry said.
Hezbollah funds itself with direct transfers from Iran, and by
creating front companies for currency counterfeiting, cigarette
smuggling and other illegal activities, according to US Treasury
and State Department officials.
Iran's subsidy to Hezbollah is about $300 million a year, with $100
million for social programs such as schools and the rest for
military purposes, said Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the
Washington-based Heritage Foundation.
“Iran supports Hezbollah -- they really are the paymasters
for Hezbollah,'' Henry Crumpton, the US State Department's special
coordinator for counterterrorism, said when presenting the 2005
Country Reports on Terrorism on April 28 in Washington.
Another large part of Hezbollah's funding comes from Latin America,
said Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of “Funding Evil: How Terrorism
is Financed and How to Stop It” (Bonus Books, 2003).
Hezbollah is involved in drug trafficking through an agreement with
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and makes counterfeit
goods, including DVDs, in the ``tri-border area,'' where Brazil,
Paraguay and Argentina meet, she said.
Neither Hezbollah nor the Palestinian group Hamas would be able to
launch missiles, train people or provide ``the so-called social
security to buy the loyalty of the population if they didn't have
money,'' said Ehrenfeld, who is also director of the New York-based
American Center for Democracy, a non-profit group.
“If we were able to stop that money, this wouldn't
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the head of Iran's Guardian Council, said
Aug. 1 that it was the duty of Muslim nations to give all kinds of
aid to Hezbollah.
“It is expected of Muslim countries not to spare any kind of
help, including weapons, medicine and food, to Hezbollah and the
Lebanese,” the cleric said, according to a report by the
state-run Iranian Students News Agency. His institution can veto
parliamentary bills and presidential candidates in Iran.
Ali Fayyad, a member of Hezbollah's Central Council, a
policy-making body, said the arms Hezbollah uses “are
available on the international weapons market”. In response
to a question on whether the group receives support from Iran and
Syria, he said, “We have to seize every opportunity.”
He was speaking on his mobile phone from Lebanon.
A 220-millimeter rocket that ripped through the roof of a Haifa
rail yard July 16 and killed eight workers was Syrian-made,
according Israel's bomb disposal unit.
Syria's ambassador to the UK, Sami Khiyami, said his country isn't
supplying arms to Hezbollah.
“The only thing Syria is doing, it is telling the
international community we have a constructive role to play but the
aggression has to stop,” he said.
Even if there is a political settlement soon, the fighting has
longer-term global strategic ramifications, said Nasr at the Naval
“Just as Israel wanted to send a signal to Iran by the way in
which it hit Hezbollah, the Iranians are sending their own signal
back,” he said. “The signal is that they have a lot
more sophisticated weaponry than before. In addition to the
conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, there is a larger posturing
going on about Iran and the West in this war.”