Rare flight patterns by the civil aviation company Qeshem Fars Air were picked up by American, Israeli and other Western intelligence sources. The planes contained components for manufacturing precise weapons in Iranian factories in Lebanon, the sources said.
Evidence has long existed that Iran operates weapons factories in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
While officially a civilian company, Qeshem Fars Air is known to Western sources as a weapons-smuggling arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Al-Quds force. Both were sanctioned by the U.S. in October 2017. Three IRGC members sit on Qeshem’s board of directors.
This latest scheme by Iran involved two flights which originated from Tehran. One made a short stopover in Damascus, Syria before taking off and flying north in an unusual arc-shaped path to Beirut. The second took a similarly circuitous path to Beirut but without the stopover.
Iran is also moving short-range ballistic missiles into Iraq, arming its Shiite militias with advanced weapons capable of hitting targets in the Middle East, Reuters reported. This essentially turns Iraq into a “forward missile base” for the Islamic Republic, according to a source that spoke to the news agency. The report noted Iran is also teaching its Iraqi proxies how to manufacture these weapons themselves.