Iran has established underground weapons factories for Hezbollah inside Lebanon, part of a broader Iranian armament effort that has helped Hezbollah expand its stockpiles to many times what it was 10 years ago, during the Second Lebanon War.
The source of the information for the story is somewhat dubious. The story broke in a small Kuwaiti newspaper called Al-Jarida, which is widely regarded in the Arab world as an Israeli government mouthpiece. The report cites an anonymous source, again raising questions of its veracity.
However, the story has gained traction with many Israeli news organizations, and understandably so. If what the report claims is true, it adds to the ongoing case made by Israel that Iran continues to arm its enemies in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The report says Iran has built a network of deep buried weapons factories inside Lebanon for Hezbollah. These factories each produce separate components of weapon systems, like the ubiquitous short and medium range rockets Hezbollah famously fires into Israel during periods of conflict, which are then fully assembled at a different location. This is in an effort to prevent Israeli airstrikes from completely destroying their weapons production in one attack.
Late last year, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations warned that Iran was sneaking weapons on commercial airline flights to Lebanon, and that Hezbollah now has “more missiles below ground in Lebanon than the European NATO allies have above ground.”
Israel has for years warned of yet another war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Following the stalemate that resulted from the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which was widely regarded as a defeat for Israel, Hezbollah has continued to fortify and reinforce its positions in southern Lebanon.
Iran’s influence before, during, and after the 2006 war was so pronounced, many have called the war the first Israel-Iran war, rather than a continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Israeli military has routinely cited that Iran’s influence over Hezbollah has increased their arms capability ten-fold since the war. A rocket attack on an Israeli military vehicle in early 2015 that killed two Israeli soldiers was reportedly conducted with a modern Russian weapon system, an indication of the level of sophistication Hezbollah can bring to bear.
Israel is positioning itself for an inevitable return to southern Lebanon to fight Hezbollah by publicly disclosing military reports showing Hezbollah intentionally building fighting emplacements among civilians. While there has been a modicum of stability along Israel’s northern border for years, Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian Civil War where hundreds of their fighters have been killed may be a contributing factor, another war seems all but guaranteed.
Image courtesy of the BBC