Why Is Iran Shipping Arm to Hamas and Hezbollah?

On March 20, 2014, the U.S and the U.K. called on the United Nations to investigate Israel’s latest claim that it seized an Iranian arms shipment that amounts to an Iranian violation of Security Council sanctions.

This development compels renewed scrutiny of Iran’s intention behind its weapons shipments to Hamas and Hezbollah, particularly since Israel thwarted several prior Iranian arms shipments, among them the Karine A (January 2002), the Francorp (November 2009), and the Victoria (March 2011). Other countries, such as Turkey, and Cyprus and Italy have also intercepted Iranian arms shipments to the region.

While Iran denied making this latest shipment, in November 2012 the head of Iran’s Parliament stated “We proudly say we support the Palestinians, military and financially…The Zionist regime needs to realize that Palestinian military power comes from Iranian military power.”

Israeli soldiers cover with plastic to protect from the rain, boxes containing missiles that the military unloaded from the seized Klos-C cargo ship in the military port of the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, southern Israel, Sunday, March 9, 2014. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling on the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, currently visiting Tehran, to confront Iranian officials about the weapons Israel says it caught last week en route from Iran to militants in Gaza. Ashton is in Tehran to further negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli soldiers cover with plastic to protect from the rain, boxes containing missiles that the military unloaded from the seized Klos-C cargo ship in the military port of the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, southern Israel, Sunday, March 9, 2014. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is calling on the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, currently visiting Tehran, to confront Iranian officials about the weapons Israel says it caught last week en route from Iran to militants in Gaza. Ashton is in Tehran to further negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) 

With its arms shipments Iran inserted itself into the armed conflict with Israel by transforming Hamas and Hezbollah, bordering Israel’s north and south, to its military frontline in the region. Yet, Iranian officials have made ostensibly conciliatory statements.

This past February Iran’s Foreign Minister said “If the Palestinians are happy with the solution, then nobody — nobody — outside of Palestine could prevent that from happening.”

Hooman Majd reported that former Iranian president Khatami told him in 2005 prior to leaving office: “Iran will fully support whatever Palestinians decide” (“The Ayatollah’s Democracy,” 2010).

If so, why is Iran shipping weapons to groups who declare their intention to destroy Israel? Does Iran view Hamas and Hezbollah and not the Palestinian Authority as representative of the Palestinians?

If Iran rejects Palestinian Authority leadership, is Iran arming Hamas and Hezbollah should the Palestinian Authority, as Iran sees it, betray the Palestinian people by signing a peace agreement with Israel?

After all, 10 days after Israel and the Palestinian Authority began negotiations on July 30, 2013, The Tehran Times reported that Iran’s Supreme Leader publicly stated that these negotiations are meant “to trample on Palestinian rights.”

A group of Iranians attend a street celebration of the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, while they hold posters showing late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini and Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock mosque, and anti-Sharon posters, at the Felestin (Palestine) Sq. in central Tehran, Iran, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
A group of Iranians attend a street celebration of the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, while they hold posters showing late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini and Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock mosque, and anti-Sharon posters, at the Felestin (Palestine) Sq. in central Tehran, Iran, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

One source of understanding Iran’s thinking is its constitution.

The current Islamic regime controlling Iran was born out of a revolution based on its self-declared responsibility to spread Islam and justice worldwide as found in its constitution: Iran’s Army and Revolutionary Guard “will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world.”

Iran’s constitution on its foreign policy: “The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based upon the rejection of all forms of domination” and “non-alignment with respect to the hegemonist superpowers.” It highlights Iran’s “struggle for liberation for all deprived and oppressed people,” the “negations of all forms of oppression” and “the complete elimination of imperialism and the prevention of foreign influence.”

Iran’s constitution clarifies that it “considers the attainment of independence, freedom, and rule of justice and truth to be the right of all people of the world.” Therefore, while Iran will “scrupulously refrain[ing] from all forms of interference in the internal affairs of other nations, it supports the just struggles of the oppressed against the tyrants in every corner of the globe.”

While Iran may claim that it scrupulously refrains from interference in the internal affairs of others, actions such as arms shipments to Hamas and Hezbollah indicate Iran’s intention to influence and even control regional geo-strategic developments. By proxy therefore, its arms shipments turned Iran into a regional combatant.

Richard Horowitz is an attorney and former IDF officer. He has lectured on terrorism and related topics in 18 countries.

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