Iran Arming Hizbullah and Hamas for War Against Israel
The following is taken from Khamenei’s Twitter account:
- Even as it engages in nuclear negotiations, Iran continues to arm and train Hizbullah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
- Central to the Iranian effort are rockets and missiles (surface-to-surface), as well as UAVs and advanced anti-aircraft weapons, mainly for Hizbullah, intended to constrict the Israeli Air Force’s maneuvering room in Lebanon.
- According to Supreme Leader Khamenei, “All Palestinian areas have to become armed…. We looked at our main goal and we offered help. We managed to strengthen the fists of our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and by Allah’s favor we will continue to do that. I announced that the West Bank should be armed like Gaza and be prepared for defense.”
- Under Khamenei’s direction, Iran views the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as a single unit under the leadership of Hamas. Iran seeks to encircle Israel from the north (Hizbullah), the south (Gaza), and the east (the West Bank) and to turn the rocket threat into an unbroken ring around Israeli territory.
- Iran views itself as setting the stage – on the propaganda, ideological, and military levels – for an inevitable confrontation with Israel and the West.
In recent months, parallel to the key stages of the nuclear negotiations, Iran has completely removed the secrecy surrounding its provision of rockets and missiles to anti-Israeli terror organizations. Today, Iran frequently and publicly acknowledges this assistance, with no fear of the West’s reaction.
In Iran’s eyes, Operation Protective Edge, the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas and the other Gaza-based [Arab Muslim] organizations, provided further proof that its long-term investment in supplying rockets and know-how for their manufacture to Hizbullah and Hamas is bearing fruit. As the end of the time allotted for the nuclear talks drew near (before it was decided to extend them again to June 2015), Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials made threatening statements about Iran’s rocket and missile capabilities and those of the organizations it supplies – indicating that in light the possible outcomes of the nuclear talks, Iran’s fears of an Israeli attack had grown.
The Encirclement of Israel
Iran does not obscure its security concept but rather gives it public expression. Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank form inseparable components of this doctrine, which Iran updates from time to time. In Iran’s view, the steadily developing rocket capabilities of both Hizbullah and Hamas – capabilities that Iran, with Khamenei’s encouragement, is striving to extend to the West Bank as well – constitute a main element of the deterrence against Israel that Iran seeks to develop. The aim is to deter Israel from attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities – or, if Israel nonetheless decides to attack, to use these rocket capabilities as a key part of its retaliatory response.
In this context, under Khamenei’s direction, Iran views the [Arab Muslims] in Gaza and the West Bank as a single unit under Hamas’ leadership. Consequently, Iran is gradually improving its relations with Hamas after they hit a nadir with the eruption of the Arab Spring in Syria and the removal of Hamas’s headquarters from Damascus. Iran now hopes that Hamas will rule the West Bank as well as Gaza, and will develop similar capabilities in the West Bank to threaten Israel.
From a broader perspective, Iran, as statements by its senior officials suggest, is working to encircle Israel from the north (Hizbullah), the south (Gaza), and the east (the West Bank) and to turn the rocket threat into an unbroken ring around Israeli territory.
This Iranian activity is incessant, and it includes persistent smuggling of weapons into Gaza as well as shipments and convoys to Hizbullah via Syria. According to foreign reports, sometimes Israel thwarts these weapons shipments in Syrian territory; they are viewed as posing a threat to the IDF’s freedom of action in Lebanon or to Israeli naval craft and strategic sites. These reports note that some of the weapons destroyed in an attack on December 7, 2014 included advanced Russian-made antiaircraft systems (perhaps the S-300 SA), Fateh-110 missiles (see below), and Iranian UAVs.1
Syria and Iran have long wanted to purchase the advanced S-300 antiaircraft system from Russia. In an unusual manner, Russia protested the recent operation and demanded explanations from Israel. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at the beginning of November 2014 that Russia was providing Syria with the advanced S-300PMU2 system for defense against attacks by American planes operating against ISIS. According to foreign reports, in January 2013 Israel also attacked a convoy at the Al-Jamraya Research Center that was on its way to Lebanon carrying advanced Buk-M2E (SA-17) antiaircraft missiles. In May 2013 Fateh-100 missiles were attacked at the airport in Damascus; in July 2013, at the port of Latakia, Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles (P-800 Oniks) with upgraded radars were attacked; and in October 2013 weapons were again attacked at Latakia that apparently were intended for Hizbullah.2
A few hours before the most recent alleged Israeli attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, met with Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah as part of the activities marking the seventieth anniversary of Russian-Lebanese diplomatic relations. Iran, Russia, and Hizbullah have a common interest – the survival of Bashar Assad. To that end Hizbullah is paying with hundreds of casualties on Syrian soil, but it is also gaining greater access to advanced weapons from Iran and Russia, some of which it is trying to transfer to Lebanon.
On another front cultivated by Iran – Gaza – about a week after the attack in Lebanon that was attributed to Israel, and during a rally on December 14, 2014 to mark the anniversary of Hamas’ founding, Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida specially thanked those who had aided the organization during Protective Edge and “first and foremost Iran, which was unsparing in its financial and military and other assistance and provided us with missiles that pulverized the defense of the Zionist enemy and with antitank weapons that shattered the myth of the Merkava tank.”3 During the rally, Hamas showcased a UAV of the Ababil model (developed in Iran) as well as advanced sniper rifles it had received from Iran.
Hamas media outlet Al-Risalah suggested that mending fences with Iran will help Hamas solve some of its finnencial difficulties4. Nasser Al Sudani, head of the Majlis’s committee, added that Khalid Mashal, Head of Hamas political bureau, will visit Tehran soon. Al Sudani said that Iran regards Hamas as the “first line of defense” in confronting Israel and supporting Hamas is one of Iran’s revolution key principals. “Destroying Israel will only be possible by arming [Arab Muslims], including in the occupied West Bank….The death of the occupation is near and Tehran supports this5
Khamenei: Arm the West Bank
Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei – and following his lead, the heads of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Majlis, and other senior spokesmen – continue to express support publicly for “all who fight against Israel” in general and for the [Arab Muslims] in particular. As Khamenei said during the “International Congress on Extremist and Takfiri [apostasy] Orientations from the Viewpoint of Islamic Scholars”:
…We have passed through the barrier of denominational discord. We helped Hizbullah of Lebanon – which is a Shia group – in the same way that we helped [Sunni groups] Hamas and Islamic Jihad [PIJ] and we will continue to do that. We did not become a prisoner of denominational limits. We did not differentiate between Shia, Sunni, Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi’i and Zaidi denominations. All Palestinian areas have to become armed…. We looked at our main goal and we offered help. We managed to strengthen the fists of our Palestinian brothers in Gaza and by Allah’s favor we will continue to do that. I announced – and this will definitely happen – that the West Bank should be armed like Gaza and be prepared for defense….6 (emphasis added)
“We Love Fighting Israel”
At the same platform, Khamenei marketed his “We Love Fighting Israel” campaign, saying, “Our people love fighting against the Zionists and the Islamic Republic has proved this as well.” Social networks both within and outside of Iran occasionally post caricatures and pictures in the “spirit of the Leader.” On Twitter and on Instagram, for example, the hashtag #fightingthezionists was launched; it features pictures vilifying Israel and Zionism and calls of “death to Israel.”7