It is believed that Hizbullah has been successfully smuggling advanced guided-missile systems into Lebanon from Syria while evading Israeli efforts to interdict the shipments from the air, U.S. and Israeli officials have told the Wall Street Journal.
The Iranian weaponry, being brought into Lebanon piece by piece, includes components of a powerful anti-ship missile system, along with other systems capable of hitting Israeli aircraft, ships and bases.
If true, it would mark a dangerous upgrading of the Hizbullah arsenal, a major step up from the “dumb” rockets and missiles the group has stockpiled until now.
The officials say that Iran wants a beefed-up Hizbullah in order to deter future Israeli strikes — either on Lebanon or on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In addition, the transfers are aimed at committing Hizbullah to continue supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as supply lines used by both his regime and Hizbullah.
Five IDF air strikes in 2013 did have some effect, stopping shipments of ground-to-air SA-17 antiaircraft weapons and ground-to-ground Fateh-110 rockets to Hizbullah.
But the U.S. believes Hizbullah has smuggled at least some components from those systems into Lebanon within the past year, including supersonic Yakhont rockets, but that it doesn’t yet have all the parts needed there.