ANALYSIS: Iran Changes Strategy, Builds Missile Factories for Allies

YERUSHALAYIM -

Two weeks ago, a large convoy carrying Iranian weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon was struck. The incident had many precedents over the past several years, and more than once the attackers claimed responsibility.

But this time, the story had a different ending. Shortly after the convoy was hit, the Syrians launched two advanced surface-to-air missiles against Israeli fighter jets, which were intercepted by the Israeli air defense system.

The incident escalated, and Israel was forced, for the first time, to say publicly that it was responsible for the interdiction of the convoy that was bringing missiles and other weaponry to Hezbollah bases in Lebanon.

Similarly, two other Iranian shipments were intercepted recently. One was in south Yemen, carrying guns to the Houtis, the Iranian partners in that conflict. A second weapons shipment from a factory in northern Syria plying the roads to Hezbollah in Lebanon, was also struck.

In Yemen, American forces active in the area were blamed for the incident; and in Syria, the rebel forces were thought to be behind the attack.

The conclusion that the Iranians have apparently reached is that this method of transferring arms is too dangerous. So they have resorted to shipping factory components and weapons parts to their allies and proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and perhaps northern Sinai, where they can assemble the missiles with the help of Iranian experts.

This would appear to explain the recent boasting from Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah, who said that he no longer has to depend on the Iranians for weapons, because he can make his own. Similar pronouncements have issued from the Houtis and from Hamas.

Iran’s allies do not have the wherewithal to manufacture all the missiles that Tehran has in its inventory; nor are the Iranians willing to give them the means to do so.

But they are transferring surface-to-surface missiles capable of delivering a payload of 800 pounds of explosives, and much more accurate than anything they had in past years.