As U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Probes Tehran’s Global Terror Ties, Focus on Iranian Provenance of Hamas Missiles
The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday began a hearing, entitled ‘Iran’s Destabilizing Role in the Middle East,’ where experts fingered Iran for supplying Hamas with the rockets that have besieged Israel for the past nine days. The hearing came as media reports described how Hamas is adapting to land and sea embargoes by now only smuggling key weapons parts from Iran and assembling their lethal rockets within Gaza.
At the start of the hearing in Washington, D.C., at 10AM, Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Ed Royce railed against the Islamic Republic for its “considerable efforts to destabilize the Middle East” and described its nuclear program, in the words of one of the experts testifying, as “just the tip of a revolutionary spear that extends across the world and threatens key U.S. interests.”
Royce said: “When it comes to Iran, attention has rightly been focused on efforts to stop its nuclear program. But as one witness will explain this morning, ‘Iran’s nuclear program is just the tip of a revolutionary spear that extends across the world and threatens key U.S. interests.’ Tehran’s foreign policy – he goes on to say – ‘is subversive, sectarian, and set on goals that would come at the expense of U.S. interests in the region.’ He is right.”
“Indeed, with Iran’s long support of terrorist groups, militias and regimes, the region has been feeling the brunt of this ‘revolutionary spear’ for quite some time,” Royce said.
“Thanks to Iran, Hamas has re-armed since 2012,” he said. “And nearly 80 percent of Israel’s citizens are fleeing to bomb shelters as a result. With Iran’s aid, Shia militias within Iraq are rearming and mobilizing. The Assad regime, with Iranian forces, continues massacring Syrians. With Iran’s aid, Hezbollah is able to threaten Israel with over 25,000 rockets, while Houthi rebels supported by Iran are closing in on Yemen’s capital. Quite a record for the regime now sitting across the table from us in Vienna, where we have conceded that this number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world can enrich uranium, the pathway to a nuclear weapon.”
“Today, Tehran’s work is on full display, as hundreds of rockets have rained down on southern Israel,” Royce said. “It is Iran that provides the funding, weapons, and training to Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups. Iranian leaders have admitted to providing the missile technology that Hamas used against Israel during the last Gaza conflict in November 2012. And just the other week, a U.N. panel of experts concluded that rockets and weapons concealed on the Klos-C – including long-range M-302 rockets – originated from Iran.”
The Klos-C ship was seized by Israel in March. Hidden under bags of Iranian cement, Israel found 40 M-302 missiles, 181 122-mm mortars, and 400,000 7.62 caliber bullets. The weapons were originally flown from Syria to Iran. From Iran, they were shipped by boat to Iraq. The shipment was intercepted as it was being moved by boat from Iraq to Sudan, from where the weapons would have been smuggled into Gaza.
Royce said: “Other shipments have gotten through, as Hamas have fired the recently acquired rockets for the first time. These weapons put about two thirds of Israel’s eight million people into Gaza’s range of fire. One of them struck Hadera, a coastal city between Tel Aviv and Haifa that is 73 miles north of Gaza.”
“Now the United States and other world powers are negotiating a final nuclear agreement with Iran that would lift most of its sanctions,” Royce said. “Bad deal or good deal, and many of us fear a bad deal, any sanctions relief will bolster Iran. As one witness notes, Iran stands to gain about $100 billion in frozen bank accounts and billions as oil exports resume. That’s a lot of M-302 rockets.”
On Wednesday, The Daily Beast defense correspondent Eli Lake cited Israeli officials as saying Hamas is now using Iranian parts and expertise rather than importing assembled rockets.
“The vast majority of the expertise and the basic materials arrive in Gaza from Iran via Sudan,” an Israeli intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “It is important to note that the Egyptians, under General Sisi, have worked to limit the amount of arms smuggling over the course of the last year. As a result of this, most of the rockets coming from Gaza today are homemade, but utilize Iranian expertise.”
The Daily Beast cited Ephraim Sneh, a former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister, as saying Iran is now sending its missiles in four parts to help Hamas smuggle them into Gaza. Iranian specialists have “produced in Iran grad missiles, dividing them into four parts in order to smuggle it through the tunnels,” Sneh said. “They specially manufactured a long-range missile smuggled to the tunnels, then they sent to Gaza experts who helped them to develop the longer-range rockets.”
On Tuesday, Reuters reported from Gaza how quickly Hamas’s arsenal has grown since 2006.
A commander in Hamas’s Qassam Brigades told Reuters that before 1996, “the group had only a small number of AK-47 rifles and a single rocket-propelled grenade,” the news agency said, noting that the commander attributed the success to the work of Ahmed Jaabari, the Qassam Brigades leader assassinated by Israel in 2012.
“Jaabari upgraded Hamas’s capability from a rifle to a rocket that hit Tel Aviv; this is in brief what he did,” the unnamed commander told Reuters.
Reuters cited Reuven Ehrlich, an Israeli expert on militant groups, as saying that despite Israel’s attempts to freeze out Hamas, cash continues to flow in “for military uses despite Gaza’s economic crisis,” the news agency said.
“They are still getting money and the priority for the money they have is the military priority,” Ehrlich said. “The money has no smell, nobody can control how the money flows.”