A London based Arabic daily reported today that Iran is taking efforts to demand that Hizballah restrain their attacks against Israel. According to the Arabic language newspaper, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Tehran sent Iran’s foreign minister to Damascus, after Iran was warned by a European country that Israel is ready to begin attacks on Syrian targets as part of their campaign to eliminate the threat of Hizballah.
Syria-Iran military cooperation
Last month, Syria and Iran signed an agreement for military cooperation against what they called the “common threats” presented by Israel and the United States. During a joint press conference held by both of the country’s Defense Ministers, Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar stated that Iran, “considers Syria’s security its own security, and we consider our defense capabilities to be those of Syria.”
Najjar’s statement implying Iran’s determination for safeguarding Syria was followed up this week with an implicit threat directed at Israel claiming, “Should the Islamic world be forced to take military action, Israel will regret its crimes.”
Earlier this week, Syria vowed a “harsh and direct” response if attacked by Israel. Information Minister Mohsen Bilal claimed that “any aggression against Syria will have a firm and direct response not limited in time or means”.
The article cites that Iran is concerned by the criticism recently expressed by several Lebanese politicans such as Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri, who have pointed out and criticzed the direct link between the Hizballah and Iran.
Based on leaks by an Iranian presidential aide, the article quotes the official stating, “Iran enjoyed a good reputation among the Lebanese for supporting Hizbullah. Today, many of our allies have turned their backs on us.”
Israeli officials have stated that around 100 fighters from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard are present in Lebanon.
Late Friday evening, the Hizballah used an Iranian-made C-802 missile to strike the Israeli Naval Warship Spear stationed off the Lebanese coast. According to Israeli officials, the elite Iranian troops helped Hizballah fire the radar-guided missile, which came as a surprise blow by militants who had been previously using only low-tech weapons.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi told denied Israel’s claim telling reporters that “there are no (Iranian) guards there”.
During a February 2005 joint hearing of the Committee on International Relations of the United States House of Representatives Committee, Matthew A. Levitt, Senior Fellow and Director of Terrorism Studies at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, testified that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has had significant impact on the training of Hizballah militants. Levitt stated during his testimony that:
“Iran also runs terrorist training camps of its own in Lebanon, aside from the Iranian funded camps Hezbollah operates there. In August 2002, Tehran was reported to have financed camps under General Ali Reza Tamzar, commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) activity in Lebanon’s Beka‘a Valley. These camps were designed to train Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and PFLP-GC terrorists in the use of the short-range Fajr-5 missile and the SA-7 antiaircraft rocket.”