Hezbollah Gets Hands on Deadlier Missiles
Iran exploits Syria conflict to funnel weapons to militant group
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2014 7:13 AM CST
Iranian forces launch an Fateh-110 short-range surface-to-surface missile in this Aug. 25, 2010 file photo released by Iran. Israel believes its strikes have stopped Fateh-110 shipments through Syria.   (AP Photo/Iranian Defense Ministry,Vahid Reza Alaei, File)

(Newser) – Iran appears to be using the civil war in Syria to smuggle advanced guided missile systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon, US officials tell the Wall Street Journal. The guided missiles would be a massive upgrade over Hezbollah's current cache of "dumb" rockets, greatly improving its ability to deter an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program. Israel launched at least five strikes within Syria on suspected weapons shipments in 2013, but as many as 12 antiship guided missile systems may be held at Hezbollah-controlled bases there.

At least some components have also made it into Lebanon, including some for supersonic Yakhont rockets. Officials say Iran's elite Quds Force began the shipments in late 2012; it feared the Assad regime would be overrun, closing off Iran's pipeline to Hezbollah, according to US and Israeli spies. The Assad regime has cooperated to bolster its crucial alliance with Hezbollah. Israel fought back with airstrikes, but hasn't gotten everything. In one case, US spy satellites spotted Hezbollah forces destroying their own equipment at an Israeli bombing site in an attempt to trick Israel into believing its strike had destroyed its target.