Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hizballah UAV Further Illustrates Iranian Support

By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross The Mirsad-1 UAV. Click image to view. On Monday night, the IAF's F-16 fighters shot down a Hizballah unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) ten kilometers off the coast of Acre. The drone reportedly had the capacity to carry 90 pounds of explosives. Hizballah's drone was a Misrad-1, which is the same model as the Iranian Mohajer. It is also the same model UAV that Hizballah previously launched twice: in November 2004 and April 2005. In late 2004, Stratfor stated, "European intelligence sources say Hezbollah has acquired two to three UAVs from Iran . . . . In addition, Hezbollah has gathered an international team of engineers and scientists to equip the UAVs with a weapons system, enabling it to use the aircraft for a limited combat role as well as reconnaissance. Some reports indicate that later versions of the Iranian Mohajer can be equipped to fire chemical weapons." And Israeli sources provided similar analysis in 2004, stating that "Iran supplied Hezbollah with 8 such drones, and over the past two years some 30 Lebanese operatives have undergone training at Revolutionary Guards' bases near Isfahan to fly similar aircraft." The drone launch comes atop ongoing revelations about the degree to which Iran has managed to build up Hizballah's deadly arsenal. Writing in the Weekly Standard in late July, counterterrorism consultant Dan Darling provided a detailed analysis of Hizballah's arsenal: Hezbollah has deployed a range of extremely sophisticated weapons against Israel. The most notable has been the Iranian C-802 Noor (Tondar) variant of the Chinese Silkworm missile that was used against an Israeli gunship off the Lebanese coast. Four Israeli sailors were killed, and the gunship was put out of commission. The Associated Press reports that "Iran is believed to have supplied Hezbollah with up to 120 Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets, with ranges of 22 miles and 45 miles respectively," noting that it was a Fajr-3 that is thought to have been responsible for an attack on Haifa that killed 8 civilians. More recently, Israeli military officials have sought to destroy sites in Lebanon believed to house long-range Zelzal missiles of Iranian manufacture that they suspect are capable of hitting Tel Aviv. CBN News analyst John Waage also noted that "[t]he Russian made Metis M anti-tank missile, supplied by Iran, is among the most deadly weapons in the Hezbollah arsenal. At least 44 Israeli soldiers have been killed by the missiles, which can punch through the steel of Israel’s highly-regarded Merkava tanks." One cannot understand the current conflict in Lebanon without understanding the degree that Iran has sponsored Hizballah and built up its arsenal. And just as Iran is the key to understanding the present realities of the conflict, so too is its sponsorship a critical factor in understanding what Hizballah's future will be after a ceasefire is eventually reached.

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