Iran predictably has lambasted the U.N.-backed intervention in Libya, which it regards as a front for western neo-colonial efforts to seize Libyan oil resources. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gave a televised speech on Monday that criticized the military intervention in Libya and accused President Barack Obama of lying: “The US and Western (allies) claim they want to defend the people by carrying out military operations or by entering Libya … You did not come to defend the people, you’ve come after Libyan oil.” He accused the United States of trying to foment an uprising in the Islamic Republic similar to those roiling the Arab Middle East, saying this was a “doomed and grotesque plan.”
Meanwhile, new evidence has surfaced about Iran’s plans for destabilizing an increasingly volatile Middle East. Last week Israel seized a German freighter that was carrying almost 50 tons of Iranian-supplied arms bound for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The ship, which picked up the arms in the Syrian port of Latakia, was transporting the arms hidden in cargo bound for Egypt, from which the arms would be smuggled into Gaza.
Included in the arms cache were more than 2,000 mortar shells, more than 66,000 bullets for Kalashnikov assault rifles, two radar systems, six sophisticated C-704 anti-ship missiles, and two launchers. The anti-ship missiles were the most worrisome item, because they would greatly extend the reach of Hamas, enabling it to target ships more than 20 miles away.
The arms seizure followed a series of recent interceptions of military and nuclear materials bound for Iran from around the world. In December, South Korean authorities confiscated a cargo of aluminum tubes bound for Iran that was believed to be meant for Iran’s nuclear program. In October, the government of Singapore seized a shipment of aluminum powder used in rockets that also was destined for Iran.
The discovery in Nigeria last October of a shipment of Iranian arms meant for separatist rebels in Senegal prompted the government of Senegal to break ties with Iran.
Earlier this month, Malaysian police seized equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons on board a ship bound from China to Iran. And just last Saturday, Turkey reportedly discovered prohibited arms on an Iranian plane bound for Syria.
Clearly, Iran’s regime feels no embarrassment in denouncing the U.N.-backed intervention in Libya at the same time that it violates U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting the export of Iranian arms and the importing of banned materials useful for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Despite other crises related to political instability in the Middle East, Afghanistan, the Japanese earthquake, and North Korea, Iran deserves to be at the top of the U.S. agenda.
Forthcoming event: Next Steps in Iran Sanctions: Targeting the Choke Points April 7 at 12 noon