Israeli leaders are continuing to issue public statements on an Iranian underground missile factory that was apparently built in Lebanon.
The latest comment comes from Defense Minister Liberman, who, according to I24, said today that Jerusalem “is aware of the construction of underground weapons facilities in Lebanon and is by no means ignoring the situation.”
Israel is “doing what needs to be done” Liberman said. Last week, the Military Intelligence chief, Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi, said Iran is working to create weapons productions facilities in Lebanon and Yemen.
The thing is, the existence of the factory in question has been in the media for months, though officials in Israel were not discussing it openly until last week.
The first report about this missile factory surfaced back in March, in Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida.
That report quoted “an aid to the IRGC commander” who said that “Iran has built factories [for manufacturing] missiles and [other] weapons in Lebanon and has recently turned them over to Hizbullah.”
The original story (translation by MEMRI) has some interesting initial information:
“In response to statements by Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan several days ago – who said that Hizbullah is capable of manufacturing missiles [that can] hit any part of Israel [but] gave no details or explanations – a knowledgeable source who wished to remain anonymous said that, after Israel destroyed an Iranian arms factory in Sudan several years ago that had supplied arms to Hizbullah, and after [Israel also] bombed an arms convoy that was intended to reach Hizbullah via Syria, the IRGC launched a project for establishing arms factories in Lebanon [itself].”
[The source] also claimed that a special department has been established at the IRGC’s Imam Hossein University [in Tehran] to train Lebanese and other experts, and that hundreds of experts have already been trained.”
In a subsequent report that I prepared back in March, I noted that if the claim in Al-Jarida was true, it would indicate a disturbing boost in the Shi’ite terror organization’s ability to self-produce weapons.
Key points from my earlier report:
- Already, the Israeli defense establishment sees Hizballah as a powerful and radical army rather than a ‘mere’ terror organization, due to its sophisticated weaponry (which surpasses that of most states), and its hierarchical command structure.
- An ability to manufacture destructive rockets and missiles would mean that Hizballah is no longer entirely reliant on arms trafficking from Iran and Syria.
- In my report, Ely Karmon, a Hizballah expert and a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, pointed to a 2015 statement made by the IRGC’s Aerospace Force commander, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who boasted that Tehran has provided “Syria, Iraq, Palestine and the Lebanese Hizballah resistance group with the needed know-how to produce missiles.”
Here’s something that remains unclear: How far advanced the factory in Lebanon is, in its ability to produce missiles.