TIME: Iran, Syria helping Hizbullah rearm
Based on intelligence sources, American weekly reports group has replenished nearly half of its pre-war stockpiles of short-range missiles and small arms with help from Damascus, Tehran. According to report, weapons transferred to secret Iranian base on outskirts of Damascus, shipped by truck across border into Lebanon
The report is based on Israeli and Saudi intelligence sources and on western diplomats in Beirut.
Israeli military officials told TIME that Hizbullah replenished nearly half of its pre-war stockpiles of short-range missiles and small arms.
But western diplomats in Beirut said these calculations underestimate the weapons flow and that Hizbullah has now filled its war chest with over 20,000 short-range missiles—a similar amount to what they had at the start of the conflict, during which the group is believed to have fired over 3,000 rockets at Israel.
"The Iranian pipeline through Syria was already working during the war," despite constant Israeli bombing raids on the roads into Lebanon from Syria, a Beirut source said.
Officially, Syria and Iran deny that they're supplying weapons to Hizbullah. However, when asked about receiving a new shipment of arms from Syria and Iran, a spokesman for the Shiite group told TIME, without elaborating, "We have more than enough weapons if Israel tries to attack us again."
Secret Iranian base in outskirts of Damascus
A Saudi source told TIME that over the past three months Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers have been operating out of a military base on the outskirts of Damascus.
According to the source, the Iranian government has dispatched shipments of small arms and what appear to be missile components to this military base. From the secret base, weapons have been shipped by truck across the border into Lebanon.
According to TIME, Western diplomats said that the Lebanese army has posted over 8,000 troops along the border, forcing smugglers to use mountain passes instead of the heavily-monitored crossing on the main Beirut-Damascus road.
Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security advisor, said that his country was alarmed at Iran's speeding influence in Lebanon and that Saudi King Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz al-Saud is expected to discuss the issue with US Vice President Richard Cheney on Saturday in Riyadh.
"There has been a serious increase in activity in the rearming of Hizbullah," said Obaid, noting that "a huge stream of trucks" has been crossing the border from Syria into Lebanon, ferrying thinly disguised shipments of arms.
According to Obaid, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) are using the Iranian embassies in Damascus and Beirut as command and control centers. The allegation was also confirmed to TIME by Israeli military sources.
Obaid said there appear to be direct communications links between the Iranians and Hizbullah, via Hizbullah officers working inside the Iranian embassy in Beirut, and Iranian officers in the field with Hizbullah fighters.