Through Western diplomatic sources, the Süddeutsche Zeitung has learned that Turkey has again intercepted an illegal shipment of weapons from Iran. The shipment was heading for Syria, and the intended final recipient was thought to be the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon which has ties with Teheran. The radical Shiite organization also has depots in Syria.
According to our sources, on April 30, Turkish authorities intercepted at least one truckload at the Kilis border. The truck contained either a large quantity of weapons or spare parts, which continue to be held by the Turks. When called, local authorities and government authorities in Ankara declined to give any information about the matter.
The United Nations Security Council has imposed sanctions on Iran because of its controversial nuclear program; and export of arms is expressly forbidden by those sanctions. All UN member states are obliged to report to the Council violations that come to their attention.
In mid-March, within the framework of the UN resolutions, Turkish authorities searched a Yas Air freight plane in Diyarbakir, in southeastern Turkey. The plane was on its way from Iran to Syria. On board were Kalashnikovs with ammunition, machine guns, and mortar shells disguised as auto replacement parts. The information was published in a report by a group of experts appointed by the UN to monitor and enforce the sanctions.
In June, the document became available to the relevant Security Council committee. Word of the second interception of weapons by Turkish authorities was not yet included in the report, but the word was out in UN circles that another shipment had been stopped by Turkey. An investigation by UN experts is expected. It is unclear whether Turkey had already officially reported the second interception to the Security Council or not.
In mid-April, the Turkish media, including the semi-official news agency Anadolu, reported on alleged arms shipments to Syria from Iran which had been trucked along more than one route including the border crossing at Bab al-Hawa near the southern city of Reyhanli. Western diplomatic sources also say that several trucks with suspicious cargoes and similar false freight documents as the ones seized in Kilis were able to make it across the border into Syria from Turkey in April. This opens up assumptions that Turkish authorities were tipped off about the suspicious shipments by foreign secret service sources.
One diplomat said that the reason for the apparently heightened surveillance at Turkish border crossings was that the government in Ankara wanted to send a signal to both Syria and Iran that it would no longer accept the violent suppression of the opposition in Syria. In addition, the Turkish government wanted to make it clear to Iran that Turkey would be putting an end to any weapons smuggling via their territory and was no longer prepared to tolerate the operations of Iranian agents and intermediaries in Turkey. The diplomat was prepared to pass on the sensitive information only on condition of anonymity.
The UN report shows that Iran has systematically tried to circumvent the sanctions. Shipments of arms, ammunition and explosives, mixed in with shipments of legal goods and falsely declared, are regularly seized. Western intelligence sources say that after Turkey had foiled the Yas Air transport, leaders in Iran gave the revolutionary guard orders to find new routes for the smuggling. Among the possibilities for alternative routes were using rail, air freight aboard planes from other countries like Venezuela, and the land route leading through Iraq.
Read the original article in German
Photo - mr.beutel