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Exclusive: Turkey Intercepts Iranian Arms Delivery Destined For Hezbollah

"Süddeutsche Zeitung" sources reveal an operation last spring where Turkey intercepted an Iranian arms delivery, in bald violation of UN sanctions. The weapons were thought to be headed for Syrian-based members of the Lebanon Shiite grou

Near the Iran-Turkey border
Near the Iran-Turkey border
Paul-Anton Krüger

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.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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