Iran’s £13bn Terror Web in the Middle East

Hamas terrorists used motorised paragliders to launch a brutal attack over the heavily fortified border with Israel, indicating that the attack could not have been entirely planned within Gaza. The deployment of paragliders required training outside of Gaza, and Western intelligence believed Iran must have been involved in the development of proxies it has spent £13.1 billion on since 2012.

Evidence of Iranian funding and training equipped Hamas, a group known for its rocket-making capabilities, with the skills needed for a multi-pronged attack that has killed over 1,300 Israelis. Iran has provided support to Hamas, Hizbollah, and other groups that surround Israel for decades. It remains unclear how much involvement Iran had in the generation and timing of the assault, but it is undeniable that Iranian funding and training equipped Hamas with the skills needed for the attack.

Iran’s strategy to boost its influence as the dominant Arab power in the region involves encircling Israel, as seen in the recent exchange of fire between Hizbollah and Israel on the northern front. Iran has allies in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, and Yemen, with relations led by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and elite Quds Force. The US State Department estimates that Iran sends $100 million a year to Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas, while $700 million a year is sent to Hizbollah.

Much of this money goes towards building up a weapon’s cache, with rockets like the Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 being smuggled into Gaza via underground tunnels and air into Lebanon. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian groups in Gaza have a smaller stock of around 30,000 rockets and mortar projectiles, according to a 2021 Israeli military estimate.

Iran has significantly enhanced Hamas’ capacity to produce rockets locally, utilizing foreign technical expertise and smuggled components.

Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group, has been producing rockets and drones with Farsi designs since 2001. The longest-range rocket is believed to be the Ayyash 250, with a range of 250 kilometers. Hamas has also trained its operatives with Iran’s support, with 5,000 members of its IRGC in Syria positioned as potential reinforcements when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982.

1,500 young men trained in northern Lebanon, forming Hizbollah. With Iranian support, Hizbollah has transformed from an underground resistance movement into a significant political power player in Lebanon, holding a parliamentary majority with allies.

Hamas has embedded itself into the fabric of a nation in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, deploying military advisers to oversee militia groups in Syria and occasionally deploying combat personnel. Israeli military sources suggest that around 50 Iranian military bases have been built in Syria, while Israel has run a largely-covert bombing campaign within Syria to knock out threats before they metastasize too far.

Israel has reported Israeli missiles hitting airports in Syria’s capital, Damascus and Aleppo, but the Israeli military has refused to comment. Iran has also supported insurgent groups like the Houthis in Yemen as they battle against Saudi Arabia, another longtime rival of Tehran. Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said his group would respond with rocket and drone fire if the US intervened in the war.

A total encirclement of Israel is complicated by local dynamics, as groups like Hamas and Hizbollah have their own interests to pursue. A rift between Iran and Hamas formed after the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, with Tehran allying with Bashar al-Assad, while Hamas joined the rebels. In 2017, ties were reestablished and Iran resumed funding the group.

Iran’s support is not replaceable for the Palestinian terrorist group, as it cannot provide the training, technology, or designs to build a rocket. Hamas used drone quadcopters to disrupt an Israeli response and confuse the Israelis.

The extent of Iran’s support to Hamas over the years is unclear, but its leaders have been careful to appease their patron with a steady stream of gratitude. As the Israeli army moves in to crush Hamas, the full extent of that arsenal may be revealed, either holding off the might of a military superpower or losing an army of the encirclement strategy it has spent decades and billions of pounds on.

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