Rocket launch in Iran.
(photo credit: FARS)
Amid rising tension on Israel’s northern border, Iran’s newly appointed defense minister said Tehran will bolster its support for Hezbollah in an attempt to lessen the group’s dependence on weapons imports from the Shia country.
“Our aim is to cut reliance on the outside and achieve self-sufficiency in defense industry,” Brigadier General Amir Hatami said, adding “if needed, we will also export defense equipment to other countries in order to guarantee security and stability in the region.”
Israel has in recent years repeatedly hit convoys believed to be transferring advanced weaponry being transferred from Iran via Syria to Hezbollah
. In early July, the head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate Major General Herzi Halevi confirmed reports that Hezbollah has been operating and managing two underground weapons factories set up by the IRGC in response to alleged Israeli strikes against weapons convoys in Syria.
Israeli officials have made several warnings recently regarding Iran’s increased presence in the region, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met with US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats
Sunday, stressing to him Israel’s concerns about Iranian influence on Middle-East stability.
Last week, Maj.-Gen. Halevi met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Jerusalem, and warned him that Iran's desire to produce precision weapons for Hezbollah on Lebanese soil and in the Syrian military industry is a serious development that Israel can not afford to ignore.
Hatami made the comments in an interview with Arabic-language al-Alam
news Saturday, shortly after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri denied that Iran had established weapons factories in Lebanon, calling them part of a “disinformation campaign.”
According to Hatami, while Iran currently provides “advisory support” to Iraq and Syria at their requests, Tehran would also export weapons “to prevent wars.”
“Wherever a country becomes weak, others become encouraged to raid it… Wherever necessary, we will export weapons to increase the security of the region and countries, to prevent wars,” he said.
In addition to increasing support to groups like Hezbollah, Hatami stated that Tehran plans to boost the country’s air defense as well ballistic and cruise missile power over the next four years.
“We will boost [our] defensive power so much that no one would dare violate Iran,” he said, adding Iran has already deployed all the S-300 missile defense systems purchased from Russia to cover “sensitive sites.”
Tehran received the S-300 earlier this year and the system became operational this past March.
According to the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s air defense Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, Iran has also recently tested it’s locally produced Bavar-373 air defense system.
“In parallel with the deployment of the S-300, work on Bavar-373 system is underway,” Esmaili told state broadcaster IRIB late Saturday, adding that “the system is made completely in Iran and some of its parts are different from the S-300. All of its sub-systems have been completed and its missile tests have been conducted.”
Designed to match Russia’s S-300, the Bavar (which means “belief” in Persian) is Tehran’s first long-range missile defense system and is, according to Esmaili, set to be operational by March 2018.
Iran started working on the Bavar in 2010 after the purchase of the S-300 from Russia was suspended due to United Nations Security Council sanctions, which barred the sales of advanced weapons to Tehran.