An Iranian civil aviation company is suspected of smuggling arms into Lebanon, destined for Hezbollah and Iranian weapons factories, Fox News reported on Monday.
According to the report, Western intelligence sources have identified two unusual Qeshm Fars Air flights from Tehran to Beirut during the past two months.
In the first flight, which took place on July 9, a Boeing 747 departed from an air force base in Tehran, stopped for a short layover at the international airport in Damascus, and then continued with an “uncharacteristic flight path” to the Beirut international airport.
According to flight data obtained by Fox News, the route passed over northern Lebanon, not following any commonly used flight path. “The Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and defying the West’s abilities to track them down,” the report quoted a regional intelligence source as saying. The airplane carried components for manufacturing precision weapons in Iranian factories inside Lebanon, the sources added.
The second flight reportedly took place on August 2. Flight number QFZ9960 landed in Beirut at 5:59 pm, after departing Tehran's international airport two and a half hours earlier. This time, the plane did not stop in Damascus, but it followed a slightly irregular route north of Syria.
Qeshm Fars Air is considered one of the various pseudo-civilian airlines used for arms-smuggling by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Al-Quds force. The airline had ceased operations in 2013, citing poor management, but restarted under new management in March 2017. It is said to have two Boeing 747s in its fleet. Among the members of the company’s board are three IRGC representatives.
Last week, citing Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources, Reuters reported that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to its Shi’ite allies inside Iraq in recent months. Tehran and Baghdad formally denied that report.