Israel displayed weapons seized in a March 5 commando raid in the Red Sea. (Israel Defense Forces)
- Filed Under
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — Against a backdrop of Iranian arms on display from a March 5 commando raid in the Red Sea, a combative and indignant Israeli prime minister exhorted the international community for “shaking hands and smiling” with heads of “murderous” and “subversive” regime.
In a high-profile March 10 media event at Israel’s Red Sea Navy base in Eilat, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brandished a forged bill of lading — which he claims was verified by US intelligence — as proof that Tehran was behind the 181 heavy mortars, 400,000 bullets and dozens of M-203 heavy rockets hidden among the cargo holds of the Panamanian-flagged Klos C.
“The weapons on this ship were destined for terrorists in Gaza who are committed to Israel’s destruction ... The ship was organized by Iran, dispatched by Iran, financed by Iran. The missiles were loaded by Iran in Iran,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli premier exhorted “many in the international community” for burying “their heads in the sand” in their desire to conclude a deal on Iran’s nuclear program that would rescind sanctions and renew trade with Tehran. “There are those who would prefer that we do not hold this news conference here today. They feel uncomfortable that we show what is really happening inside Iran. They prefer that we continue to nurture the illusion that Iran has changed direction.”
In an indirect, yet caustic reference to EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton’s meetings in Tehran, Netanyahu said, “At most I heard a few faint condemnations of Iran from the international community after we intercepted this murderous shipment. We even saw representatives of the world powers shaking hands and smiling with the heads of Iran’s regime at the same time we were unloading these missiles here in Eilat.”
“In contrast, if we build some apartment or some balcony in a neighborhood of Jerusalem, we hear a chorus of vociferous intentional condemnations against the State of Israel,” he continued. “This is not only farcical, it’s dangerous ... hypocritical.”
“As usual, Iran denies these facts. In fact, its foreign minister calls these facts ‘failed lies,’” Netanyahu said of a statement posted on the official Twitter account of Mohammad Javad Zarif on March 6, a day after Israel’s high-seas raid south of Sudan.
“But it’s Iran who’s lying. Our intelligence services exposed the ship’s wayward route and Iran’s efforts to disguise it; they exposed the ship’s deadly cargo, and its intended destination,” Netanyahu said.
Israel said it had been tracking the Syrian-produced M-302 rockets for months, from their flight to Tehran from Damascus and overland transport to Iran’s Bandar Abbas port, where the cargo hidden underneath Iranian-labeled sacks of cement were loaded onto Kloc C. From Bandar Abbas, the ship sailed through the Persian Gulf to Iraq’s Umm Qasr port, where Israel displayed what it claimed was another falsified bill of lading indicating that crates containing the concealed rockets had come from Iraq rather than Iran.
“In the cargo hold of the ship, you can see that 100 out of 150 of the containers were transferred from Iran to Iraq,” an Israeli intelligence officer said. “There they added additional containers and changed the loading form in order to make it look like the entire shipment came from Iraq. This can be cross-referenced with the documents that we discovered on the ship. Generally speaking, Iran was trying to hide its involvement in any form.”
From Umm Qasr, the ship reversed course back through the Gulf and then around Africa before entering the Red Sea en route to Sudan.
Netanyahu concluded his increasingly agitated address with a challenge to the international community: “Those engaged in self-deception must awaken from their slumber.”
“The missiles that we uncovered today were intended to strike at the citizens of Israel. The intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that Iran is developing are intended to strike at the citizens of the West. Come to think of it, Iran might not need ICBMs. Just as they concealed these weapons in containers on this sip they could tomorrow conceal in other containers the ultimate weapon — nuclear weapons — which they could ship to any port in the world.”