- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Iranian officials on Wednesday acknowledged providing military assistance, including missile technology, to the Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Iranian-engineered Fajr-5 missiles struck near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during the conflict this week, and Israeli officials said that Iran supplied the longer-range missiles to Hamas.

A senior Iranian official disputed that accusation, but acknowledged that his country has shared its Fajr-5 missile technology with the militant group that controls Gaza.

“The Fajr-5 missiles have not been shipped from Iran. Its technology has been transferred, and [the missiles are] being produced quickly,” Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, was quoted as saying by Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency.

Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, said his country was “honored” to help Palestinians with “material and military aspects.”

Iranian officials’ admissions that they are sharing missile technology with Hamas “shows some brazenness,” said Tom Karako, assistant professor of political science at Kenyon College who specializes in proliferation issues.

“[Iranian] willingness to connect the dots between these rockets that are being fired and themselves puts the Hamas-Israel conflict in the context of the larger regional struggle and raises questions about Iran’s strategic purpose,” Mr. Karako said. “Is it merely to provide Hamas with military capabilities for self-defense or to accomplish a larger strategic purpose?”

Ali Alfoneh, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, expressed skepticism of Iran’s claims that it has shared only missile technology with Hamas.

“Sharing technology with Hamas is impossible,” Mr. Alfoneh said. “Hamas doesn’t have the capacity to run a banana plantation, let alone a missile factory, particularly a missile factory about which the Israelis are ignorant.”

Mr. Alfoneh said Iran supplies Hamas with “ready-to-use” missiles.

‘Shaky’ relationship

Iran’s Shiite-led regime has been a longtime supporter of the mostly Sunni Hamas militant group — two would-be sectarian rivals united by their mutual goal of destroying Israel.

However, Iranian officials rarely have boasted about arming the militants.

“Traditionally, Hamas has had a very long-standing and deep relationship with Iran, which involved training, funding and arms,” said Matthew Levitt, director of the counterterrorism and intelligence program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The relationship ruptured after the start of the uprising in March last year against President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, an ally of Iran.

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