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Seized shipment

Most notably, Israel intercepted a clandestine naval shipment of M302 rockets that Lt. Col. Lerner and others have argued was en route to the Gaza Strip courtesy of Iran. The shipment was revealed in March — a full four months after the November 2013 warming of relations between Tehran and Washington had ushered in a supposed era of better relations.

Israeli navy commandos seized the rockets as they were traveling via a Panamanian-flagged ship across the Red Sea. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time that the rockets, concealed in 20 containers on the ship, were proof that Iran had “not abandoned its deep involvement in terrorism or systematic efforts to undermine peace and security.”

In June, an investigation into the incident by a U.N. panel of experts concluded that the weapons shipment represented a violation of an existing U.N. arms embargo on Tehran.

Reuters, which first reported on the U.N. finding, noted that it had arrived just days ahead of a meeting in Vienna between Iran and six world powers aimed at securing a deal that would gradually lift international sanctions on Tehran — including the arms embargo — in exchange for curbs on the controversial Iranian nuclear program.

Despite Israel’s public statements that the seized arms were destined for Gaza — which Hamas has angrily denied — the U.N. panel compiled a 14-page report determining that the rockets were actually headed to Sudan.

The extent to which the panel’s findings affected the nuclear talks remains a subject of debate. While the arms embargo remains in place, the talks are ongoing and were extended past an initial deadline in July with Iran and the United States agreeing to continue working toward a peaceful agreement.

The suspicion that Tehran may have violated the embargo has left some lawmakers in Congress questioning the concessions that the Obama administration has been willing to make in easing sanctions against Iran over the past nine months.

Some U.S. lawmakers briefed on intelligence relating to Iran’s conduct strongly question Tehran’s commitment to peaceful resolution with the West.

“The failure of the government in Iran to adjust its behavior gives us pause on how much seriousness they’re putting into these negotiations,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Edward R. Royce told reporters in late July just before Congress left town for its recess.

“It’s a reminder that whatever negotiations we have ongoing with Iran, there is this history of deception, which was shared with us by the international agencies which conduct oversight with respect to the attempts to get Iran to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions and with international norms and behavior,” Mr. Royce said.

Questions, meanwhile, have swirled recently among U.S. national security and foreign policy analysts over the extent to which Hamas‘ willingness to take on Israel so directly this summer may be affecting Iran’s calculus toward the Palestinian group.

The U.S. State Department has listed Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997, and some suggest that weapons delivery patterns from Iran to Gaza show a cyclical relationship between the group and Tehran.

“You get a sense that we’re on a two-year cycle right now, where Iran helps build up the military capabilities of Hamas by smuggling, and the Israelis catch wind of it, and they [then] seek out and destroy these capabilities,” said Jonathan Schanzer, who focuses on the Middle East as vice president of research for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Others are more circumspect and say there is little actual evidence of a connection between Iran and Hamas.

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