Newly uncovered Iranian arms smuggling unit underscores Iranian influence in region

 

News reports have revealed a secret Iranian unit that transfers arms to terrorists and sectarian militias, highlighting Iran’s role in fomenting terror and sectarian violence across the Middle East. Iranian Unit 190 is a secret branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that has been smuggling arms and fueling regional conflict and instability. Reportedly, one of Unit 190’s warehouses is in the civilian area of the Tehran International Airport. Sources have uncovered the name of an Iranian member of this unit, Behnam Shahariyari, who runs a network of companies that have been evading sanctions by packing RPGs, night-vision equipment and long-range rockets in powdered milk, cement, and spare vehicle parts. Shahariyari and his front companies, Liner Transport Kish and Behnam Shahariyari Trading Company, were sanctioned in June 2011 for providing material support, including weapons, to Hezbollah on behalf of the IRGC.

Iran has been actively involved in smuggling arms to the Houthis, Hamas, and Hezbollah. In January 2013, the U.S. Navy seized  40 tons of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles that were being smuggled from Iran aboard a boat called the Jeehan-1 to the Houthis in Yemen. In 2014, the IDF intercepted a ship from Iran carrying advanced missiles bound for Gaza and other Iranian arms shipments destined for Gaza have been intercepted in the past. In 2009, Israeli commandos seized the Francop, a freighter carrying hundreds of tonnes of Iranian arms, including rockets to Hezbollah. The Iranian regime also transfers arms to Lebanese Hezbollah via Syria.

On Wednesday at a hearing on Iran at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a bipartisan group of lawmakers expressed concern about Iran’s regional sponsorship of terror and growing influence in the Middle East. Director of American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project Frederick Kagan claimed that “the global Iranian threat—independent of the status of its nuclear program—is greater today than it has ever been.” Vice President of American Foreign Policy Council Ilan Berman argued that sanctions relief provided during the Joint Plan of Action has allowed Iran to increase its support for terror, asserting that “in the interim, in the year and a half that Iran has had greater breathing room... it has also, as the State Department has noted, stepped up its sponsorship of global instability as manifested in places like Syria, Yemen.” Finally, Director of Research at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution Daniel Byman warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would increase its sponsorship of terror, stating that Iran could “exploit the perceived protection it would gain if it developed a nuclear weapon to step up support for militant groups in the region.”

 

In keeping with Israel’s lead in developing tools to assist the disabled, the Tel Aviv-based startup Timocco  – which has created an on-line gaming platform for special-needs children — is making welcome strides internationally. Established in 2009 by Israeli occupational therapist Sarit Tresser and motion-tracking engineer Shai Yagur, Timocco recently announced that it was granted a patent in the UK for its unique technology, perfectly suited for use by wheelchair-bound youngsters, or those who suffer from spastic cerebral palsy and/or other motor, cognitive and communication disabilities. “Our games are not only attractive, colorful and safe, but they provide a wide range of developmentally appropriate challenges for kids working on acquiring a variety of skill sets,” Timocco CEO Eran Arden tells ISRAEL21c while demonstrating the software on his laptop. He begins with an “easy” game involving the popping of virtual balloons with virtual thumb tacks. The user holds a lightweight foam ball in each hand. These “gaming balls,” one of which is green and the other blue (for tracking by the computer’s camera), act like joysticks for the user. In order to pop the balloons as they fall from the sky, the user needs to exercise skills such as hand-eye coordination, arm movement and concentration. “But this is only one of more than 50 games,” says Arden, adding that the company, with a staff of 17, has been developing a new game nearly every month. So far, though the platform is in English, the games are available in Hebrew, Arabic, German, Spanish and Japanese. (via Israel21c)


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