Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed his skepticism Thursday at Israeli and US claims that the Israeli Navy had seized a ship carrying a cache of illicit Iranian arms.
“An Iranian ship carrying arms for Gaza,” read a tweet from his official account. “Captured just in time for annual AIPAC anti Iran campaign. Amazing Coincidence! Or same failed lies.”
Israeli forces interdicted the “Klos-C” vessel near Port Sudan early Wednesday morning. According to Israel, the Gaza-bound missile shipment it was carrying had been tracked from Damascus to Iran and then to Iraq before being captured en route to the Hamas-controlled territory.
An Iranian ship carrying arms for Gaza. Captured just in time for annual AIPAC anti Iran campaign. Amazing Coincidence! Or same failed lies.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) March 6, 2014
When naval commandos from the elite Shayetet 13 unit boarded and took control of the ship, soldiers found several dozen advanced Syrian M-302 missiles, with a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) and a payload of up to 170 kilograms (375 pounds) hidden in shipping containers also carrying sacks of concrete.
The US later confirmed the weapons are believed to be from Iran and acknowledged that it had been planning its own operation to seize the ship before ceding to the Israelis. Video from the ship showing a bag of cement marked “MADE IN IRAN” seems to back up claims of Iranian involvement.
Netanyahu, still in the US after meeting with President Barack Obama on Iran and ongoing peace talks with the Palestinians, lauded the IDF and castigated Iran.
“I would like to congratulate the IDF, Israel’s intelligence apparatuses and of course the commanders and soldiers of the navy who carried out a flawless operation to capture a covert Iranian weapons ship,” Netanyahu said in a video statement Wednesday.
“This is the real Iran and this country must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons,” he said. “We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli citizens.”
The White House later said that the weapons shipment would not affect negotiations on the country’s nuclear program.
“Even as we continue efforts to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy, we will continue to stand up to Iran’s support for destabilizing activities in the region, in coordination with our partners and allies, and made clear that these illicit actions are unacceptable to the international community and in gross violation of Iran’s UN Security Council obligations,” White House Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday.