IDF officials estimate that the interception of a ship laden with arms bound for the Gaza Strip earlier this week will exacerbate the internal debate in Iran between the relatively moderate camp of President Hassan Rouhani and that of his extremist rival, Kassem Suleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force.
Israeli security sources further believe, according to a Ynet report, that Rouhani does not support such covert missions to send arms throughout the Middle East, and that he has attempted to distance members of the Revolutionary Guards from key decision-making roles.
Despite divisions in Tehran, however, the Israeli defense establishment predicts that efforts to arm terrorists in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip will continue, reported Ynet.
On Thursday, Iran accused Israel of faking the raid on the Klos-C, a Panama-flagged vessel.
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
“An Iranian ship carrying arms for Gaza. Captured just in time for annual [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] anti-Iran campaign,” Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said on his official Twitter account. “Amazing Coincidence! Or same failed lies.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington this week to attend the annual AIPAC conference, where he pressed for a tougher US posture in nuclear talks underway between Iran and the major powers.
Israeli troops on Wednesday seized the Klos-C in the Red Sea. They said the ship was laden with M-302 long-range missiles to be smuggled into Gaza via Egypt.
The missiles, which Israel said originated in Iran, would allow rockets fired from Gaza to reach anywhere in Israel; currently, the range for most rockets fired from Gaza is Israel’s south.