Israel’s top military spokesman accused Iran of turning Lebanon into “one big missile factory,” in a rare Arabic op-ed published Sunday on Lebanese news outlets.
In the piece, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said Iran’s extensive support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group had turned the country into a “branch” of the Islamic Republic.
“Lebanon is becoming, by default and by the failure of the Lebanese authorities, one big missile factory,” wrote Manelis, according to a Hebrew translation from the Israel Defense Forces.
“It is no longer the just transfer of weapons, money and advice. Iran has de facto opened a new branch — ‘the Lebanon Branch.’ Iran is here,” he added.
Over the past year, Israel has warned against Iranian efforts to set up weapons production facilities in Lebanon, with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman telling United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres during an August visit to Israel that Iran is “working to set up factories to manufacture accurate weapons within Lebanon itself.”
Israel has also warned against the establishment of Iranian missile factories in Syria, as well as the transfer of advanced weapons from that country to Hezbollah. Dozens of airstrikes on weapons convoys bound for Lebanon have been attributed to Israel by foreign media reports.
Hezbollah, which has long targeted Israel and Jews worldwide, is currently fighting in the Syrian civil war on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a fellow Iran ally. The Lebanese terror group has also been accused of assisting Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq and Yemen.
In light of its regional activities, Manelis said the past year provided “further proof that Hezbollah serves as Iran’s operational arm.”
“In every place where instability prevails we discovered Iran’s fingerprint, and in every place we discovered Hezbollah’s involvement,” he said, adding that “billions [of dollars] flow from Iran through Beirut to everywhere in the Middle East where there is evil and terror.”
Manelis said that with its growing military strength, Hezbollah is making no effort to conceal its ambitions “to take over the [Lebanese] state” or its “establishment of terror infrastructure and weapons factories,” the latter of which he said was happening “under the nose of the Lebanese government.”
The IDF spokesman also praised Israel’s deterrence vis-a-vis Hezbollah, saying the quiet along the northern border was proof that Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had learned from “his previous mistake,” in reference to the ambush on an IDF convoy by the terror group that sparked the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Manelis’ op-ed was one of a number of recent pieces in the Arabic press in which Israeli officials sounded off on Iran, the most notable of which was Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s interview in November with the Saudi-owned news site, Elaph, in which he called Iran the “biggest threat to the region.”