April 12, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Exploited Earthquake to Flood Weapons into Syria

April 12, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Exploited Earthquake to Flood Weapons into Syria

Latest Developments

After a February 6 earthquake claimed more than 6,000 Syrian lives, Iran sent the Damascus regime weapons and military equipment aboard flights supposedly bringing humanitarian aid, according to a Reuters investigation. Israeli intelligence agencies saw through this pretext, resulting in Israeli airstrikes against these cargos once delivered.

The Reuters investigation drew on Iranian, Syrian, Israeli, and Western sources. An Israeli source said the Quds Force — the foreign-operations arm of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — organized the shipments from Iran. According to a Western official, Iranian flights “transferred huge quantities of ammunition — they have restocked quantities lost in previous Israeli drone strikes.”

Expert Analysis

“At a time of desperate need for the people of Syria, flights that could have brought additional aid instead delivered weapons to fuel further conflict. This perfectly captures how the regimes in Tehran and Damascus are willing to sacrifice Syrian lives to wage their endless war against Israel. Tehran is determined to wage a multi-front war against the Jewish state, forcing it to confront simultaneous threats from Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The clerical regime is also closer than ever to a nuclear weapons capability that would make it even more dangerous.” — David Adesnik, FDD Senior Fellow and Director of Research

Israel’s Campaign to Stop ‘Game-Changing Weapons’ From Reaching Lebanon and Syria

In addition to forming an integral part of Iran’s so-called “Axis of Resistance,” Syria serves as a conduit for Iran’s provision of advanced weapons — especially precision-guided munitions, or PGMs — to Hezbollah, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization that is the dominant force in Lebanon. PGMs, which can correct their course mid-flight, pose a grave threat to Israel because of the country’s small size and minimal redundancy of critical infrastructure. Sufficient PGMs could rapidly disable Israel’s energy and water systems as well as its air and seaports, shutting the country down while Tehran’s proxies attack on multiple fronts.

Assad’s Long Record of Manipulating Humanitarian Operations

The United States has spent over $14.1 billion on humanitarian assistance for Syria — more than any other donor — billions of which pay for UN aid operations. Since the earliest days of the Syrian civil war, Damascus has manipulated an often-compliant United Nations to ensure that aid primarily benefits the ruling regime and its supporters. One lucrative tactic is pressuring the United Nations to work with regime-controlled businesses. For example, from 2014 through 2021, the United Nations spent $81.6 million to house its staff at the Four Seasons Damascus, which is jointly owned by Syria’s Ministry of Tourism and U.S.-sanctioned regime financier Samer Foz.

Related Analysis

Iran Attacking Israel on Multiple Fronts,” FDD Flash Brief

PGMs: Iran’s Precision-Guided Munitions Project in the Shadow of a Nuclear Deal,” by Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz

A Strategy to End the Systematic Theft of Humanitarian Aid in Syria,” by David Adesnik


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