London, Feb 3: Iran is intensifying a campaign to destabilise the Middle East by smuggling anti-aircraft weapons to militant allies through its international paramilitary force, outgoing US defence secretary Leon Panetta has warned.
The Pentagon chief told The Wall Street Journal that Tehran’s export of so-called ‘manpads’, anti-aircraft missiles, that can be carried by a single person, represents a dangerous escalation.
According to the Telegraph, Yemen intercepted a boat carrying the weapons on January 23 with unspecified assistance from the US, which had evidence that the missiles were supplied by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
They were believed to be en route to Yemeni separatists fighting the US-backed central government.
American intelligence reports had previously indicated an increase in efforts by Iran to smuggle the devices to radical Islamic factions in the region.
There are also fears in Israel that Iran will try to ship ‘manpads’ to Hamas radicals in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon or the government of embattled Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the report said.
With those missiles, radicals could be within range to shoot down Israeli aircraft, it added. (ANI)