Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the past few months, three Iranian officials and two Iraqi intelligence sources told the news agency, according to the report Friday. The officials said Iran was helping the Shiite militias it is arming to start making their own missiles.
“The logic was to have a backup plan if Iran was attacked,” one senior Iranian official told Reuters. “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.”
The Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles in question have ranges of about 100-350 miles, putting in range Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, as well as the Israeli capital of Jerusalem and its coastal hub, Tel Aviv.
The Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has bases in the areas where the missiles were sent, in Iraq’s south and west. Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani is overseeing the program, three of the sources said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that anybody that threatened to wipe out Israel out “would put themselves in a similar danger.” Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel.
“We have bases like that in many places and Iraq is one of them,” a senior Revolutionary Guard commander who served during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s said. “If America attacks us, our friends will attack America’s interests and its allies in the region.”
A Western source and an Iraqi one said the factories being used to develop missiles in Iraq were in al-Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, and Jurf al-Sakhar, north of Kerbala. One Iranian source said there also was a factory in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The areas are controlled by Shiite militias, including Kataib Hezbollah, one of the closest to Iran. Three sources said Iraqis had been trained in Iran as missile operators.