Greek authorities intercepted an Israeli arms shipment intended for Iran, the Greek daily Kathimerini reported on Sunday. It is unknown when exactly the shipment was intercepted.
According to a secret investigation conducted in two phases, one in December 2012 and the second in April 2013, by the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations as well as Greece’s Financial Crimes Squad, the arms shipment contained spare parts for the U.S.-made F-4 Phantom aircraft.
Iran still has a fleet of U.S.-made, aging F-4 aircraft it bought in the 1970s. The U.S. imposed an arms embargo on Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution; the embargo made it illegal to sell any military hardware to Iran, especially U.S.-made. The F-4 first went into service in the 1960s and is still in use by several air forces around the world; Israel phased it out of service recently. The Phantom would not have been a threat to Israel's advanced air force, which has one of the biggest fleets of Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA) F-15 and F-16 fighter-bombers in the world.
Kathimerini, which claims it had access to the secret police probe, said the shipment had originated from an Israeli town, Binyamina-Giv’at Ada, 30 miles south of the Mediterranean port of Haifa. The shipment was sent via a Greek ghost company registered under the name Tassos Karras SA in Votanikos, near central Athens.
Israeli officials declined to comment Sunday, but Israel’s Channel 2 news reported that the U.S. was aware of shipments “in real time” and relayed the message to Israeli officials, as reported by the Times of Israel.
Before the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran was the world’s biggest buyer of Israeli arms, but after the Shah was deposed in 1979, Iran's new regime called for the destruction of Israel. But this did not stop Israeli arms dealers from continuing to supply Tehran with military goods.
In 1980, Israel made its first arms sales to the new Islamic government of Iran -- a sale that happened to include spare parts for the F-4. Later that year, Israel also sold parts for U.S.-made tanks, according to the "Historical Dictionary of Israeli Intelligence."
In 1981, Ya’acov Nimrodi, an Israeli businessman and arms dealer, signed a deal with Iran’s Ministry of National Defense to sell Iran arms worth aproximately $136 million, which included Lance missiles, Copperhead shells and Hawk missiles.
In 1985, in a secret agreement between the U.S. and the Israeli Defense Ministry, a plan was devised to provide Iran with LAU anti-tank missiles and Hawk anti-aircraft missiles in exchange for Iran to pressure its proxy Hizbullah in Southern Lebanon to release U.S. and Western hostages kidnapped by the Shiite radicals. This deal was part of what became known as the Iran–Contra affair, also referred to as Irangate.