The freighter seized in this port enclave was one of five vessels caught this year carrying large, secret caches of weapons apparently intended for the Lebanese group Hezbollah, the Palestinian organization Hamas or the Quds Force, a wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that supports insurgents in Iraq, according to U.S. and U.N. officials and intelligence analysts. In three cases, the contraband included North Korean- or Chinese-made components for rockets such as the 122mm Grad, which has a range of up to 25 miles and which Hamas and Hezbollah have fired into Israel.
For years, Dubai served as a convenient hub for Iran’s illicit procurement network. But two years ago, the UAE began what U.S. officials acknowledge is a serious crackdown on Iranian trafficking in military technology. Its government has enacted tough export controls, restricted the number of business visas to Iranians and closed numerous suspected front companies, according to UAE officials as well as Western intelligence officers and independent analysts.