For the third time this year Israeli businessmen have been arrested and accused to supplying Iran with military equipment. This time the arrested man was not named, but it was revealed that he had been arrested in March while trying to leave the country and is being held until the courts decide if he can be extradited to the U.S., where he was recently indicted for arranging to send military equipment to Iran and for money laundering related to that activity. While this latest indictment was against an unidentified man, the second one was Anatoly Cohn, who was accused of trying to export two paragliding kits to Iran. Israeli intelligence discovered the shipment being sent through Jordan to UAE and then to Iran. He is being tried in Israel.
Paragliding, hang gliding and ultralight aircraft are all unpowered gliders that carry one person for an hour or so and for a distance of 10-20 kilometers or more. Paragliders can be used by smugglers or terrorists since the operator of the paraglider can carry about 20 kg (44 pounds) of “cargo.” This could be weapons and explosives and the Iranian special operations forces have been known to use these one man gliders. Since the 1980s Islamic terrorists have tried using them to sneak into Israel from Lebanon and had some success in the late 1980s but none since. Cohn founded and operates a company that is one of the largest manufacturers of paragliding equipment in the world. Israel forbids the export of such equipment to Iran. Cohn says he is innocent but he will have to prove that in court. It is unknown what the Mystery Man was exporting and that may not be revealed until he is tried in the United States.
The Mystery Man and Cohn are not alone. The first of these incidents occurred earlier in 2014 when two Israeli arms dealers (Avihai Weinstein and Eli Cohen) were arrested and accused of trying to smuggle weapons components to Iran. This came about after a joint Greek-American investigation intercepted containers of F-4 jet fighter parts headed for Iran. These items were traced back to Weinstein and Cohen. This is the third time since 2012 that Weinstein and Cohen are being investigated for this sort of thing. These two were earlier suspected of smuggling spare parts for aircraft, armored vehicles and anti-aircraft missiles to Iran and doing so since the 1980s. Weinstein and Cohen have been formally investigated six times but no charges have ever been made that would stick and result in a conviction.
Ever since the U.S. embargo was imposed in 1979 (after Iran broke diplomatic protocol by seizing the American embassy and staff) Iran has sought, with some success, to offer big money to smugglers who can beat the embargo and get needed industrial and military equipment. This is a risky business and Western prisons are full of Iranians and other nationals who tried and failed to get forbidden goods in to Iran. The smuggling operations are currently under more scrutiny and attack because of Iran's growing nuclear weapons program. But the Iranians simply offer more money, and more smugglers step up to keep the goodies coming.
With legitimate arms purchases banned by international embargoes the use of smuggling severely limits how much military material Iran can get. Thus it is not surprising that Iranian military procurement is less than ten percent what their Arab neighbors are spending. But the Iranians have a long tradition of doing much with little when it comes to military equipment. In addition the Arabs have a much less impressive combat record, especially in the last century. So the oil-rich Arabs are trying to equip their troops with a lot of the best stuff available and hope for the best.