Iran’s secret pipeline into the U.S.
Iran Air 744 is a bimonthly flight that originates in Tehran and flies directly to Caracas with periodic stops in Beirut and Damascus. The maiden flight was Feb. 2, 2007.
The mere existence of the flight was a significant concern for U.S. intelligence officials, but now a broader concern is who and what are aboard the flights.
“If you [a member of the public] tried to book yourself a seat on this flight and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a week before, a month before, six months before — you’ll never find a place to sit there,” says Offer Baruch, a former Israeli Shin Bet agent.
Baruch, now vice president of operations for International Shield, a security firm in Texas, says the plane is reserved for Iranian agents, including “Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and other intelligence personnel.”
Current and former U.S. intelligence official fear the flight is a shadowy way to move people and weapons to locations in Latin America that can be used as staging points for retaliatory attacks against the U.S. or its interests in the event Iranian nuclear sites are struck by U.S. or Israeli military forces.
“My understanding is that this flight not only goes from Caracas to Damascus to Tehran perhaps twice a month, but it also occasionally makes stops in Lebanon as well, and the passengers on that flight are not processed through normal Venezuelan immigrations or customs. They are processed separately when they come into the country,” says Peter Brookes, senior fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation.
The 16-hour flight typically leaves Tehran and stops at Damascus International Airport (DAM), which is Syria’s busiest. In 2009, almost 4.5 million passengers used the airport.
After a 90-minute layover, the flight continues the remaining 14 hours to Venezuela’s Caracas Maiquetía International Airport (CCS). Upon arrival, the plane is met by special Venezuelan forces and sequestered from other arrivals.
“It says that something secretive or clandestine is going on that they don’t want