Unit 190-Weapons Transfer Unit


One of Quds Force’s main activities is transferring and smuggling weapons to organizations, ethnic groups, and countries in accordance with Iran’s interests. The Quds Forces unit performing this activity is unit 190, which is considered one of the Quds Force special units, and it specializes in smuggling weapons. Purpose of the unit:

Transferring weapons to resistance organizations outside Iran to influence conflict areas in various places in the world, as part of the concept of exporting the Shi’ite revolution of Supreme Leader Khamenei.

There are several UN security council resolutions prohibiting export of weapons from Iran, including resolutions 1747 (2007), 1929 (2010), and 2105 (2013). In order to bypass these sanctions, the main modus operandi of this Quds Force unit is transferring and smuggling weapons to various countries under the guise of innocuous merchandise. In this way Iran blatantly violates international law and poses a threat to civilian commerce channels around the world.

The unit was responsible for the transfer of tens of thousands of tons of weapons in recent years to Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Assad regime in Syria, Palestinian terror organizations in the Gaza strip, the Houthi faction in Yemen, and elsewhere.

Modus Operandi

In its activity, unit 190 uses a variety of methods to camouflage and conceal weapons shipments, in order to maintain secrecy, maximize the chances that the shipments will arrive at their destination, and remove the connection to Iran, in case a shipment is caught.

These include:

  1. In the container, the weapons themselves are usually in a locked crate, surrounded by material used as camouflage. In order to find the disguised weapons, the container must be opened, and several tons of innocuous equipment unpacked.


2. Registration of the shipment as humanitarian aid or civilian equipment, the unit has developed sophisticated packaging methods which give the merchandise a completely innocent look. The declared contents of the shipment are completely innocuous, matching the material used as camouflage in the container, such as construction material, polyethylene, powdered milk, and vehicle spare-parts.

3. Use of civilian shipping transport (ships, airplanes, trucks, and trains).

4. Transferring the shipments via third party cut-countries/ports, to disguise the connection between the shipment and Iran.

5. Transferring weapons that are not Iranian-produced, to enable Iran to deny involvement if the shipment is detained/exposed.

Transfer channels

Air channels:

  1. From Iran to Syria: unit 190 uses passenger and military flights between Iran and Syria which fly over the skies of Iraq, for transferring thousands of tons of weapons for the Assad regime and Hezbollah. Iranian airlines such as Iran Air, Mahan Air, Caspian Air and Maraj Air are involved in the weapons transfers. For example, in April-May 2013, Fateh-110 missiles were transferred via this channel for Hezbollah. These missiles were blown up on Syrian soil. Most of the weapons used by Assad’s military and Hezbollah in their battle against the rebels in Syria were transferred via this channel.

©Reza - Iranaian Spotters/airliners.net

2. From Iran to Lebanon: passenger and cargo flights by Iranian airlines that pass over Turkey. The Quds Force uses this line for sending weapons and equipment for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

3.From Iran to Sudan: in August-September 2012, the unit transferred hundreds of tons of strategic weapons for Palestinian organizations in the Gaza strip in six direct Iran Air and Mahan Air flights from Iran to Sudan. About a month later, the weapons were blown up in Sudan.

©Shary - Iranaian Spotters/airliners.net

4. From Syria to Sudan: weapons and equipment were sent on flights from Teheran to the international airport in Syria, and smuggled by unit 190 on civilian flights from Damascus to Khartoum. Some of the weapons and equipment were destined for Palestinian terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, and some for the north Sudanese regime


Maritime channels:

  1. From Iran to Sudan: unit 190 uses civilian ships to transfer weapons from Iran to Sudan. The weapons are unloaded in Port Sudan, sent to Egypt, and from there to the Gaza Strip using smuggling networks. For example, in March 2014, the Israeli navy foiled a shipment from Iran to Sudan for Palestinian organizations, which had been loaded on a commercial ship, the Klos-C. The shipment included 40 Syrian M-302 long-range rockets. The weapons transfer unit selected Syrian-produced rockets to obscure the Iran connection to the shipment

©trust.org / Reuters

2.From Iran to Yemen: the unit transferred weapons via ships to Yemen for Houthi rebels. For example, in January 2013, Yemen security forces foiled a transfer of weapons from Iran to Yemen on a small boat named Gehan-1. On the boat were 40 tons of weapons, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. In a similar incident in October 2009, the Yemeni navy detained a boat called Mahan-1 flying an Iranian flag, which was carrying anti-tank missiles sent by the Quds Force to Houthi rebels in Yemen.


3.From Syria to Egypt: In March 2011, the Quds Force tried to send about 50 tons of weapons to Egypt on a ship named Victoria, to be smuggled onwards to the Gaza Strip. The Israeli navy took control of the ship, and found Iranian-produced C-704 shore-to-sea missiles in the containers, among other things.


4.From Iran to Africa: in October 2010, the Quds Force sent 13 weapons containers from Iran to Gambia. The shipment was transshipped in Nigeria and was foiled by Nigerian security forces. The shipment contained many tons of weapons, among them 120 mm mortar shells and 107 mm rockets. The incident caused a diplomatic crisis between Iran and several African countries, and led to the arrest of Quds Force activists in Nigeria who were involved in the affair.


5.From Iran to Syria and Lebanon: in November 2009, the unit tried to transfer 36 containers of weapons from Iran to Latakia port in Syria for Hezbollah. The containers were transshipped in Dubai and Egypt, where they were loaded on a commercial vessel, the Francop. The purpose of the transshipping was to disassociate Iran from the shipment. The containers, which had been declared to contain Polyethylene, were seized in an Israeli navy raid, and it was revealed that they contained about 500 tons of weapons.


Land channels:

  1. In trucks from Iran to Syria: in recent years, unit 190 has performed transfers of weapons, equipment, and prohibited materials from Iran to Sudan for the Assad regime and Hezbollah.

  2. In trains from Iran to Syria via Turkey: in May 2007, a shipment of weapons containers from the Quds Force was revealed, which had been transferred from Iran to Syria via Turkey on a train, and was apparently destined for Hezbollah. The containers held 122 mm mortar shells and explosives, among other items. On the shipment’s Bill of Lading was the signature of a senior Quds Force official, Behnam Shahariyari, on behalf of the cover company Shahariyari Trading Ltd.