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. ( more at WTOP)
The flight makes some trips to Lebanon. Peter Brookes says the passengers "may not even need visas". Brooks is also concerned that Iranian special advisers are schooling the
Venezuelan military and may be involved in plans to move Iranian agents
inside the U.S..
No offense to Brookes, but it has long been known in security circles that Iran has influence in South America and specifically Venezuela and that Iranian agents and Hezbollah have been working in that region for years.
Image hat tip Maggie's Notebook who questions what might be on the return trips of this flight? Uranium?
According to former CIA Director Michael J. Hayden, there is another one of these country-to-country flights scheduled this Friday. What will we do? Well again according to Hayden, all we can do is watch -- we're just so darned busy:
"American intelligence services have a lot of things on their plate. The fact that I can tell you that we're really interested in that direct flight tells you that it was on our scope -- something that we are sensitive to," Hayden says. "Are we doing enough about it? I would have to say 'no,' because it's a very challenging menu that American intelligence has to deal with."