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Ed Webb

Making a Killing - OCCRP - 0 views

  • Since the outbreak of war in Syria, weapons from Central and Eastern Europe have flooded the conflict zone through two distinct pipelines – one sponsored by Saudi Arabia and coordinated by the CIA, and the other funded and directed by the Pentagon.

    A series of investigations by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) have brought to light these multi-billion-dollar weapons deliveries -- exposing the misleading and potentially illegal documents on which they rely, the shady dealers at its heart of the trade, and the governments that have profited from the war.

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    Detailed reports on arms pipelines into Syria
Ed Webb

Just What The Middle East Needs -- $110 Billion More In Weapons | HuffPost - 1 views

  • It appears the Trump administration is counting on the country with the worst human rights record in the region to enforce peace and security in the Middle East.
  • Piled on top of this enormous arms lot are precision-guided munitions that President Obama would not sell the Saudis. That’s not because the Obama folks didn’t like selling weapons to the Saudis — Obama sold more weapons and gear to Saudi Arabia in eight years than all other previous administrations combined. No, Obama withheld precision-guided munitions because the Saudis were using U.S.-provided munitions to repeatedly target civilian and humanitarian sites in their bombing campaign inside Yemen, despite regular protests from the United States.
  • millions of Yemenis are being radicalized against the country they blame for the civilian deaths: the United States. By selling the Saudis these precision-guided weapons more not fewer civilians will be killed because it is Saudi Arabia’s strategy to starve Yemenis to death to increase their own leverage at the negotiating table. They couldn’t do this without the weapons we are selling them.
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  • The Saudis’ obsession with Iran, and the proxy wars (like Yemen) that flow from this obsession, mean that they have little bandwidth to go after extremist groups. Meanwhile, the Saudis continue to export a version of Islam called Wahhabism that is a crucial building block for the perversion of Islam parroted by groups like al Qaeda
  • we have to ask whether continuing to fuel the growing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the right way to bring peace to the Middle East. To the extent this conflict is going to continue, we are clearly on the Saudis’ side, but the inarguable effect of selling more capable weapons to the Saudis is the acceleration of weapons build-up in Iran
  • feeding the arms race between the two nations probably isn’t the best long-term strategy
  • What do we have to gain by going in so enthusiastically with the Sunnis against the Shia in their fight for power in the Middle East? This isn’t our fight, and history suggests the U.S. military meddling in the Middle East ends up great for U.S. military contractors, but pretty miserable for everyone else.
  • $110 billion could educate every single one of the 30 million African primary school age children who has no access to school today...for five years
Ed Webb

UK government 'ignored advice and continued Saudi arms sales' | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • The British government ignored the advice of its own arms control experts and refused to suspend the exports of arms to Saudi Arabia, a London court heard on Tuesday.

    The revelation came in evidence during a landmark judicial review at the High Court.

    The review, brought by Campaign Against The Arms Trade (CAAT), is set to determine the legality of the UK government’s arms transfers to Saudi Arabia amid the current armed conflict in Yemen.

  • Despite human rights fears over Saudi Arabia’s ongoing bombing campaign in Yemen, Britain has exported £3.3bn of weapons to the kingdom since 2015.
  • UN experts said last week that 10 air strikes by the Saudi coalition which killed at least 292 civilians may have been war crimes. The Saudis denied the claims. The panel said the Houthis were probably also guilty of war crimes.
Ed Webb

Saudi-Egypt crisis leaves Israel concerned - 0 views

  • a series of arms deals signed by Egypt that raised quite a few eyebrows in Israel. “They bought four German submarines and two French helicopter carriers for a small fortune,” another Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “This comes in addition to huge deals with the Russians and the Chinese to purchase numerous fighter jets.”
  • “We hope that Sisi knows what he's doing,” the latter source said, “because we don’t really understand it.”
  • The Egyptians are hoping to receive “aerial coverage” from Israel, i.e., lobbying assistance on Egypt’s behalf, which has in the recent past come to Cairo’s aid in Washington on more than one occasion.
Ed Webb

German arms company Heckler & Koch to 'no longer supply undemocratic, corrupt countries... - 0 views

  • German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch will no longer sell weapons to countries which are corrupt, undemocratic, or not affiliated in some way to Nato, a senior employee has said.
  • The move, which would rule out arms deals with Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil, India and even Nato member Turkey, is also an attempt to improve the company’s image
  • The company sued the German government last year over a dispute regarding the export of gun parts to Saudi Arabia, saying it had waited more than two years for approval.
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  • Germany approved a controversial but lucrative deal in 2008 allowing Heckler & Koch to sell parts so the G36 assault rifle could be manufactured in Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters.

    However, it changed tack in 2013 following media criticism over arms companies fuelling tensions in the middle east

  • Germany is the world’s fifth largest arms exporter
Ed Webb

How Many Guns Did the U.S. Lose Track of in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Thousands... - 0 views

  • In all, Overton found, the Pentagon provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns. These transfers formed a collage of firearms of mixed vintage and type: Kalashnikov assault rifles left over from the Cold War; recently manufactured NATO-standard M16s and M4s from American factories; machine guns of Russian and Western lineage; and sniper rifles, shotguns and pistols of varied provenance and caliber, including a large order of Glock semiautomatic pistols, a type of weapon also regularly offered for sale online in Iraq.

    Many of the recipients of these weapons became brave and important battlefield allies. But many more did not. Taken together, the weapons were part of a vast and sometimes minimally supervised flow of arms from a superpower to armies and militias often compromised by poor training, desertion, corruption and patterns of human rights abuses. Knowing what we know about many of these forces, it would have been remarkable for them to retain custody of many of their weapons. It is not surprising that they did not.

  • the Pentagon said it has records for fewer than half the number of firearms in the researchers’ count — about 700,000 in all
  • Overton’s analysis also does not account for many weapons issued by the American military to local forces by other means, including the reissue of captured weapons, which was a common and largely undocumented practice.
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  • In April, after being approached by The New York Times and reviewing data from Armament Research Services, a private arms-investigation consultancy, Facebook closed many pages in the Middle East that were serving as busy arms bazaars, including pages in Syria and Iraq on which firearms with Pentagon origins accounted for a large fraction of the visible trade
  • The American arming of Syrian rebels, by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department, has also been troubled by questions of accountability and outright theft in a war where the battlefield is thick with jihadists aligned with Al Qaeda or fighting under the banner of the Islamic State.
  • One point is inarguable: Many of these weapons did not remain long in government possession after arriving in their respective countries. In one of many examples, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that 110,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 80,000 pistols bought by the United States for Iraq’s security forces could not be accounted for — more than one firearm for every member of the entire American military force in Iraq at any time during the war. Those documented lapses of accountability were before entire Iraqi divisions simply vanished from the battlefield, as four of them did after the Islamic State seized Mosul and Tikrit in 2014, according to a 2015 Army budget request to buy more firearms for the Iraqi forces to replace what was lost.
  • many new arms-trading Facebook pages have since cropped up, including, according to their own descriptions, virtual markets operating from Baghdad and Karbala
  • According to its tally, the American military issued contracts potentially worth more than $40 billion for firearms, accessories and ammunition since Sept. 11, including improvements to the ammunition plants required to keep the cartridge production going. Most of these planned expenditures were for American forces, and the particulars tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched. More than $4 billion worth of contracts was issued for small arms, including pistols, machines guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles, and more than $11 billion worth was issued for associated equipment, from spare machine-gun barrels to sniper-rifle scopes, according to Overton’s count. A much larger amount — nearly $25 billion — was issued for ammunition or upgrades to ammunition plants to keep those firearms supplied. That last figure aligns with what most any veteran of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan could tell you — American troops have been involved in a dizzying number of gunfights since 2001, burning through mountains of ammunition along the way.
  • The data show large purchases of heavy-machine guns and barrels. This is a wink at the shift in many American units from being foot-mobile to vehicular, as grunts buttoned up within armored trucks and needed turret-mounted firepower to defend themselves — a matériel adaptation forced by ambushes and improvised bombs, the cheaply made weapons that wearied the most expensive military in the world.
  • a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s, commonly called rocket-propelled grenades, and recoilless weapons, including the SPG-9. Each of these systems fires high-explosive (and often armor-piercing) projectiles, and each was commonly used by insurgents in attacks. After the opening weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was American or associated with allied and local government units, which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling. Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.
  • a portrait of the Pentagon’s bungling the already-awkward role it chose for itself — that of state-building arms dealer, a role that routinely led to missions in clear opposition to each other. While fighting two rapidly evolving wars, the American military tried to create and bolster new democracies, governments and political classes; recruit, train and equip security and intelligence forces on short schedule and at outsize scale; repair and secure transportation infrastructure; encourage the spread or restoration of the legal industry and public services; and leave behind something more palatable and sturdy than rule by thugs.
  • The procession of arms purchases and handouts has continued to this day, with others involved, including Iran to its allies in Iraq and various donors to Kurdish fighters. In March, Russia announced that it had given 10,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to Afghanistan, already one of the most Kalashnikov-saturated places on earth. If an analysis from the United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or Sigar, is to be believed, Afghanistan did not even need them. In 2014 the inspector general reported that after the United States decided to replace the Afghan Army’s Kalashnikovs with NATO-standard weapons (a boon for the rifles’ manufacturer with a much less obvious value for an already amply armed Afghan force), the Afghan Army ended up with a surplus of more than 83,000 Kalashnikovs. The United States never tried to recover the excess it had created, giving the inspector general’s office grounds for long-term worry. “Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons,” it noted, “Sigar is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to civilians.”

  • What to do? If past is precedent, given enough time one of the United States’ solutions will be, once again, to ship in more guns.
Ed Webb

Chinese drones: Cheap, lethal and flying in the Middle East | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • China’s new hit product: the CH-4 Caihong, or "Rainbow", drone.
  • The Middle East is no stranger to drones flown by the US, which have killed thousands of people over the last decade.

    But more nations are entering the game thanks to a new player in the market: Chinese manufacturers offering cheap hardware with a no-questions-asked sales policy.

    China has been aggressively marketing the CH-4, which bears a striking resemblance to the US MQ-9 Reaper and has similar capabilities.

  • Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are now believed to operate variants of Chinese armed drones
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  • China has not signed the international Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT, meaning it has fewer restrictions on the sale of drone technology
  • “Countries with less-than-ideal human rights records tend to use their weapons in less-than-ideal human rights manners, whether it’s a drone or a water cannon."
  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE are believed to have used the drones in their war in Yemen. While there are not verified reports of drone attacks, evidence of their use includes satellite photographs, as well as images of a drone resembling a CH-4 shot down by Houthi fighters.

    Saudi Arabia has been condemned by a host of bodies including the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the European Parliament for apparent indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Yemen.

  • while drones offer safety for operators, leaked reports from the US drone programme suggest that up to 90 percent of those killed in drone strikes may be unintended targets, or "collateral damage". 
Ed Webb

Is Iran becoming a major regional arms producer? - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle ... - 0 views

  • during the past few years, in spite of extensive sanctions on exports of conventional military equipment, Iran has managed to become self-sufficient in the production of a vast range of weapons and military equipment. Indeed, a large portion of Iran’s military equipment is presently met by domestic production. Given this capacity, Iran appears now ready to establish a serious and effective presence in the international armament market.
  • deliveries of weapons to Iraq have increased so much that all semi-heavy artillery equipment, sniper weapons and many other types of personal and armored weapons presently used by Iraqi paramilitary forces are Iranian-made. In addition, over the past year, Iran has also started sending the T-72S main battle tank to Iraq.
  • Iranian-made military equipment is officially and extensively now in use in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. Since Iranian-made arms and equipment have yet to be tested, it is not possible to compare them with the originals they’re modeled after. However, the expansion of terrorism in the region has given Iran an opportunity to test its military equipment in action and learn about possible defects
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  • The JCPOA, and the prospect of the lifting of conventional arms-related sanctions in the next five years, have resulted in the Iranian armed forces seeking a way to expand their domestic military industrial capabilities and become part of the international arms market. For instance, Iran’s minister of defense participates in most military exhibitions in the region. He is also constantly in contact with countries such as China and Russia regarding the transfer of the most advanced military equipment technology to Iran. In this vein, it appears that the sanctions related to conventional weapons trade are already being dropped, and that in the near future Iran will become a serious rival of both Western and Eastern arms firms that are presently providing conventional weapons to regional states
  • if the current trajectory of arms deliveries continues, it appears that countries such as Iran, Russia and China are set to become the Middle East’s main weapons suppliers.
Ed Webb

The rise of the Kurdish gun market - Al Jazeera English - 1 views

  • Mahmood said he would sell "without hesitation" to Yazidis, Christians or foreign fighters aiding the Kurds in their fight against ISIL.
  • Members of the Kurdish Peshmerga, including foreign fighters, have been among the most frequent customers at the gun markets in Sulaimania
  • One shop owner estimated at least 20 percent of his clientele were members of the Kurdish military force. Peshmerga, who receive a 25 percent discount at some shops, supplement their issued equipment with their own salaries
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  • Russian and Chinese AK-47s, which were standard issue in the Iraqi army under Saddam, are the cheapest and most popular weapons among the Peshmerga, selling for $450 a piece, vendors said. M16s, issued to the Iraqi army by the US via Iraq's interim government, are also plentiful and popular, but cost around $2,500
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