Posts categorized as Arms Trade RSS feed for this section

Photos of Seized Weapons Highlight the Importance of Stockpile Security

by Matt Schroeder

FM FAL

Photos of firearms seized from criminals in Colombia are poignant reminders of the importance of strong controls on government arsenals.

The photos, which were provided to the FAS’ Arms Sales Monitoring Project by the Colombian National Police, are of firearms reportedly seized in the department of Narino from a paramilitary group called the Organizacion Nueva Generacion (New Generation Organization). The weapons include an H&K G3 assault rifle apparently diverted from the “Guardia Republicana de Peru” (Republican Guard of Peru), an Argentine-manufactured FN rifle, an Israeli Military Industries (IMI) Galil rifle bearing the initials “P.N.C” (Policia National de Colombia) and an FN FAL rifle stamped “Fuerzas Navales de Venezuela.” The only weapon that does not bear markings of a government agency is an old Interdynamic KG-99 sub-machine gun.

The document from which the photos were taken provides no additional information the source of firearms or how and when they entered the black market. Most of the weapons appear to be quite old and in poor condition. Nonetheless, they do underscore the risk of diversion from government arsenals and the need for robust stockpile security.

Photos:
Continue Reading →

Documents obtained by FAS shed some light on Viktor Bout case, but key questions remain

By Matt Schroeder

Documents provided to the Federation of American Scientists by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York provide additional details about the case against alleged arms trafficker Viktor Bout, but many important questions remain (publicly) unanswered. Below is a brief summary of these documents and their significance. Continue Reading →

Securing Venezuela’s Arsenals

By Matt Schroeder

FAL

The recent discovery of Swedish AT-4 anti-tank rockets sold to Venezuela in a Colombian rebel arms cache raises serious questions about Venezuela’s ability to safeguard its arsenal of modern weaponry, including dozens of advanced SA-24 shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles.  Given the potential threat posed by these missiles and other weapons in Venezuela’s rapidly growing arsenal, the international community should take immediate steps to identify and close the gaps in Venezuela’s stockpile security and to ensure that the end-use monitoring conducted by states that export weapons to Venezuela is sufficiently robust.

According to Colombian authorities, Swedish anti-tank rocket launchers were found in October 2008 in an arms cache allegedly linked to the FARC.[1] On July 27th, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos asserted that “[i]n several operations in which we have recovered weapons from the FARC, we have found powerful munitions and powerful equipment, including anti-tank weapons, from a European country that sold them to Venezuela and that turned up in the hands of the FARC.”[2] Thomas Samuelsson of the Swedish firm Saab Bofors Dynamics confirmed that the AT-4 rockets were manufactured and sold to Venezuela by his firm.[3] The Venezuelan government responded harshly to Colombia’s revelation, calling it “laughable” and recalling the Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia.[4]

This is not the first time that Colombian authorities have discovered Venezuelan weapons in rebel arms caches.  In 2006, the Federation of American Scientists called attention to several reports of Venezuelan firearms acquired by the FARC, sometimes “…in lots of 50,” according to a demobilized guerrilla interviewed by Jane’s Information Group.[5] In most of these cases, it is not clear what role, if any, that Venezuelan government officials played in the diversion.  There is much speculation about the regime’s support of the FARC and its role in arms trafficking to the embattled rebel group,[6] but verifying accusations of high-level complicity by the Venezuelan government based on information in the public domain is nearly impossible and, at one level, it doesn’t matter.  The Venezuelan government is responsible for safeguarding the military’s arsenal and should be held accountable for any diverted weapons, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their diversion. The focus, therefore, should shift from the fruitless back-and-forth with Chavez over his regime’s alleged support for the FARC to identifying the specific sources of diverted weapons, bolstering Venezuelan stockpile security, and calling on states that arm Venezuela to closely monitor their exported weapons. Continue Reading →

FAS Obtains Key Report on US Arms Exports

Deliveries of arms through the Defense Department’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program decreased by nearly a billion dollars in fiscal year 2008, according to the most recent edition of the Annual Military Assistance Report. The report, which is often referred to as the “Section 655 Report” after the section in the Foreign Assistance Act that requires it, is compiled each year by the Defense Department and the State Department. The Defense Department’s contribution to the report was acquired by the Federation of American Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to this year’s report, FMS deliveries in FY08 totaled $10,996,180,000 – nearly $1 billion less than the $11,910,160,000 delivered in FY2007.  This is surprising given the significant increase in FMS agreements in recent years.   FMS agreements jumped from $9.5 billion in FY2005 to more than $18 billion in FY2006, and nearly doubled again to $36 billion in FY2008. One possible explanation for the apparent lag is that deliveries, and particularly deliveries of big-ticket items, can take years.  If this is the case, FMS delivery totals are likely to rise sharply over the next few years.

Adam Willner contributed to this report.

Click here to read the full article

Latest Missile Plot had Little Chance of Success, but ‘Stinger Stings’ are Valuable Tools

On Wednesday, the FBI thwarted an alleged terrorist plot to shoot down a military cargo plane with a Stinger missile.  According to a criminal complaint obtained by the New York Times, four men were arrested on charges of conspiring to use “a surface-to-air missile system to destroy military aircraft at the New York Air National Guard Base located at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York. “ The plot also allegedly included plans for a simultaneous attack on a Bronx synagogue using an improvised explosive device containing more than 30 pounds of C-4 explosives.

The FBI operation in New York is one of several since the 1980s in which undercover US agents have thwarted  attempts to smuggle, acquire or use man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), including US-made Stinger missiles.  These plots feature conspirators that range from rank amateurs whose ability to obtain MANPADS is dubious at best to sophisticated criminals with a demonstrated ability to obtain and ship weapons to bad actors worldwide.  An example of the former is Hemant Lakhani, a British merchant born in India who was arrested in 2003 for attempting to import 200 Russian Igla missiles into the US and to sell them to individuals claiming to be members of a Somali terrorist organization.  Lakhani was so inept that undercover Russian agents ended up furnishing him with a (deactivated) SA-18 missile after he repeatedly tried and failed to obtain a missile himself.  The agents then had to reroute the missile after Lakhani arranged to have it delivered to the wrong address.
Continue Reading →

Obama Urges the Senate to Take Up Key Convention on Illicit Arms Trafficking

At a press conference in Mexico City yesterday, President Obama urged the Senate to take up the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials, which is often referred to by its Spanish acronym, CIFTA.

The Convention aims to curtail the illicit international trade in small arms by requiring member states to establish basic export controls and to cooperate with each other to stop international arms trafficking.  These controls include the establishment of effective systems for authorizing international arms transfers, identifying and preventing arms trafficking at border points, exchanging information on illicit trafficking and best practices for combating it, and providing technical assistance to countries attempting to increase their capacity to identify and thwart arms trafficking.  As stated in the preamble, “this Convention does not commit States Parties to enact legislation or regulations pertaining to firearms ownership, possession, or trade of a wholly domestic character…”

The US played an important role in drafting the Convention, and was one of the first signatories in November, 1997.  The Convention was transmitted to the Senate in June 1998 and, more than a decade later, still awaits the Senate’s advice and consent.  To date, 29 of the 34 OAS member states have ratified the Convention.  Only the US, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St. Vincent & Grenadines have yet to take that step.

Continue Reading →

Missile Watch #4: Global Update (January – March 2009)

Afghanistan

In March, the Sunday Times of London reported on the Taliban’s alleged acquisition of Iranian-supplied SA-14 missiles, which the Afghan insurgent group reportedly wants for a “spectacular” attack on coalition forces. The accusation reportedly came from unidentified “American intelligence sources.” According to the Sunday Times, “…coalition forces only became aware of the presence of SA14s two weeks ago when parts from two of them were discovered during an American operation in western Afghanistan.” The article provides no information on the number of SA-14s allegedly circulating in Afghanistan, their condition, or Iran’s alleged connection to them. When queried about the Sunday Times article, a US military official told the Federation of American Scientists that “[man-portable air defense systems] have been recovered in Afghanistan since 2007,” but refused to provide additional details because of “operational security concerns.”

Other types of MANPADS reportedly acquired by the Taliban and other unauthorized end-users in Afghanistan include the Chinese HN-5, photographs of which were obtained by the Washington Times in 2007, and the ubiquitous SA-7.

For information on Iraq, Sri Lanka and Somalia, click here.

Missile Watch #3: Black Market Missiles Still Common in Iraq

Despite a million dollar buyback program and hundreds of raids on illicit weapons caches, US and Iraqi forces are still finding surface-to-air missiles in insurgent stockpiles.  US military press releases and media reports reveal that, since October 2006, at least 121 such missiles have been recovered, along with 4 additional launchers and various components.  These reports suggest that insurgents still have ready access to surface-to-air missiles, including MANPADS, at least some of which are reportedly still operational.  The missiles pose an immediate threat to civilian and military aircraft in Iraq and a potential threat to aircraft in the region.

To read the rest of Missile Watch #3, click here.

Missile Watch No. 2: Somalia

CNN and AFP are reporting that the Shabaab, a militant wing of a Somali insurgent group, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), has threatened to treat “as an enemy combatant” any plane that attempts to land at Mogadishu Airport.  According to AFP, the threat, which was posted on the Internet, was confirmed by Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow.  The web posting reportedly includes a list of grievances used to justify the threat, including the airport’s use by “Ugandan and Bulgarian mercenaries,” money generated by the airport for the Ethiopian government, and harassment of “Somali religious personalities” by “US and Israeli secret services…”  The warnings are accompanied by a graphic of a man pointing a shoulder-fired missile at a plane as it is landing.

The threat is not to be taken lightly. Last year, the FAS identified Somalia as one of three MANPADS proliferation hotspots worldwide in response to numerous reports of illicit missile activity, most of which involved the ICU and the Shabaab.  In 2006, UN investigators identified at least six shipments of MANPADS and other weapons to the violent Insurgent group, including a shipment of “50 units” of ”shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and second generation infrared-guided anti-tank weapons” from Eritrea, “45 units” of surface-to-air missiles from Iran, and three surface-to-air missiles from Syria.  In each case, the missiles were part of larger arms shipments that also included dozens of assault rifles, machine guns, and other small arms and light weapons.  The Associated Press later reported that the ICU had received 200 shoulder-fired missiles from Eritrea alone.

In March 2007, the Islamists fired two advanced SA-18 missiles at a Belarussian cargo aircraft as it was departing from Mogadishu International Airport.  One of the missiles hit the plane, causing it to crash and killing all eleven people on board.  UN investigators later concluded that the missiles used in the attack were part of a consignment of six SA-18s acquired from Eritrea.  This summer, the UN traced another SA-18 found in Somalia back to a batch of Russian missiles that were shipped to Eritrea in 1995. The Eritrean government denies allegations that it provides missiles and other weapons to the ICU.

To sign up for Missile Watch, click here.  For more information on illicit MANPADS in Somalia and elsewhere, see ASMP Issue Brief #1: MANPADS Proliferation.

written by Matt Schroeder