Posts tagged with manpads

Somalia: Don’t Forget about the Missiles….

With the war against Islamist fighters drawing to a close, Somalia’s transitional government and its foreign allies now face several Herculean tasks: bringing to heel the warlords and militias that have terrorized the country for fifteen years, winning over the various clans and sub-clans that dominate Somali politics, rebuilding the nation’s devastated infrastructure, etc, etc, etc.

In the interest of international security, I would add one more: recovering the dozens of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles reportedly distributed to the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), and sanctioning the suppliers.
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Update: Shoulder-fired Missile Proliferation

There have been several recent reports of the acquisition and (attempted) use of shoulder-fired missiles by terrorists and insurgents. Below is a quick summary of these reports:

El Salvador: Foiled Assassination Attempt
The most dramatic of these reports is that of a foiled assassination attempt against Salvadoran President Tony Saca. During a 6 October interview with the Salvadoran daily El Diario de Hoy, Saca revealed details of the alleged plot, which involved two SA-7 surface-to-air missiles and a Cuban national with alleged ties to the now defunct Medellin drug cartel in Colombia. The suspect, George Nayes, was arrested on September 13th and was subsequently extradited to the United States, where he has reportedly been charged with “drug trafficking and terrorism.”
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Congress Appropriates $40 Million for DHS Counter-MANPADS Program

Last week President Bush signed the Fiscal Year 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which includes $40 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s Counter-MANPADS Program – a multi-year initiative launched in 2003 to evaluate the feasibility of installing anti-missile systems on commercial airliners. The appropriation is nearly 10 times higher than the amount requested by the administration, and increases to $270 million the total amount appropriated for the program.

Appropriators supplemented the administration’s request for the program after proponents of anti-missile systems intervened on its behalf. In February, Rep. Steve Israel called the budget request “lip service” and accused the administration of “ma[king] a decision to effectively kill the counter-MANPADS program…” A month later, Senator Barbara Boxer sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff calling the administration’s decision to reduce funding for the program “misguided and dangerous.”
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MANPADS for Hezbollah?

In the August 9th edition of Jane’s Defense Weekly, Deputy Editor Robin Hughes reveals alleged plans by Iran to supply Hezbollah with “a steady supply of weapons systems,” including Chinese QW-1 and its own Mithaq (or Misagh) man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). The article cites unnamed western diplomats, who also claim that Iran agreed to provide, “at a later date,” several different types of Russian missiles, including the sophisticated SA-16.

Assuming the information is accurate, the missile transfers are significant for several reasons. First, the missiles are a potential threat not only to Israeli military aircraft but also commercial airliners worldwide. Hezbollah has a long history of terrorist attacks against civilian targets. According to Georgetown Professor Daniel Byman, the organization “was perhaps the world’s most active terrorist organization,” and had a hand in several high profile attacks, including the hijacking of TWA flight 847 in 1985 and the bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994. Its involvement in such acts has waned in recent years, but there is no guarantee that it won’t resume these activities, or retransfer the missiles to terrorists with immediate designs on commercial airliners.

Secondly, the transfers violate a nascent but critically important international norm against the transfer of MANPADS to non-state actors, which is codified in resolutions, declarations and agreements adopted by members of several multilateral forums. Some of these agreements explicitly ban the transfer of MANPADS to non-state actors, while others do so indirectly by limiting such transfers to “foreign governments or to agents specifically authorised to act on behalf of a government after presentation of an official EUC certified by the Government of the receiving country.”
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Nicaragua Agrees to Destroy More MANPADS

On July 13th, the Nicaraguan National Assembly voted to destroy an additional 651 of its large stockpile of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles, bringing it one step closer to fulfilling President Enrique Bolanos’s earlier commitment to destroy Nicaragua’s entire stock of Man-portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). The Assembly approved the plan despite opposition from the Sandinista National Liberation Front (SNLF), which led a partially successful campaign to derail the US-funded destruction initiative in early 2005.

The missiles – 2000 SA series MANPADS – are the remnants of a massive infusion of Soviet military assistance to the left-leaning Sandinista government, which was the target of a US-supported insurgency in the 1980s. The proxy wars in Central America ended shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the huge stockpiles of Soviet weapons remained – an attractive target for arms traffickers. Diversions of Nicaragua’s missiles date back at least to 1990, when Sandinistan military officers sold 8 missile launchers and 28 missiles to rebels in El Salvador. Three years later, 19 more black market missiles were discovered in the charred remains of a Managuan auto repair shop that doubled as a storage site for a large cache of illicit rockets, mines, explosives and MANPADS. The repair shop caught fire after part of the cache exploded.
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Rep. Royce introduces legislation on shoulder fired missiles

Yesterday Rep. Edward Royce (R-CA) introduced a far-reaching bill that, if passed, would boost US efforts to curb the threat posed by Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS).

The “Shoulder-fired Missile Reduction Act of 2006” (HR 5333), which already has 13 co-sponsors from both sides of the political aisle, contains provisions that would

**Expand US stockpile security and destruction assistance programs by authorizing $15 million for these programs in fiscal year 2007 and $20 million in FY2008 (effectively doubling current funding levels);

**Punish states that knowingly transfer missiles to terrorists by cutting off U.S. arms sales and foreign aid (except humanitarian assistance); and

**Improve Congressional understanding of the MANPADS threat and the US government’s response by requiring a report that describes US and international counter-MANPADS activities, the impact of these activities on the illicit trade in MANPADS, and the availability of these weapons to terrorists and their states sponsors.
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