How the U.S. flooded Iran with weapons

PRI reports: According to the arms transfers database of the independent international think tank, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which compiled all transfers of major conventional weapons in the world since 1950, the US was the largest arms exporter to Iran from the 1950s to 1970s.

The supply of arms from the US started to climb in 1953 after Iran’s democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was overthrown in a coup engineered by the British and American intelligence services. The Iranian shah, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, returned from exile to rule and become a close ally of the US.

According to a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations staff report in 1976, Iran was the largest single purchaser of US military equipment then. Military sales had increased more than sevenfold from $524 million in 1972 to $3.91 billion in 1974.

SIPRI data shows that the amount rose and peaked in 1977. [Continue reading…]

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Saudi-led air strikes with U.S. support responsible for two thirds of civilian deaths in Yemen conflict

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Reuters reports: U.N. investigators say that air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition are responsible for two thirds of the 3,200 civilians who have died in Yemen, or approximately 2,000 deaths. They said that Saudi forces have killed twice as many civilians as other forces in Yemen.

On the ground, Saudi-led forces have often struggled to achieve their goals, making slow headway in areas where support for Iran-allied Houthi rebels runs strong.

And along the Saudi border, the Houthis and allied forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh have attacked almost daily since July, killing hundreds of Saudi troops.

Instead of being the centrepiece of a more assertive Saudi regional strategy, the Yemen intervention has called into question Riyadh’s military influence, said one former senior Obama administration official. “There’s a long way to go. Efforts to create an effective pan-Arab military force have been disappointing.”

Behind the scenes, the West has been enmeshed in the conflict. Between 50 and 60 U.S. military personnel have provided coordination and support to the Saudi-led coalition, a U.S. official told Reuters. And six to 10 Americans have worked directly inside the Saudi air operations centre in Riyadh. Britain and France, Riyadh’s other main defence suppliers, have also provided military assistance.

Last year, the Obama administration had the U.S. military send precision-guided munitions from its own stocks to replenish dwindling Saudi-led coalition supplies, a source close to the Saudi government said. Administration officials argued that even more Yemeni civilians would die if the Saudis had to use bombs with less precise guidance systems. [Continue reading…]

William D Hartung writes: When President Obama visits Saudi Arabia this week for a meeting with representatives from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, he should avoid doing what he did at Camp David last May, the last time he met with them: promise more arms sales. Since Mr. Obama hosted that meeting, the United States has offered over $33 billion in weaponry to its Persian Gulf allies, with the bulk of it going to Saudi Arabia. The results have been deadly.

The Saudi-American arms deals are a continuation of a booming business that has developed between Washington and Riyadh during the Obama years. In the first six years of the Obama administration, the United States entered into agreements to transfer nearly $50 billion in weaponry to Saudi Arabia, with tens of billions of dollars of additional offers in the pipeline.

The Pentagon claims that these arms transfers to Saudi Arabia “improve the security of an important partner which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.” Recent Saudi actions suggest otherwise. [Continue reading…]

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Russia almost delivers S-300 missiles to Iran soon really perhaps

Sputnik News reports: Russia has delivered the first batch of the S-300 air defense systems to Iran, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Monday. [Continue reading…]

Mehr News Agency reports: Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jaberi Ansari who was speaking in his weekly press conference announced the implementation of first phase of S-300 missile contract between Iran and Russia.

Hossein Jaberi Ansari also reaffirmed the upcoming visit of EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini who is scheduled to arrive in Tehran on Sarturday. Mogherini will head a 7-member delegation of High-ranking EU officials.

In response to a question on delivery of Russian advanced defense missile system S-300, of which the first part is reportedly delivered to Iran through Caspian Sea, Jaberi Ansari confirmed that the first phase of the Iran-Russia contract on the systems is implemented; “we had already announced that despite several times of change in time of delivery, the deal is on its path of implementation and today I should announce that the first phase of the agreement is implemented and the process will continue.” [Continue reading…]

Sputnik News reports: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday declined to comment on reports that deliveries of Russian S-300 air defense systems to Iran have begun. [Continue reading…]

Tasnim News Agency reports: The head of Russia’s industrial conglomerate Rostec had said last month that Iran would take delivery of the first shipment of S-300 missile defense system in August or September this year.

“I think we will deliver the S-300 by the end of the year,” Sergei Chemezov said on March 11. “The first delivery will be in September or August.” [Continue reading…]

The Times of Israel reports: The incident sowed confusion in both English and Persian media. [Continue reading…]

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Facebook groups act as weapons bazaars for militias

The New York Times reports: A terrorist hoping to buy an antiaircraft weapon in recent years needed to look no further than Facebook, which has been hosting sprawling online arms bazaars, offering weapons ranging from handguns and grenades to heavy machine guns and guided missiles.

The Facebook posts suggest evidence of large-scale efforts to sell military weapons coveted by terrorists and militants. The weapons include many distributed by the United States to security forces and their proxies in the Middle East. These online bazaars, which violate Facebook’s recent ban on the private sales of weapons, have been appearing in regions where the Islamic State has its strongest presence.

This week, after The New York Times provided Facebook with seven examples of suspicious groups, the company shut down six of them.

The findings were based on a study by the private consultancy Armament Research Services about arms trafficking on social media in Libya, along with reporting by The Times on similar trafficking in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. [Continue reading…]

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Yemen: U.S. bombs used in deadliest market strike

Human Rights Watch: Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes using United States-supplied bombs killed at least 97 civilians, including 25 children, in northwestern Yemen on March 15, 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. The two strikes, on a crowded market in the village of Mastaba that may have also killed about 10 Houthi fighters, caused indiscriminate or foreseeably disproportionate loss of civilian life, in violation of the laws of war. Such unlawful attacks when carried out deliberately or recklessly are war crimes.

Human Rights Watch conducted on-site investigations on March 28, and found remnants at the market of a GBU-31 satellite-guided bomb, which consists of a US-supplied MK-84 2,000-pound bomb mated with a JDAM satellite guidance kit, also US-supplied. A team of journalists from ITV, a British news channel, visited the site on March 26, and found remnants of an MK-84 bomb paired with a Paveway laser guidance kit. Human Rights Watch reviewed the journalists’ photographs and footage of these fragments.

“One of the deadliest strikes against civilians in Yemen’s year-long war involved US-supplied weapons, illustrating tragically why countries should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The US and other coalition allies should send a clear message to Saudi Arabia that they want no part in unlawful killings of civilians.” [Continue reading…]

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Growing international movement seek to place arms embargo on Saudi Arabia

The Intercept reports: A lawsuit filed last week in Canada is seeking to halt a major $15 billion sale of light-armored vehicles to the government of Saudi Arabia, part of a growing international movement to stop arms sales to the Saudi government over its alleged war crimes in Yemen.

The suit, filed by University of Montreal constitutional law professor Daniel Turp, argues the vehicle sales to Saudi Arabia violate a number of Canadian laws, including regulations on the export of military equipment, which prohibit arms sales to countries where human rights are “subject to serious and repeated violations” and there is a reasonable risk exported equipment “will be used against the civilian population.” Saudi Arabia, which has a deplorable human rights record at home, has inflicted considerable civilian casualties in Yemen as part of its yearlong bombing campaign in support of the contested government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

“The suppression of human rights in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi government’s actions during the war in Yemen make the sale of these armored vehicles legally unacceptable,” Turp said.[Continue reading…]

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U.S. sold $33 billion of weapons to Gulf states in 11 months

Defense News reports: The US State Department has facilitated $33 billion worth of weapons sales to its Arab Gulf allies since May 2015, according to department figures.

The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have received weapons including ballistic missile defense capabilities, attack helicopters, advanced frigates and anti-armor missiles, according to David McKeeby, a spokesman the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

“Consistent with the commitments we made to our Gulf partners at the Camp David summit last May, we have made every effort to expedite sales. Since then, the State and Defense departments have authorized more than $33 billion in defense sales to the 6 Gulf Coordination Council countries,” McKeeby told Defense News. [Continue reading…]

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Pentagon reaches out to U.S. weapons manufacturers to find new ways to threaten Russia and China

Reuters reports: The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office plans to reach out to U.S. industry in about a month for ways to put existing weapons technologies to new uses as the department scrambles to maintain its competitive edge over Russia and China.

“We’re looking for things we can put our hands on today, go test today,” said Will Roper, director of the SCO, or what he called the Pentagon’s “take risk” office, said.

This is the first time the office is broadly going out to industry for specific ideas on how to repurpose existing weapons, which could result in lucrative new contracts.

The secretive Pentagon office was set up in August 2012 at the behest of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, then the deputy defense secretary, who worried that the U.S. military was not ready for a return to great power competition after years of fighting extremist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The office is now managing a nearly $1 billion dollar annual budget that is aimed at upsetting assumptions made by China and Russia about U.S. military capabilities. [Continue reading…]

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Lockheed ‘very excited’ to be boosting bomb production for an era of conflict with no end in sight

Defense One reports: Lockheed Martin is expanding various munition factories to meet rising demand from the U.S. and its partners fighting the Islamic State — and to start equipping American warplanes for great-power wars at sea.

“We are seeing a lot of international demand for our product set,” Frank St. John, Lockheed’s vice president of tactical missiles, said Tuesday. “That’s causing us to do a lot of work in international partnerships and co-production and we’re very excited about those opportunities.”

In particular, U.S. and allies are burning through their stocks of Lockheed’s Hellfire missile, the signature weapon of Predator and Reaper drones. Helicopters and fixed-wing planes also carry the versatile laser-guided weapon.

“It requires a little bit of investment on our part to expand the factories, but the demand is there and we’re keeping up with it [and] we’re staying ahead of it,” St. John said.

It also requires Pentagon funding. Last June, the U.S. Army gave Lockheed $18 million to boost Hellfire production from 500 to 650 missiles per month. St. John said the company has added tools, test equipment, and floor space to its Hellfire production line.

Lockheed has also “quadrupled our production capacity” at the Archbald, Pennsylvania, factory to meet demand from the U.S. and its allies for Paveway II laser-guided bombs.

With top military officials predicting that the ISIS campaign will run for years, demand for missiles and bombs is expected to remain high. [Continue reading…]

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Russia’s military intervention in Syria expected to yield $6-7 billion worth of new arms contracts

RT reports: The $500 million Russia spent on the military operation in Syria may soon pay off for the Kremlin, reports business daily Kommersant, as Moscow expects $6-7 billion worth of new arms contracts.
According to the newspaper’s source, close to military exports and technical cooperation, potential customers are looking to buy the weapons proved in action. These are armaments in the inventory of Russian military or already bought by another country.

“In Syria, we achieved two goals. On the one hand, we demonstrated the combat capabilities of our military technology and attracted the attention of customers. On the other hand we tested more than half of our fleet in combat conditions,” the source said. [Continue reading…]

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Syria shows that Russia built an effective military. Now how will Putin use it?

The Washington Post reports: As Russia turned the Syrian conflict into an exhibition ground for its newly robust military over the past six months, its neighbors were watching with rapt interest.

This, after all, was a sterling opportunity to assess Russia’s new battlefield capabilities, in the form of ship-based cruise missiles, improved logistics and elite units. And on display, too, were Russia’s weaknesses.

“It is like a game of football,” said Janis Berzins, the managing director at the Center for Security and Strategic Research of the National Defense Academy of Latvia, a NATO member nation that borders Russia. “If you’re playing against Germany, then you go watch Germany play, right? It’s the natural thing to do.”

No one expects Russia and NATO to engage in a conventional war anytime soon. But with limited, consequential interventions in two conflicts, Ukraine and Syria, in the past two years, President Vladimir Putin had shown the Russian military’s growing proficiency as well as his appetite to use force to achieve his greater geopolitical goals. [Continue reading…]

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Putin’s profitable intervention in Syria

Michael Weiss writes: The Syria war was as much a mediated weapons and hardware expo as it was a client rescue mission.

In October, Russian warships debuted the new Kalibr cruise missile, firing it across 900 miles of sea and land, across Iranian and Iraqi airspace (some of the missiles crash-landed in Iran, according to the Pentagon). But the display became a marquee event for Kremlin-run television, here acting as a multimedia brochure for Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms dealer, which last year sold $15 billion in weapons to foreign purchasers.

The 45 or so fixed-wing aircraft deployed to Bassel al-Assad International Airport in Latakia, now a permanent Russian garrison and airbase on the Mediterranean, ranged from souped-up Soviet models to state-of-the-art killing machines. The Russian Air Force’s most modern ground attack jet, the Su-34, was showcased as a source of enormous national pride, with the state-owned outlet Sputnik reveling pornographically in the warplane’s ability to hunt “terrorists.” (The Su-34 was also documented cluster bombing populated areas, such as Hraytan, Aleppo.) Just before the New Year, Sergei Smirnov, the director of the Chkalov aviation factory, gave an interview with Vedomosti in which he said that Algeria, which has sought the purchase of the Su-32 export variant from Russia for the last eight years, recently made an official application to purchase the bombers from Rosoboronexport. Other potential buyers, according to “military expert” Igor Korotchenko, again hyping the Su-34 in Sputnik, are Vietnam, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.

Another sophisticated toy is the T-90 battle tank, examples of which have been spotted all over the Syrian battle space, at first guarding the Latakia airbase and now being driven by the Syrian army and Iranian-built Shia militias, such as Iraq’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, which in 2007 killed five U.S. soldiers in Karbala. In late December, Algeria announced that it planned to buy its third tranche of T-90s. Iran now also wants them. [Continue reading…]

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How arms sales to Saudi Arabia are promoting instability

William D. Hartung writes: According to a report released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia have increased by an astonishing 279% between 2011 and 2015, compared with the prior five-year period. More then three quarters of the weaponry came from the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

There was a time when sales to the Saudis were more about money and politics than fighting actual conflicts. Multi-billion dollar sales from the Nixon administration onward were seen as a way to bolster U.S. weapons contractors and “recycle petrodollars” — earn back some of the funds that flowed out of the U.S. to purchase Saudi oil. It didn’t hurt that Saudi officials frequently skimmed off funds for their own use as part of these mega-deals.

Until recently, the military relevance of sending weapons to Saudi Arabia had less to do with the Saudis using U.S.-supplied arms than it did with cementing ties with Washington. The implicit understanding was that the purchase of large quantities of U.S. armaments was a form of payback for Washington’s commitment to come to the rescue of the Saudi regime in a crisis. [Continue reading…]

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States must stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen conflict

Amnesty: Campaigners are today calling on governments due to attend the latest round of discussions on the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in Geneva on 29 February to set their hypocrisy aside and stop selling billions of dollars worth of deadly weapons to Saudi Arabia being used to attack Yemeni civilians.

In a new report released today, the Control Arms Coalition names France, Germany, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK, and the US as having reported licenses and sales to Saudi Arabia worth more than $25bn in 2015 including drones, bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles. These are the types of arms currently being used by Saudi Arabia and its allies for gross violations of human rights and possible war crimes during aerial and ground attacks in Yemen. [Continue reading…]

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EU parliament votes for embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia

The Guardian reports: MEPs have voted for a European Union-wide arms embargo against Saudi Arabia to protest against the Gulf state’s heavy bombing campaign in Yemen.

The European parliament voted by a large majority for an EU-wide ban on arms sales to the kingdom, citing the “disastrous humanitarian situation” as a result of “Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen”.

The vote does not compel EU member states to act but it does increase pressure on Riyadh, in the wake of criticism from the UN and growing international alarm over civilian casualties in Yemen.

The resolution also turns up the heat on the British government, which has supplied export licences for up to £3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the last year. The UK has been accused of direct involvement in the bombing campaign through the deployment of UK military personnel to the kingdom. [Continue reading…]

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