Iran secretly sold ‘untold quantities’ of ammo to African warring groups

Two of the 'mystery cartridges'By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
An independent report has concluded that some of Africa’s most brutal conflicts are currently being fuelled by “untold quantities” of Iranian-manufactured small-arms ammunition. The ire of weapons-trafficking researchers is usually directed at the ‘heavyweights’ of the global arms-trade, including Russia, China, the United States, and France, among other countries. It appears, however, that Iran’s state-owned weapons manufacturer has been selling ammunition throughout Africa since at least 2006 via a secret network of distributors. According to The New York Times, a group of arms-trafficking experts from the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Federation of American Scientists, and other bodies, has found that Iran began selling ammunition to African clients in 2006 or earlier. On that year, a new brand of ammunition rounds for Kalashnikov assault rifles started appearing in armed clashes in Kenya, Uganda, and Darfur (now South Sudan). By 2010, the same type of cartridges had been found in Guinea, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo. More recently, says The Times, similar cartridges were discovered in the hands of groups in Niger connected with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Suspiciously, the cartridges bore no factory code and their packaging had been deliberately constructed to obscure the identity of the manufacturer. However, according to the expert study, it is now considered “beyond dispute” that the Ammunition and Metallurgy Industries Group, a subsidiary of Iran’s state-owned and operated Defense Industries Organization, is the source of the mysterious cartridges. It is worth pointing out that many of the governments or militias that have been found to use Iranian ammunition are officially subject to UN resolutions that bar arms transfers to the countries or territories in which they operate. The Times article carries comments by former UN weapons investigator, James Bevan, who currently directs Conflict Armament Research, a private investigative outfit that tracks and identifies worldwide conventional weapons usage. Bevan says that Iran has not been traditionally considered a significant source of weapons or weapons-accessories sales to developing nations; but, he adds, “our understanding of that is changing”. The experts who authored the report are unsure whether the ammunition was supplied to African clients directly by the Iranian government, or whether front companies headquartered abroad were used to mediate in the transfer. There is also the question of why the government or Iran decided to enter the African weapons market. Experts speculate that the decision was informed by profit motives, as well as by Tehran’s desire “to gain influence in Africa”. But, they note, much remains unknown.

Research credit for this article goes to University of Oxford researcher Steven Wagner.

3 Responses to Iran secretly sold ‘untold quantities’ of ammo to African warring groups

  1. I’d not trust any study/analysis that includes working with Amnesty International, according to a former board member:

    “My conclusion was that a high-level official of Amnesty International at that time, whom I will not name, was a British intelligence agent. Moreover, my fellow board member, who also investigated this independently of me, reached the exact same conclusion. So certainly when I am dealing with people who want to work with Amnesty in London, I just tell them, “Look, just understand, they’re penetrated by intelligence agents, U.K., maybe U.S., I don’t know, but you certainly can’t trust them.”

    Just one example.. and then Amnesty’s revolving door with ‘Freedom House’ smells wrong too:

    One time CIA officer Phillip Agee nailed Freedom House as a CIA front organization:

    In fact intelligence agencies would as a matter of routine (my assertion) target organizations such as had compiled this report with an eye for opportunities to exploit. That the ‘experts’ state “much remains unknown” could not be more apropos. As much as Iran would need the cash, would they take this risk in the present geopolitical circumstance? Or is it a carefully crafted smear? Honestly, I expect can’t know. The spy vs spy world is portrayed in a simplistic way by MAD magazine but western intelligence doing business with one hand behind the back holding a knife is not that far off the mark-

  2. Pete says:

    Could be that Iran suffering from trade shortfalls, due to mainly Western restrictions on Iranian oil and gas exports, is having the unintended consequence of Iran entering the African ammunition market.

    If Iranian activities are also extending to arming and training Muslim insurgents it may be a case of “blowback” “careful what you wish for” for the West.

  3. davide says:

    It can be ammunition traded by the CIA from Albania, treated in storehouses, repackaged with appropriate symbols or marks and shipped through the common triangle: Cyprus, Israeli and CIA.

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