Investigation Reveals Iran's Secret Role In African Conflicts

Business Insider

An alarming report published Friday, Jan. 11, shows how Iran fuels the spread of horrific violence in Africa one round at a time.

The Distribution of Iranian Ammunition in Africa, by the private British arms-tracking group Conflict Armament Research (CAR), shows how Iran broke trade embargos and infiltrated African markets with massive amounts of illegal, unmarked 7.62 mm rounds for the Kalishnakov-style AK-47 rifles.

Small arms, notably AK-47 assault rifles, are often the weapon of choice for violent militias in the Congo, Sudan, Uganda. Though several countries manufacture and distribute AK-47s in Africa, like China, any arms dealer would agree that the real money is in ammunition — in fact it just about doubles the yearly amount of money made on assault weapons. With higher demand for ammo, Iran easily found its foot in the arms dealing door.

The New York Times C.J. Chivers gave CAR's paper a great write up, sketching how the group started in 2006, and traced unmarked rounds from the sites of several massacres, finally settling on one culprit after six years of research.

From Chivers report:

Iran has a well-developed military manufacturing sector, but has not exported its weapons in quantities rivaling those of the heavyweights in the global arms trade, including the United States, Russia, China and several European countries ... While small-arms ammunition attracts less attention than strategic weapons or arms that have drawn international condemnation, like land mines and  cluster bombs , it is a basic ingredient of organized violence, and is involved each year and at each war in uncountable deaths and crimes.

“If you had asked me not too long ago what Iran’s role in small-arms ammunition trafficking to Africa had been, I would have said, ‘Not much,’ ” James Bevan, a former United Nations investigator who since 2011 has been director of CAR told Chivers. “Our understanding of that is changing.”

Though Bevan's group concludes Iran's footprint has become widespread, CAR suspects they still represent minor competition compared to China. Nonetheless, Iranian ammunition has found its way to some of the bloodiest engagements and areas of the last six years.

From CAR's report:

The only case to indicate the sustained—and potentially escalating—supply of Iranian materiel is Sudan. In this case there is growing evidence to indicate large-scale supplies of weapons and ammunition from Iran to Sudan and Iranian technical assistance in Sudanese weapons production.



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