Author: Matt Schroeder

Securing Venezuela’s Arsenals

By Matt Schroeder 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…

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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…

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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. For more information: Small Arms, Terrorism and the OAS Firearms Convention, FAS Occasional Paper No. 1 "US-Mexico Discuss New Approach to Bilateral Relationship," White House Fact Sheet “Obama in Mexico, pledges help to slow US arms flow,” Associated Press “OAS Firearms Convention,” ASMP Issue Brief #2 “Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA),” Department of International Legal Affairs of the Organization of American States. At a press conference in Mexico City today, President Obama called for Senate action on 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 controls on arms transfers and 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. Civilian possession and ownership are outside of the convention’s purview. “[T]his Convention does not commit States Parties to enact legislation or regulations pertaining to firearms ownership, possession, or trade of a wholly domestic character…” reads the preamble. 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.

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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…

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FAS Obtains Report on US Arms Exports

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the FAS, the Defense Department has released its contribution to the Fiscal Year 2007 edition of the Annual…

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Missile Watch: Somalia

As part of its on-going efforts to track and call attention to the illicit trade in shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles, the FAS is launching a new e-newsletter called “Missile Watch.” Subscribers will receive periodic updates on the black market trade in shoulder-fired missiles, stockpiling and use of these missiles by non-state groups, and related topics. A comprehensive archive of “Missile Watch” updates will be available on the Strategic Security Blog and on the Arms Sales Monitoring Project’s website at /programs/ssp/asmp/MANPADS.html. To sign up for this free service, go to /press/subscribe.html. The latest report of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia sheds new light on the SA-18 Igla missiles illicitly acquired by armed Somali groups in recent years. Since 2006, UN investigators and journalists working in Somalia have documented the transfer of dozens, possibly hundreds, of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles to Islamic insurgents. The missiles range in sophistication from the relatively primitive SA-7b Strela to the third generation SA-18 Igla. In March 2007, two SA-18s were used to shoot down a Belarusian Ilyushin-76 cargo plane shortly after it departed from Mogadishu airport. All eleven crew members were killed.

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Igla missiles “available immediately” to Victor Bout, claims associate

On Thursday, famed arms merchant Victor Bout was arrested at a Thai hotel on charges of selling weapons to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a 40-year-old insurgent group known for drug trafficking and terrorist attacks. In recent years, Bout and his affiliates have been accused of arranging illicit arms transfers in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, and elsewhere. The name “Victor Bout” has become synonymous with the large, clandestine arms shipments that have fueled devastating civil wars in developing countries, and the extreme difficulty of shutting down the global, ever-shifting networks that orchestrate these transfers. His arrest puts arms traffickers on notice that the days of impunity may be coming to an end. The arrest could have significant practical implications as well, depending on the outcome of the case against Bout and the quantity and quality of information about his network acquired by authorities as a result of his arrest. If Bout is tried and convicted, and information collected along the way leads to the arrest and conviction of other key members of his global network – two big “ifs” – his arrest could indeed “mar[k] the end of the reign of one of the world’s most wanted arms traffickers,” as claimed by US Attorney Michael Garcia.

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