Author: Matt Schroeder

Update: Shoulder-fired Missiles in Somalia

In a recent article on the resurgence of Islamic rebels in Somalia, Associated Press reporter Chris Tomlinson provides new information on the shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles allegedly supplied to Somali Islamists last year. Tomlinson claims that the Shabab - the military wing of the Council of Islamic Courts - received 200 shoulder-fired missiles from Eritrea, one of three countries that allegedly shipped missiles to Somalia last year in violation of a long-standing UN arms embargo.

Read more

Fresh Perspectives on Pressing Small Arms Issues

In the latest issue of the Federation of American Scientists’ Public Interest Report, analysts from three continents provide new insights into arms trafficking in Africa, Venezuela’s small arms build-up,…

Read more

Iraq’s Looted Arms Depots: What the GAO Didn’t Mention

In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) attributes the looting of Iraq's arms depots to the "ovewhelming size and number" of these depots and “prewar planning priorities and certain assumptions that proved to be invalid." The report finds that the US military “did not adequately secure these [conventional munitions storage] sites during and immediately after the conclusion of major combat operations” and “did not plan for or set up a program to centrally manage and destroy enemy munitions until August 2003…” The munitions looted from Iraqi arsenals, claims the GAO, have been used extensively in the deadly improvised explosive device (IED) attacks that have become tragically commonplace in Iraq. But the IED threat is only part of the story. Iraq's arsenals were also brimming with shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles, thousands of which disappeared during the widespread looting of the regime's numerous arms depots in 2003.

Read more

Q & A on Shoulder-fired Missile Stockpile Security

In November 2006, FAS analyst Matt Schroeder interviewed Mr. Dave Diaz, formerly the program manager for the DTRA SALW Program and currently the DoD Liaison on the Interagency MANPADS Task Force, about the importance of strong stockpile security practices for preventing the theft, loss and diversion of shoulder-fired missiles, and US efforts to improve stockpile security worldwide. Below is a transcript of the interview.

Read more

Questions about Iranian Weapons in Iraq

At an unusual press briefing on Monday, U.S. military officials provided the first physical evidence of Iranian arms shipments to Iraqi extremist groups. The display, which the New York Times called “extraordinary,” consisted of explosively formed penetrators, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile reportedly found in Iraq and bearing Iranian markings. Notably, the officials also claimed to have proof that the operation was being directed by “the highest levels of the Iranian government,” a claim that was rigorously denied by Tehran. The briefing raised more questions than it answered. Topping the list are questions about the extent of the Iranian government’s involvement in the arms shipments. Defense Department officials reportedly provided little proof for their claims of high-level involvement by the Iranian government, and the next day General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chief of staff, appeared to contradict them. Commenting on the captured weaponry, Pace conceded that the weapons “[do] not translate to that the Iranian government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this.” Yesterday President Bush sided with General Pace, confirming that “we don’t…know whether the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did.” The captured weapons themselves are also puzzling. Not only were they reportedly manufactured in Iran, they are also emblazoned with manufacture dates and lot numbers - hardly indicative of a government that wants to maintain “plausible deniability." Architects of covert aid programs usually go to great lengths to conceal their government’s involvement by purchasing weapons from foreign suppliers and clandestinely shipping them through third countries. The Iranians apparently did neither. Why?

Read more

Bush Gets it Right on Small Arms Threat Reduction

The President's foreign aid budget request for FY2008 contains an unexpected and laudable surprise: a five-fold increase in funding for the State Department's Small Arms/Light Weapons Destruction initiaitive. If approved by Congress, the additional funding will bolster US efforts to stem the illicit trade in deadly light weapons.

Read more

FAS Obtains Data on Arms Export End-use Monitoring

The FAS has obtained, via the Freedom of Information Act, a complete list of “unfavorable determinations” resulting from end-use checks of US arms exports (and export requests) performed by the State Department. The cases underscore the importance of America’s rigorous arms export control system and the danger of relaxing these controls, even on transfers to close allies.

Read more

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.

Read more

Venezuela’s Military Build-up: Who’s Watching the Guns?

On November 29th, Venezuela received the final shipment of the 100,000 AK-103 assault rifles that it purchased from Russia last year. Despite the high-profile nature of this sale, little is known about Venezuela’s plans for safeguarding the rifles, which would be a hot commodity on the region’s vibrant black market. It’s time to start asking some tough questions about the rifles and President Chavez’s plan for protecting them.

Read more

Arms to Somalia: Déjà vu

The latest report from the UN group that monitors the arms embargo on Somalia has caused quite a stir, generating extensive news coverage and eliciting vehement denials from governments accused of violating the embargo. But, as underscored by declassified US intelligence documents from the 1990s, such disregard for the embargo is nothing new. The documents, which were obtained by the FAS under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal a disheartening similarity between sanctions-busting in the mid-1990’s and sanctions-busting now. From the countries involved to the weapons shipped, little appears to have changed over the last decade.

Read more