As Always, the Hypocrisy (Arms Sales)

Case in point why I can’t stand most mainstream media. Please contrast these two articles. The first from the NYT, the second from The Globe.




August 8, 2007

U.S. Says Iran-Supplied Bomb Kills More Troops

BAGHDAD, Aug. 7 — Attacks on American-led forces using a lethal type of roadside bomb said to be supplied by Iran reached a new high in July, according to the American military.

The devices, known as explosively formed penetrators, were used to carry out 99 attacks last month and accounted for a third of the combat deaths suffered by the American-led forces, according to American military officials.

“July was an all-time high,” Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, said in an interview, referring to strikes with such devices.

Such bombs, which fire a semi-molten copper slug that can penetrate the armor on a Humvee and are among the deadliest weapons used against American forces, are used almost exclusively by Shiite militants. American intelligence officials have presented evidence that the weapons come from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran, although Tehran has repeatedly denied providing lethal assistance to Iraqi groups.

In recent weeks, the American military has focused on mounting operations in sanctuaries used by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a Sunni group that is predominately made up of Iraqis but has foreign leadership. But, as the information provided by General Odierno shows, Shiite militias remain a major long-term worry.

In focusing on Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the American goal is to reduce the number of car bombings and spectacular suicide attacks that have aggravated sectarian tensions, encouraged Shiite retaliation and undermined efforts at political reconciliation.

While the group is seen by the American military as the most serious near-term threat, there are other signs that Shiite militias remain active. According to General Odierno, the day-to-day commander of American troops in Iraq, Shiite militants carried out 73 percent of the attacks that killed or wounded American troops in Baghdad in July.

Though explosively formed penetrators account for a small fraction of roadside bomb attacks in Iraq, they cause a disproportionately large number of casualties.

Of the 69 members of the American-led forces killed in action in July, the lowest toll in months, 23 died as a result of attacks with the devices, according to data supplied by General Odierno’s command. Of the 614 allied troops who were wounded that month, 89 were hit in penetrator attacks.

Penetrator attacks have been a worry for years. In 2005, the United States sent a private diplomatic protest to Tehran complaining that its Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah had been training Iraqi Shiite insurgents in Iran and providing them with bomb-making equipment.

American intelligence says that its report of Iranian involvement is based on a technical analysis of exploded and captured devices, interrogations of Shiite militants, the interdiction of trucks near Iran’s border with Iraq and parallels between the use of the weapons in Iran and in southern Lebanon by Hezbollah.

Some critics of Bush administration policy, saying there is no proof that the top echelons of Iran’s government are involved, accuse the White House of exaggerating the role of Iran and Syria to divert attention from its own mistakes.

According to American military data, penetrator attacks accounted for 18 percent of combat deaths of Americans and allied troops in Iraq in the last quarter of 2006. The number of such attacks declined in January, and some American officials thought at that time that this might be a response to their efforts to publicly highlight the allegations of an Iranian role.

But in recent months such attacks have risen steadily.

The July figure is roughly double the number for January. The total for July is also 50 percent higher than in April, when there were 65 penetrator attacks, according to American military officials.

Many of the penetrators faced by American forces are difficult to counter. Because they fire from the side of the road, the militants do not need to dig a hole to plant them, making them well suited for urban use. Because they are set off by a passive infrared sensor, they cannot be thwarted by electronic jamming.

General Odierno said Iran was increasing its support to Shiite militants in Iraq to step up the military pressure on the United States at a time when the Congress is debating whether to withdraw American troops.

“I think it is because the Iranians are surging support to the special groups,” he said, referring to the American name for Iranian-backed cells here. “Over the last three to four months, it has picked up in terms of equipment, training and dollars.”

“I think they want to influence the decision potentially coming up in September,” he added.

General Odierno said Iranians had also provided Shiite groups with 107-millimeter rockets and the launchers for firing them, as well as 122-millimeter mortars.

American forces, he said, recently thwarted an attack at a military base used by forces from the Third Infantry Division. Fifty launchers equipped with rockets were discovered within range of the facility and struck by allied aircraft. Serial numbers taken from the rocket launchers, he said, indicated that they were made in Iran.

Iranian and American diplomats held talks in Baghdad on Monday on security in Iraq. Ryan C. Crocker, the American envoy in Iraq who led the discussions for the United States, said there had been “an escalation, not a de-escalation” of Iran’s support for militias in Iraq since an earlier May meeting.

The Iranians, Mr. Crocker added, maintained their position that they had “absolutely nothing to do with” the attacks.


Now contrast that article with this:


US is top purveyor on weapons sales list

Shipments grow to unstable areas

WASHINGTON — The United States last year provided nearly half of the weapons sold to militaries in the developing world, as major arms sales to the most unstable regions — many already engaged in conflict — grew to the highest level in eight years, new US government figures show.

According to the annual assessment, the United States supplied $8.1 billion worth of weapons to developing countries in 2005 — 45.8 percent of the total and far more than second-ranked Russia with 15 percent and Britain with a little more than 13 percent.

Arms control specialists said the figures underscore how the largely unchecked arms trade to the developing world has become a major staple of the American weapons industry, even though introducing many of the weapons risks fueling conflicts rather than aiding long-term US interests.

The report was compiled by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

“We are at a point in history where many of these sales are not essential for the self-defense of these countries and the arms being sold continue to fuel conflicts and tensions in unstable areas,” said Daryl G. Kimball , executive director of the nonpartisan Arms Control Association in Washington. “It doesn’t make much sense over the long term.”

The United States, for instance, also signed an estimated $6.2 billion worth of new deals last year to sell attack helicopters, missiles, and other armaments to developing nations such as the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, Israel, Egypt, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Developing nations are designated as all those except in North America, Western Europe, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand.

In addition to weapons already delivered, new contracts for future weapons deliveries topped $44 billion last year — the highest overall since 1998, according to the report. Nearly 70 percent of them were designated for developing nations.

Many of the US sales are justified by American officials as critical to the war on terrorism or other foreign policy goals such as checking an emerging China. One such example is the recent decision to sell F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.

The United States has long relied on arms sales to prop up allies or enhance collective defense arrangements.

“For decades, during the height of the Cold War, providing conventional weapons to friendly states was an instrument of foreign policy utilized by the United States and its allies,” according to the report, titled “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations.”

“This was equally true for the Soviet Union and its allies,” the report said.

Yet there is growing evidence that the sales are increasingly more about dollars and cents for the US military-industrial complex and other major military economies. The trend began after the end of the Cold War, when American, European, Russian, and other defense industries were forced to consolidate and competition for foreign sales heated up.

“Where before the principal motivation for arms sales by foreign suppliers might have been to support a foreign policy objective, today that motivation may be based as much on economic considerations as those of foreign policy or national security policy,” said the congressional report, which detailed both arms deliveries, or weapons actually delivered to customers, and arms agreements, or contracts signed for future deliveries.

Washington’s desire to maintain the status quo was on display at a meeting at the United Nations on Oct. 26, when a UN panel voted to study whether a new treaty might be possible to regulate the sale of conventional arms. The United States was the only country out of 166 to vote no, though China and Russia were among a handful of countries to abstain.

With that lone dissent, the UN’s Disarmament and International Security Committee approved a British proposal to draw up uniform standards that might block arms sales considered destabilizing, including those that might fuel ongoing conflicts, violate embargoes, undermine democratic institutions, or contribute to human rights abuses. A UN task force is set to make its recommendations to the General Assembly next year.

But powerful interests in the global arms industry have long stood in the way of controlling the arms flow to the developing world.

After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, for example, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, Russia, France, Britain, and China — pledged to limit the sale of arms to the volatile Middle East, attributing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait to the region having been awash in high-tech arsenals.

More than a decade later, those pledges have gone unfulfilled. The United States is not the only culprit.

For the first time in eight years, Russia outpaced the United States last year in the value of new arms transfer agreements reached with developing nations, according to the Congressional Research Service report, authored by Richard F. Grimmett .

Moscow inked major deals to sell missiles, warships, and other hardware to such potential trouble spots as Iran and China, according to the report, which is considered the most authoritative breakdown of the global arms trade. China also agreed to provide weapons to trouble spots such as Iran and North Korea, while major Western European suppliers, such as Britain and France, also concluded large orders with developing countries.

But it is the United States that by far remains the top purveyor of high-tech arms to areas where analysts believe the likelihood of armed conflict remains highest. A study last year by the progressive World Policy Institute found that the United States transferred weaponry to 18 of the 25 countries involved in an ongoing war.

“From Angola, Chad, and Ethiopia, to Colombia, Pakistan, and the Philippines, transfers through the two largest US arms sales programs [Foreign Military sales and Commercial Sales] to these conflict nations totaled nearly $1 billion in 2003,” the report found.

Meanwhile, more than half of the countries buying US arms — 13 of the 25 — were defined as undemocratic by the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report, including top recipients Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.

The agreement last year to sell F-16s to Pakistan underscores the larger trend, according to Wade Bouse , research director at the Arms Control Association.

“F-16s with advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles are not for fighting Al Qaeda,” Bouse said. “They are for fighting India.”

And India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan, is considering a US offer to sell the country F-16s. “We are creating our own market by selling to both sides of regional conflicts,” Bouse said.

With more such lucrative deals in the offing, there is little sign that the United States — or other major suppliers — wants a treaty to control the sales.

“The US would be significantly affected if there was an arms treaty that took into account human rights abuses and conflict areas,” added William Hartung , director of the Arms Trade Resource Center at the World Policy Institute in New York. “The US government still wants to be able to do covert and semi-covert arms transfers. And a certain amount of it is simply keeping factories running in certain congressional districts.”

Bryan Bender can be reached at




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