Sunday, August 12, 2007

Italy stops major black market shipment of weapons to Iraq

Italian police broke up a huge black market operation today involved in an attempt to ship more than 100,000 Russian-made automatic weapons into Iraq.

The $40 million dollar deal involved Iraqi government officials, who first claimed that the deal was done with US approval.That story fell apart when the Italians, suspicious over why the Iraqi government would resort to the blackmarket queried US officials and were issued a firm denial.

"Iraqi officials did not make [the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq] aware that they were making purchases," said Lt. Col. Daniel Williams of the transition command in Baghdad, which oversees arming and training of the Iraqi police and army.

Another interesting bit..the go-between for the Iraqi government officials and the Italian arms sellers was none other than the al-Handal General Trading Co. in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Al-Handal was also fingered for this sort of thing before, having been identified by U.S. investigators three years ago as a "front company" in Iraq's oil-for-food scandal.

This follows on the heels of a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that the Pentagon has lost track of 30% of the weapons transferred to Iraq from the United States. About 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi forces have not been accounted for.They've simply vanished.

In view of that, audits an dinvetigations are taking place to find out where the weapons might have gone, and things are being watched more closely.

Now, other reports,like the recent interim report given to Congress mention that infiltration of local police and military by Shiite militias is widespread and remains a significant problem.

So,let's see here..we have subtantial amounts of weapons missing through the interior ministry, a lot of infiltration by the Iran backed Shiite militias to the police forces and military under its jurisdiction and a black market deal for arms that surfaces just when things have tightened up...involving that same Iraqi Interior Ministry!

Any guesses as to where the missing arms probably went and whom the blackmarket arms were intended for?

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