"they did not know or expect that the evidence would point to Tehran."
February 10, 2013 1:06 PM   Subscribe

A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars Back to Iran. Iran’s Cartridges & Their Quiet Distribution to Brutal Regimes and Many Wars.

"Conflict Armament Research identifies and tracks conventional weapons in contemporary armed conflicts. Established in 2011, it was created in response to the growing need for informed, on-the-ground reporting on weapons proliferation in modern wars and insurgencies. "

The "Small Arms Survey is an independent research project located at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland." Skirting The Law: Sudan's Post-CPA Arms Flows (PDF)

Iran's Ammunition And Metallurgy Industries Group.
posted by the man of twists and turns (42 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Articles like this are propaganda pieces meant to drum up public opinion in support of a war with Iran.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:10 PM on February 10, 2013 [24 favorites]


So the Big 6 munitions cartel becomes the Big 7? I guess the US/UK/China/Russia/France/Germany is basically not cool with increased price competition.
posted by meehawl at 1:14 PM on February 10, 2013


U.S. Arms Sales Make Up Most of Global Market
Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year [2011], or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.

The American weapons sales total was an “extraordinary increase” over the $21.4 billion in deals for 2010, the study found, and was the largest single-year sales total in the history of United States arms exports. The previous high was in fiscal year 2009, when American weapons sales overseas totaled nearly $31 billion.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:20 PM on February 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


We need to invade Iran to stop Kony
posted by Avenger at 1:21 PM on February 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Articles like this are propaganda pieces meant to drum up public opinion in support of a war with Iran.

By whom?

Seriously, tell me who is trying to drum up that war right now. The New York Times, because they have nothing better to do? The U.S. government, which has supposedly been doing that for at least the last guy was President? Halliburton, which is doing just fine without another war? The arms companies, who ditto?

Every story that's been remotely negative toward Iran, up to and including a movie by Ben Affleck, has been dismissed as propaganda for this looming war with Iran for the last decade. Are the propagandists so bad at it that even after all these horrible, awful, totally made-up tales of Iranian malefaction, we're still not at war with them? Or is it even the slightest bit possible that Iran is just a bad actor on the global stage?

Yes, I know, America is worse in every quantifiable measure up to and including the number of vowels in the name of its head of state. That still doesn't mean that Iran doesn't sell a lot of weapons to people who like using them on its population. When I say the sky is blue, pointing out that some birds are also blue doesn't mean that the sky isn't, or that I'm in the pocket of the bird lobby.
posted by Etrigan at 1:25 PM on February 10, 2013 [24 favorites]


Before anybody starts complaining, I actually do not doubt the veracity of the articles at all. It's probably very likely that Iranian defense firms are taking advantage of a huge and lucrative market. I guess the overwhelming feeling I get when reading articles like these is that none of the SHOCKING EXPOSE's are ever news to people who pay even the slightest bit of attention to global affairs and seem, strangely enough, to serve some kind of propagandistic purpose towards the know-nothing populace.

A much shorter (and more accurate) article could just read "Iranian businesses sell weapons to various feuding groups in Africa as do many Western and American businesses. Aside from being a lucrative venture, the Iranians possibly seek to expand their sphere of influence in Africa to counter our own."

That would be so much less misleading than OMG IRAN LUVS KONY
posted by Avenger at 1:28 PM on February 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


The thing with anti-Iranian propaganda is that, somehow, Iran's current regime always manages to do even worse than anything it's accused to do.
posted by Skeptic at 1:33 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The American weapons sales total was an “extraordinary increase” over the $21.4 billion in deals for 2010, the study found, and was the largest single-year sales total in the history of United States arms exports. The previous high was in fiscal year 2009, when American weapons sales overseas totaled nearly $31 billion.

Domestic sales are also way up, DHS has ordered over 1.4 BILLION rounds. This is enough ammunition to support peak operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan for about 20 years. All from a company that didn't exist a week before the order was placed and home address is an empty chunk of land...

Government agencies order ammo all the time, but this amount of ammunition for a police force is truly extrodinary. The ARMY doesn't order this much per year for training...

Another very troubling trend in the militarization of the police, this is enough ammunition to fight a war, and not a small one. The US army fired about 5 Billion rounds during the entire time they were engaged Vietnam.
posted by bartonlong at 1:36 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Articles like this are propaganda pieces meant to drum up public opinion in support of a war with Iran.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:00 PM on February 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The New York Times is already guilty of drumming up support for our last war. They've lost all credibility in that regard and we're right to be suspicious.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:02 PM on February 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Etrigan: perhaps by Israel.
posted by grudgebgon at 2:03 PM on February 10, 2013


I don't know, it seems fair to me to start holding countries responsible for the weapons they sell to other countries and people involved in conflict.

I think it's reasonable to argue that if a country sells the bullets and the weapons to fire them (or missiles, or whatever) they are responsible for the deaths that result.

Or is the plan to just use this standard on Iran? I will certainly acknowledge that they a bad actor, but frankly the global community seems like a bad community play (ie: a ton of bad actors out there).
posted by el io at 2:27 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is far bigger fish in this game than Iran. David Cameron has been running around the middle east hawking Eurofighters to oil rich anti-democratic regimes. It's just one of several junkets he has taken on behalf of BAE since being elected. I suspect the drumbeat for war is more of a strong arms industry push for an open air test market for selling their products to scared dictators. The location they seem to have chosen is Iran because hey fuck Iran but other locations will do in a pinch.

How old do you have to be to have been born during Peacetime in the UK or America now? How many theatres is the west fighting in now? 3, 4 or 5? There are kids who will soon be teens who have only known the forever war.
posted by srboisvert at 2:40 PM on February 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The US is bad bad bad and so it is good that Iran is arming Assad. In fact there is a proxy war going on in Syria, not unlike the Spanish Civil War, and though the "good guys" as Orwell noted were often not the good guys the bad guys not only won but were indeed the bad guys. But they had support from Germany, with its new guy in power, whatshisname with the moustache.


all industrial nations sell arms. Those nations we like and those we do not...sometimes though you need to ask who is using those arms and for waht.
posted by Postroad at 2:42 PM on February 10, 2013


Articles like this are propaganda pieces meant to drum up public opinion in support of a war with Iran.

By whom?


Anybody who wants you not to pay attention to whatever else they're doing.
posted by carping demon at 2:46 PM on February 10, 2013


Get it out your heads that "Iran" is selling cartridges. The state likely has nothing to do with this. These aren't strategic sales discussed at high levels, like fighter planes and sensitive technologies. These are bullets you can make in a garage. Sure, they're made in Iran. But that's not the same thing as being made by Iran.

More likely, this is the result of bullet manufacturers cutting corrupt side deals for cash with the only possible equally corrupt customers they can find. It's like Pakistani and North Korea nuke tech sales. These countries aren't trying to upend regional power balance. It's about making some money with nasty products only used by nasty customers.

To the extent that the state is involved, it's probably internal bribes to look the other way while a general or two runs a side business, and as long as you're not selling to the Saudis, who might shoot these back at us, fine.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:54 PM on February 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


“State-run propaganda”: Why does the press protect drone secrecy? - "A stunning admission from the New York Times lays bare the news media's dangerous collusion with government"
Publicly, the newspapers are citing the age-old “national security” trope to justify their decision to suppress the story at the request of the White House. But that catch-all phrase is designed to obscure the real motivation — the one that one of the papers, the New York Times, let slip out.

In a stunning interview with the paper’s ombudsman, managing editor Dean Baquet admitted that the Times decided not to censor the story because it would pose any kind of imminent danger to Americans, but because it might result in the drone program being curtailed. Here’s the key excerpt of that interview (emphasis added):
The government’s rationale for asking that the location be withheld was this: Revealing it might jeopardize the existence of the base and harm counterterrorism efforts. “The Saudis might shut it down because the citizenry would be very upset,” he said.

Mr. Baquet added, “We have to balance that concern with reporting the news.”
New York Times a “Propaganda Megaphone” for War, Says Former Reporter
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:57 PM on February 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Multiple things can be true at the same time - there are forces agitating towards Iran, using propaganda and media and spin - and there are bad acts by forces in Iran - I'd guess its not state per say, but not private either.

More and more of the world seems to have entrepreneurial armed forces (China, Egypt, Burma) that own productive assets and make money.

C.J. Chivers, the reporter from the NYT piece, is the guy who broke the most awesome arms related story of the decade, about the Miami party guys/scammers in their early twenties who got a 300 million dollar US Govt. contract to supply AK ammo to the Afghan forces, then went to Albania and made a deal with gangsters to supply government surplus 20 year old Chinese ammo that was totally useless.

So ammo as the starting point for a good story seems to be his thing.
posted by C.A.S. at 3:01 PM on February 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Etrigan: "By whom?

Seriously, tell me who is trying to drum up that war right now. The New York Times, because they have nothing better to do?
"

If you're wondering about the New York Times' motivations could be right now, I suggest you consider what their motivations were beating the war-drums during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:30 PM on February 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


dunkadunc: If you're wondering about the New York Times' motivations could be right now, I suggest you consider what their motivations were beating the war-drums during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Are you saying that Iraq is the same as Iran?
posted by anewnadir at 4:07 PM on February 10, 2013


How dare Iran intrude on US arms markets.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:10 PM on February 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you're wondering about the New York Times' motivations could be right now, I suggest you consider what their motivations were beating the war-drums during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Currying favor with the Bush administration, which was advocating war with Iran. Is the Obama administration advocating war with Iran? Or is this one of those stealth four-dimensional-chess drum-beatings?
posted by Etrigan at 4:18 PM on February 10, 2013


(Whoops, meant "Iraq" in that first sentence. Sorry. Carry on.)
posted by Etrigan at 4:52 PM on February 10, 2013


> Are you saying that Iraq is the same as Iran?

No, he's saying that after the same newspaper, the New York Times, reported all sorts of crap in in the run-up to the Iraq War that turned out not to be true, we should quadruply suspicious of anything they write in what appears to be a run up to a war with Iran.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:03 PM on February 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find it a bit odd that it is seemingly a surprise that the NY Times and in fact all papers (mainstream) work for the administration, whichever one is in power. This has been going on for some time now.
That iran is meddling may or may not concern you--after alla many of us prefer to merely accuse our own nation of meddling--but here is but one example, in Syria
http://www.readability.com/articles/wtowzxkw
posted by Postroad at 5:07 PM on February 10, 2013


The US is already at war with Iran.
posted by humanfont at 5:46 PM on February 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have in my possession a nice .30 cal ammo can filled with bandoleers of 30-06 cartridges on 5 round stripper clips. The head stamps are quite interesting. They don't match any officially acknowledged ammo factory in the world... They have a 2 digit date code, and a 2 letter factory code. Both are bogus. The dates are in the 1930's, the factory code is a red herring. The ammo was made in the USA, at a US government ammo plant in 1950's for the use of the CIA. With bogus head stamps for USA deniability when it would turn up at conflicts we didn't officially arm.

A friend was reloading .30 carbine cases he picked up empty laying around a shooting range... The cases were marked as being made at the USA's Lake City ammo plant. But while trying to reload them, they broke his primer removal tools. An inspection showed them to be Berdan primed, where the US military has used the Boxer priming system exclusively for over a century. Long story short, the cartridges were made in China during the 60's for clandestine distribution to wars and places the PLA didn't officially arm. At some point the leftovers were exported and sold on the US surplus market, we don't even know who exported them, China or a former client.

A cartridge headstamp (or lack of same) is far from conclusive evidence.
posted by bert2368 at 6:25 PM on February 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


Iran may very well export munitions- Propaganda can have truth in it. We still have grounds to be suspicious of the NYT's motives with this front-page story. Once burned, twice shy.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:13 PM on February 10, 2013


Slightly greyish Pot, meet Kettle. Dark, black, light swallowing Kettle.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:05 PM on February 10, 2013


This was an almost ludicrously propagandistic piece by the New York Times. Thank you for bringing it to our attention, man of twists and turns.

From the stretched premise (some Iranian small arms ammunition showing up in a few places = trend), to the weasely lack of statistics (“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,’ ... “Our understanding of that is changing.” ), this is pretty much an exemplar of a fake trend story.

And since it features our paltry little enemy of the moment, Iran, we can all now roll our eyes and go back to our regularly scheduled reading.
posted by jackbrown at 10:15 PM on February 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Domestic sales are also way up, DHS has ordered over 1.4 BILLION rounds. This is enough ammunition to support peak operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan for about 20 years. All from a company that didn't exist a week before the order was placed and home address is an empty chunk of land...

Government agencies order ammo all the time, but this amount of ammunition for a police force is truly extrodinary. The ARMY doesn't order this much per year for training...


The DHS has made orders for 1.4 billion rounds over a period of 5 years. That means they are planning to use some 300 million rounds per year. The DHS itself has about 150000 armed agents and in addition they provide training for a bunch of other agencies as well. Furthermore the DHS includes the coast guard which trains with machine guns and other appropriate weapons. This isn't that much ammunition.

Furthermore the Lake City Ammunition Plant alone produces, coincidentally, 1.4 billion rounds per year for the US military.

So my question to you is: Are you lying or just too lazy to do even cursory fact-checking?
posted by Authorized User at 10:45 PM on February 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is exceedingly lazy of the NYT to reprint old articles from the Bush administration by only replacing the "q" in Iraq with an "n". Then again the differences in foreign policy between the Bush administration and the Obama administration are not even that large.
posted by three blind mice at 1:43 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I'm in the pocket of the bird lobby.
posted by jquinby at 6:25 AM on February 11, 2013


bert2368 is correct about the creative use of manufacturing marks to mislead investigations. Even if one were to analyze the chemical signature of the gunpowder, primer, and metallurgy of the casing, it can only tell you that yes, it is what it says on the tin, or that somebody went to a great deal of expense to make it appear so. Since this obfuscating tactic has been used by many agencies in the past, and governments around the world have the funds and will to carry out such operations, it is not unreasonable or wild conjecture to consider it a possibility.
posted by chambers at 7:51 AM on February 11, 2013


By whom?

Seriously, tell me who is trying to drum up that war right now. The New York Times, because they have nothing better to do?

Are you saying that Iraq is the same as Iran?


These comments seem disingenuous to me. Or, charitably, ahistorical.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:30 AM on February 11, 2013


The thing with anti-Iranian propaganda is that, somehow, Iran's current regime always manages to do even worse than anything it's accused to do.
posted by Skeptic at 1:33 PM on February 10 [1 favorite +] [!]


Got a for-instance?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:33 AM on February 11, 2013


By whom?

Seriously, tell me who is trying to drum up that war right now. The New York Times, because they have nothing better to do?

These comments seem disingenuous to me. Or, charitably, ahistorical.


The Times had a reason for drumming up the war in Iraq: the administration wanted it, and the Times went right along. They didn't just feel like starting a war to sell papers.

So on whose behalf are they drumming it up this time? Do you honestly believe that President Obama or anyone with significant influence in his administration wants a war with Iran?
posted by Etrigan at 10:16 AM on February 11, 2013


So my question to you is: Are you lying or just too lazy to do even cursory fact-checking?

nothing you posted contradicted anything I said or the point I was making. How hard would it be to divert some of that ammo for clandestine operations? And that 1.4 billion rounds a year is the kind of numbers you have for an army, not a police force (hence lake city, the army's production plant capable of producing just shy of that number).

BTW that works out to 2000 rounds per agent per year for training for those 5 years. That is a still a LOT of ammunition and that kind of training rounds per year is the amount SWAT teams use per member. Not many of those 150k agents will use that. It isn't proof of some kind of planned coup or something, but it is something that fits in with a healthy skepticism of just what our government might be up to.
posted by bartonlong at 10:45 AM on February 11, 2013


I think a lot of people weren't paying attention right after 9/11, or were too young, or something. After the attacks, there was a lot and I do mean a lot of jingoism, and patriotic fever, and get-those-fuckers-who-threaten-us. Even people who are normally quite sanguine about such things were drooling with anticipation of revenge, and cleaning out the Enemies Of America. The NYTimes didn't have to be influenced, or be in the pocket of the administration. Like most other people in america, they wanted an enemy to believe in, a bad guy to put down, and were looking for evidence to confirm their feeling that Saddam was that man. This doesn't require conspiracy, corruption or dishonestly (outside of intellectual dishonesty perhaps), this is collective dysfunction. People, including some otherwise good journalists (and quite a few bad ones) were looking for confirmation. The white house was looking for confirmation. They didn't want facts, they wanted facts which confirmed their beliefs. Any country or people who sat back and looked more carefully was "against us". This attitude was not restricted to "the administration" or the industrial military complex, it was ordinary americans, educated and not educated, journalists and non-journalists. From an outsiders view, it looked like madness had gripped a country desperate to find a bad guy beyond Afganistan which, quite frankly, looked like that undersized boy from grade 3 and wasn't really a worth opponent.

Not all errors are conspiracy or cynical manipulation. The environment now is vastly different and I think equating those times with these would be a serious error. The NYTimes piece may well or well not be a propaganda piece (intentionally or not), but if it is it is for different reasons then the last time they fucked up.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:13 AM on February 11, 2013




The thing with anti-Iranian propaganda is that, somehow, Iran's current regime always manages to do even worse than anything it's accused to do.
posted by Skeptic at 1:33 PM on February 10 [1 favorite +] [!]

Got a for-instance?


This falls into the "worse-as-in-more-ridiculous" category, but the recent presentation of their ludicrous "new stealth fighter" is the sort of self-defeating stunt that not even Mossad's black propaganda department could come up with.

In the "worse-as-in-fucking-godawful" category, I could put forward their current involvement in Syria.

And, of course, there's the issue of the oppression of their own people, including a former Mefite currently in jail for the crime of speaking his mind.
posted by Skeptic at 2:21 AM on February 12, 2013


the recent presentation of their ludicrous "new stealth fighter"

their current involvement in Syria

the oppression of their own people


Those seem to all be things they are accused of.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:06 PM on February 12, 2013


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