Text Only | Disarmament Diplomacy | Disarmament Documentation | ACRONYM Reports
Back to the Acronym home page
Iraq
US/Russia
Space
NPT
CTBT
Fissban
BWC
CWC
UN
CD
British Policy
South Asia
Calendar
About Acronym
Links
Glossary

Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 32, November 1998

Controlling Small Arms: Progress & Priorities
By Lora Lumpe

Introduction

One year ago, flush with their success in campaigning against anti-personnel landmines, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments began pressing for more public attention to the devastation wrought by the worldwide sale and distribution of light arms - man-portable weapons like assault rifles, mortars, and grenades. A mix of humanitarian, disarmament, religious, and violence prevention groups around the world have begun strategizing on ways to raise the profile of the issue and to challenge policies that proliferate guns and grenades. Most noteworthy, four NGOs in Norway, including the Norwegian Red Cross, banded together last December to launch a campaign on small arms. In the process of seeking an overarching conceptual framework, national and regional nodes have naturally formed on the issue - in the US, UK, Canada and South Africa, in particular.

Small arms control became "medium politics" on the international agenda in 1998. It was medium relative to the high politics of landmines, the issue's progenitor in many minds, but it was the subject of a feverish pace of activity compared to just one year ago. (1) Most notable, in late October sixteen States in West Africa signed a binding agreement to ban the production, import and export of small arms for a three year trial period. In addition, western hemisphere governments signed (and several ratified) a convention on illicit manufacture and transfer of firearms. Preparations for negotiation of a global protocol against firearms trafficking were begun. And, during the summer, the Canadian government proposed a treaty barring transfers of military-style small arms to insurgent forces and other non-State actors.

The European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the South African Development Community (SADC) all took up some aspect of small arms control, and almost every part of the UN (including, increasingly, the Security Council) engaged the topic in the past year. (2) Meanwhile, nearly a dozen governments are vying for the mantle of leadership. Most prominent have been Belgium, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa and Switzerland - several of which hosted international governmental conferences discussing small arms control (the need for it, the feasibility of it, etc.) in 1998. And with two speeches in as many months brimming with policy proscriptions, Secretary of State Albright has recently put the United States into the running.

To varying degrees, each of these States has embraced the "Ottawa model" of government-NGO collaboration, particularly in the areas of brainstorming for policy initiatives, holding consciousness-raising seminars, and funding programs to assist reintegration of former combatants and to collect and destroy weapons. And NGOs from the north and south recently came together to launch a coordinating structure - the International Action Network on Small Arms - to rationalize and facilitate their research, advocacy and practical work.

This extraordinary explosion of activity is a result of the breadth and complexity of the "small arms problem." The issue is much broader than landmines - both in terms of the scope of the problem (as measured by the quantity of small arms in irresponsible hands or the number of civilian deaths and casualties (3)), and in terms of factors related to the proliferation of these arms. Whereas landmines were predominately viewed as a humanitarian issue, stemming from internal conflicts (generally), many see small arms proliferation principally as a police/crime issue. To others, it is a conflict prevention/resolution issue, or a relief/development problem. Each of these frameworks suggests different remedial policies and different priorities.

In the case of mines, the biggest conceptual question was over whether to include all mines or just anti-personnel mines in the scope of control efforts. With small arms control there are many more fissures, some of which have been exploited by governments to stave off politically or economically unpalatable control measures. A principal divide is whether the main problem is existing stocks of "illicit" weaponry in circulation in zones of conflict, or whether on-going legal transfers are also of concern. If it is the former, how do you define the term, given that the licit trade and the illicit traffic in small arms are inextricably linked? Arms that are originally exported legally, but are not properly tracked or secured, often fall into illegal circulation, as theft or capture of State security forces' arms is a major source of black-market supply around the world. (4)

While some governments and NGOs sought a big conceptual framework to tie it all together, to address all facets of the problem, a year later it is clear that there is no "holy grail." Thus, as is ongoing, a web of initiatives are needed to reduce the illegal use and oversupply of these weapons. At the same time, lest governments and NGOs burn out on "initiative fatigue," they must work together even more closely to prioritize and consolidate major areas of activity. And, since this year's focus on small arms will not be sustained indefinitely, these concerned parties must identify and press for the farthest reaching measures to reduce the dangers from small arms proliferation. This agenda includes shoring up the agreements made thus far, focusing on transparency and accountability in legal transfers, curbing the flow of arms to conflict zones, and banning weapons supply by States to insurgents.

Consolidate and Test the Achievements

The supplier governments have been quite willing to talk about "illicit" arms trafficking, by which they usually (but not always) mean stocks of weapons already in circulation outside of government control in the developing world. Evidence of this interpretation is provided by the fact that in the year and a half since the European Union adopted a program on illicit arms trafficking, several EU governments have held seminars with governments in the south to develop work plans on the demand side, but few have reformed their own national laws concerning off-shore brokering of arms deals, improved end use certification and monitoring of transfers, and increased transparency around State-sanctioned small arms exports.

Meanwhile, governments and non-governmental actors from the south tend to focus on the role and responsibility of the arms producing countries (principally, but not exclusively, located in the north) in contributing to the proliferation and misuse of military-style small arms in their regions. Field research by Human Rights Watch and the UN Commission of Inquiry have shown that newly-manufactured weapons continue to enter combat zones. The two most potentially meaningful initiatives that have come about thus far originated with governments in the south concerned about the flow of weapons into their countries. The Mexican and Colombian governments spearheaded the OAS convention on illicit firearms trafficking, and the government of Mali initiated the West African arms production and transfer moratorium.

Hopefully, both the OAS treaty and the ECOWAS initiative are prototypes for exportation to other regions, but at the present time they both remain substantially incomplete. The first order of business for concerned governments and NGOs is work to ensure the success of these two initiatives.

The ECOWAS agreement entered into force on 1 November. The treaty itself is three pages long, and most of that text is "whereas" clauses, with the operational part contained in one sentence. Now remains the difficult challenge of providing some assurance that the commitment undertaken is being honored. Money is needed to facilitate demobilization and reintegration of combatants in the region, to promote sustainable development (as an alternative to armed banditry), and to facilitate gun collection and destruction programs. And, importantly, suppliers must bar their nationals from seeking to export arms to West Africa. ECOWAS members made sure to point out in the brief text of the agreement that the Wassenaar Arrangement export control forum had been briefed and its members had agreed to refrain from exporting arms to the region.

The OAS convention entered into force this autumn, with the ratification of two States. (Three have ratified it in all.) In order for other States to ratify the agreement, they will have to pass legislation defining legal and illegal arms importation and exportation, establish effective control mechanisms and develop a central contact agency on the issue. Some of this will take money. Governments must commit the necessary resources (financial and technical) to guarantee implementation of the convention and to assist States that are unable to fund implementation measures themselves. Meanwhile, the international community is apparently pressing ahead with negotiation of a global anti-firearms trafficking protocol in 1999 without first assessing how the OAS convention works. It is imperative that governments place at least equal emphasis on implementation of the extant treaty, so that lessons learned can be incorporated into the global initiative.

A Transparency Agenda

Approximately seventy States produce small arms and/or ammunition. (5) Some small arms production enterprises are State-owned (usually military armories), and some are privately-owned companies. Researching what the major small arms producing States manufacture is not difficult; there are several standard sources of information. Determining production quantities (or output) is much more difficult, and knowing where weapons are being exported is nearly impossible. The standard sources of data on the international arms trade - the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the UN Register of conventional Arms, World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers - do not include information on small arms shipments. Few governments provide information to their parliaments on major weapons exports they have approved (like tanks and jets), and even fewer provide information on this low-end sector of the trade. The US government is the most notable exception. Except for covert arms supply operations, the United States openly reports in a disaggregated manner its small arms shipments and export license approvals. (6)

One of the most important initiatives governments concerned about the humanitarian and criminal impact of small arms proliferation could undertake is to provide greater transparency around the small arms exports they are authorizing. Fuller information about the magnitude and destination of current and future small arms shipments is a necessary prerequisite for development of sound policy recommendations. Transparency would also facilitate and improve the ability of governments to ensure end-use verification of weapons exports they are authorizing. If such information were made public, increased transparency would allow the non-governmental community, as well as national legislatures, to play an important role in aiding governments' efforts to curb diversion of these arms by providing oversight through research, questioning and reporting.

Such information is also important to aid and relief workers, who might be working in a region where a sudden influx of guns has occurred or is anticipated. Transparency around planned arms shipments (that is, timely information exchange about license approvals granted) could prove to be an early warning indicator of pending violence and instability. While individual States might not be granting unusually large numbers of export licenses to a particular destination, when placed side by side with other suppliers' export approvals, disturbing trends might become apparent. On a more positive note, increased openness about weapons shipments could serve as a confidence-building measure among forces within a State, or States in a region, potentially heading off some purchases spurred on by "fear of the unknown." Finally, such information would greatly facilitate disarmament, whether through peacekeeping or other initiatives, by providing some baseline information about arms supply in the State or region.

Increased transparency is possible at the global, regional and national levels. The United Nations and regional security organizations can help facilitate the former two, but such initiatives are, of course, predicated on a willingness by governments to engage in greater openness. Policy analysts continually promote expansion of the UN Register of Conventional Arms to include small arms and light weapons as a desirable goal, but an expert panel reviewing the Register in 1997 decided against doing so. Meanwhile, with no elaboration, Secretary Albright recently called for the creation of an "international center" for exchange of information on small arms transfers (see note 8). The Wassenaar Arrangement might prove a particularly suitable forum for regular (perhaps quarterly) timely information exchange by its members on potential small arms shipments licensed for export - if traditional resistance in this regard by France and others can be overcome.

Researchers should lay out a realistic template for governmental transparency. What must be revealed by exporters (and importers)? What would be nice to know, but could be omitted in an effort to protect business confidentiality? Given the difficulty of persuading all countries (most importantly, supplier countries) to participate in a transparency regime, what would the value be of partial participation in such an effort?

Concerned States need not wait for some complicated global agreement. They can and should become transparent unilaterally, as did the United States. Small arms are not strategic weapons. Openness about production and shipment of such weapons will not jeopardize national security, although it might compromise business interests of a firm trying to make a sale, if the buyer wants the deal to remain cloaked in secrecy. But the need on the part of the buyer for secrecy should be examined, and the business interests of the arms firm must be weighed against other interests of the exporting State. Those governments - all of them democracies - now expressing concern over the humanitarian impact of small arms proliferation should begin by providing specific information about their small arms export licenses and shipments.

Broadening the Focus to Armed Conflict in General

While a few recent wars (Bosnia, Chechnya, Turkey, Congo) have seen the use of heavy weapons, like armored personnel carriers, medium to heavy artillery, and ground attack aircraft, small arms and light weapons have been a staple of all recent armed conflicts. As stated previously (note 3), small arms and light weapons are thought to be responsible for the vast majority of war casualties around the world. Although widely assumed to be a significant factor, there has been no scientific investigation of the impact of small arms supply in terms of outbreak, sustainment or escalation of civil warfare. The dearth of data on arms transfers currently hinders the ability of researchers to conduct such studies. Relatedly, though, the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent commissioned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to examine the extent to which the availability of weapons contributes to the proliferation and aggravation of violations of international humanitarian law (the laws that govern the conduct of war). (7)

In two recent speeches - in September before a special UN Security Council session on Africa and in November at a gathering of the International Rescue Committee - Secretary of State Madeleine Albright assailed "the uncontrolled flow of arms, ammunition and explosives into tense areas of the world." (8) Her speeches denoted a welcome broadening of US small arms policy from a previous focus on crime-related illicit firearms trafficking to a concern about weapons shipments - whether legal or not - into certain "zones of conflict."

"This dirty business," as she labeled it in her Security Council speech, "fuels conflict, fortifies extremism, and destabilizes entire regions. All of us whose nations sell such weapons, or through whose nations the traffic flows, bear some responsibility for turning a blind eye to the destruction they cause. And all of us have it in our power to do something in response."

Central Africa was the focus of the Secretary's Security Council presentation. In her November speech, Albright also pointed to recent arms purchases in Afghanistan and Angola as representative of the kinds of small arms sales that the administration finds problematic. (9) Meanwhile, the US government (and undoubtedly others) continues to export weapons to many other combat zones. In 1997 (the most recent information available), several of the countries receiving large quantities of small arms through US surplus programs or buying weapons through commercial channels were engaged in conflict or had extremely poor records on human rights and democracy.

In Colombia more than 30,000 people have been killed in the past decade, with the bulk of these deaths attributed to right-wing paramilitaries operating with a wink and a nod from the military. Nevertheless, Colombian police and military forces received a fresh shipment of "emergency" small arms from the United States in 1997 to assist the "war on drugs." And in 1997 US companies received authorization to sell Colombian State entities over 30,000 grenades, more than one million rounds of ammunition, 7,000 M16 assault rifles, 375 submachine guns and assorted shotguns and machine guns. (10)

In two cases the Clinton administration has announced a policy of barring sales of small arms to US friends or allies on human rights grounds. In February 1994, the State Department announced that it would deny licenses for the transfer of small or light arms and lethal crowd control items to Indonesia. Later that same year, Congress passed law codifying this ban until certain human rights conditions are met. The ban is still in place.

And, according to a July 1997 State Department report to Congress on Turkey's use of US-supplied weapons, "US policy is to restrict the sale of arms that clearly could be used to repress a civilian population, such as small arms and violent crowd-control devices." Turkey's paramilitary Jandarama and the Turkish National Police - the forces most prominently cited in the commission of gross human rights abuses in Turkey - previously purchased M16 and AR-15S assault rifles and M203 grenade launchers through State Department-licensed commercial sales. According to the same report, the State Department has no resources available to monitor the end-use of US-supplied weapons in Turkey, to ensure that they are not being used in the commission of abuses, but "mission personnel have seen some of this equipment, which is still in service." And despite the announced ban, in 1997 the State Department licensed for export nearly $5 million worth of materials for the manufacture of ammunition, hundreds of carbines, and hundreds of pistols to Turkey. (11)

Moreover, the United States and other arms manufacturing States continue to market bombers, helicopters and other weaponry to the Turkish and (until the recent economic crisis) Indonesian armed forces. It is unclear why militaries deemed unfit to import small arms are worthy to import major platforms. By buoying warring or repressive regimes, these "big arms" transfers contribute to the quest for light weaponry by insurgents in Turkey and East Timor. If implemented aggressively, a "code of conduct" measure adopted by the 15 European Union States in May 1998 would prohibit arms transfers if (among other things) "there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression."

Similarly, a measure passed by Congress in November 1997 bars US military aid and arms to abusive units in foreign militaries. However, the Pentagon and State Department usually do not know which military or police units are using US-supplied arms. A necessary next step is the enactment of a "code of conduct" for all US arms exports that would establish firm human rights, democracy and non-aggression criteria in US law. Such a measure has been introduced in Congress each year since 1994. If enacted, it would help establish a more forward looking framework for US arms export policy in general, including small arms exports.

Bar Arms Supply to Non State Actors

Covert gun-running by governments to foreign insurgent groups has been a major source of small arms proliferation. Precisely because of the unaccountable nature of covert arms supply, such operations feed directly into the global black arms market. These transfers also, of course, fuel armed conflict, as they are generally intended to destabilize and topple governments.

American pipelines established to combatants in South Asia, Southern Africa and Central America during the 1980s continue to spill over today, as the weapons have been recycled to other conflicts, to bandits or to terrorists.

The classified US government operation to arm various mujahideen factions fighting in Afghanistan against Soviet invaders began in 1979. Before it ended in 1991, the CIA had shipped via Pakistan an estimated 400,000 AK-47 assault rifles; an undisclosed quantity of Stinger portable anti-aircraft missile launchers and missiles; vast quantities of Italian-made anti-personnel mines; 60,000 archaic rifles, 8,000 light machine guns and over 100,000,000 rounds of ammunition from Turkey; 40-50 Oerlikon Swiss-designed anti-aircraft guns; mortars from Egypt; Blowpipe surface-to-air missiles from Britain; and 100,000 rifles from India. (12) The after effects of this arms supply operation can be felt not only in Afghanistan, but throughout Pakistan, into Kashmir and other parts of India.

It is the Stinger missiles that have caused successive US administrations the greatest heartburn. In her November speech, Secretary Albright said, "We have learned from bitter experience that these weapons, which will fit in a ski bag, are very difficult to control once sold. They turn civilian airliners and humanitarian relief flights into easy targets." As a result, the administration has been pressing other governments through the Wassenaar Arrangement to limit transfers of man-portable air defense missiles. While this goal is most welcome, the lesson appears to have been lost that short-term driven alliances with insurgents are unsound policy. Guerrilla forces often lack a chain of command and authority structure sufficient to ensure physical control of any weaponry - not just missiles capable of shooting passenger jets out of the sky. (13)

Many other States reportedly are or have engaged in covert destabilization programs, including small arms supply: Uganda in southern Sudan; Sudan in northern Uganda; alleged support by Turkey for rebels in Chechnya; alleged support by Russia for Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey; Pakistan in Kashmir; India in Sri Lanka. In many cases, these arms now pose a direct threat to the State which previously supplied them. And, while the shipments are intended to further the political and/or economic interests of the supplier State, once the conflict ends, the supplier almost never takes responsibility for either the cost of disarmament or the impact upon civil societies when disarmament fails.

At a gathering of 21 governments in Oslo on small arms last July, the Canadian foreign ministry proposed a treaty banning military-style small arms transfers by governments to insurgent forces and other non-State actors. Thus far the rough proposal has received little public support, from either governments or NGOs. Some NGOs are concerned that a convention of this type would deny arms to non-State actors opposing repressive regimes, while those regimes could legally arm themselves against their people. (14) At a major small arms conference sponsored by the Belgian government in mid-October, the British government endorsed the proposal and expressed interest in working on the idea. Norwegian Foreign Minister Vollabaek has expressed cautious support, as well.

Conclusion

Developing international law barring small arms supply (usually covert) to non-State actors would be one of the most meaningful policies that concerned governments and non-governmental organizations could pursue to curb further dangerous small arms proliferation. Past (and continuing) practitioners of covert arms supply cannot be expected to endorse the proposal. But for the "group of like-minded States" and NGOs that came together first around the landmines ban treaty, and then the International Criminal Court, this would seem to be a very worthy effort to explore and further develop.

Notes and References

1. Some of the highlights of small arms diplomatic activity in 1998 were as follows. April: UN Secretary General Annan issues report on causes of conflict and promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa. The report urges greater enforcement of UNSC arms embargoes, increased UN role in compiling and publicizing arms trafficking, and reduced arms procurement by governments in region; Commission on Crime Prevention of ECOSOC passes a resolution calling for the negotiation of a legally binding convention to combat firearms trafficking. May: EU adopts a human-rights centered "Code of Conduct" for arms exports, including small arms; seminar in South Africa to work out an action plan for EU-SADC cooperation on control of illicit small arms; G-8 heads of State statement lists points of agreement for global convention on illicit firearms trafficking. June: OAU heads of State statement on small arms and light weapons. July: 21 governments meet in Oslo on small arms; Canadian government proposes ban on transfers to non-State actors, "Elements of a Common Understanding" issued. August: Canadian Foreign Minister Axworthy makes major policy speech on small arms at gathering of NGOs. September: at UNSC ministerial meeting on Africa, US Secretary of State Albright makes several control proposals; several Foreign Ministers speak at governmental/non-governmental briefing on small arms at the UN; OAS treaty on illicit manufacture and trade in firearms, explosives and ammunition enters into force with ratification by Bahamas, Belize and Mexico. October: Norwegian Foreign Minister Vollebaek delivers a major policy speech on small arms in The Hague; "Brussels Call for Action" issued at the close of a two day conference on Sustainable Disarmament for Sustainable Development hosted by Belgian government; declaration by all 16 heads of ECOWAS States of a 3 year moratorium on importation, exportation and manufacture of light weapons. November: governmental/non-governmental seminar on small arms at the OSCE; US Secretary of State Albright delivers a major speech on small arms in New York; UN Commission of Inquiry report on Great Lakes arms embargo submitted to UN Security Council; governmental/non-governmental seminar on small arms at the EU. December: UNGA will likely adopt two relevant resolutions, one on "illicit arms" and one on "small arms."

2. A "Coordinating Action on Small Arms" (CASA), centered in the Department of Disarmament Affairs, was created in August to facilitate and harmonize relevant actions among humanitarian affairs, refugee relief, peacekeeping, the special rapporteur for children in conflict, the crime control commission, etc.

3. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that 24,000 people per year are killed or maimed by antipersonnel landmines. While there are no good data on combat deaths and deaths from armed crime/violence in all countries, it is safe to assume that small arms affect many more people than do landmines - in the range of hundreds of thousands per year. It is often stated (but with no apparent documentary basis) that small arms are responsible for an estimated 90 percent of today's war casualties. This assertion is supported by the observation that the low cost and portability of these weapons mean they are used by all combatants - State militaries, militias, and insurgents alike. Their sheer availability and ease of use make it likely that these weapons would be used in a high proportion of the killing.

ICRC researchers estimate that, in general, more than 50 percent of war casualties - one out of every two - are civilians. This conservative estimate is based on a case study from Bosnia and ICRC's war wound database. (David Meddings, letter in British Medical Journal, 31 Oct. 1998, and Arms Availability and Violations of International Humanitarian Law, ICRC and Norwegian Red Cross, 1998). In some particular conflicts, of course, the civilian mortality rate is much higher. If 200,000 people are killed per year around the world in "combat," based on the above assumptions, 90,000 of them would be civilians - over four times the landmine casualty rate.

Even when wars end they often leave a legacy of an armed and insecure society. In a survey conducted in one warring State, the ICRC found that the number of weapons injuries declined by only a small margin (less than 30 percent) in the "post-conflict" phase due to the widespread availability of weapons.

4. In 1994, foreign governments reported 6,238 unlawfully acquired US-origin firearms to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). Over half - 3,376 - were discovered in Mexico. These weapons were almost certainly sold legally in the first place, either domestically or abroad, and later re-transferred to another party in contravention of US law.

5. The most prominent manufacturers are Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States.

6. According to annual reports now required by the Commerce, State and Defense Departments, in 1996 the State and Commerce Departments approved more than $500 million of small arms and shotgun exports, and the Department of Defense gave away 50,000 assault rifles and over 10,000 grenade launchers. Thousands more were sold by the Pentagon. Because other governments are not open about their light weapons sales and shipments, it is not possible to rank the United States' place in the global small arms trade.

7. This study will be presented to the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in November 1999 and may lead to advocacy by the ICRC on the issue of small arms control similar to its previous engagement on landmines.

8. In the Security Council speech, Albright laid out an impressive array of remedial actions, but it is not yet clear how seriously the administration is pursuing these initiatives. Several of the following items remain vague and undeveloped:

States should provide "full and timely" disclosure of arms shipments into African "zones of conflict," and they should enact a voluntary moratorium on arms sales "that could fuel these interconnected conflicts." (In November she defined the region of concern specifically as Central Africa.);

Governments, international governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations should meet to exchange information on regional arms transfers and "to explore further steps.";

UN member States with relevant expertise should help strengthen the capacity of African governments to monitor and interdict arms flows;

The UN should establish a clearinghouse for technical information to facilitate rapid exchange of data on possible violations of UNSC-mandated arms embargoes;

All States should enact national legislation regulating exports and making violation of UNSC-mandated embargoes a criminal offense;

States should negotiate a global convention against illicit arms trafficking by the year 2000;

States should negotiate an agreement "to restrict" the export of shoulder-fired missiles by the year 2000.

States should establish "an international center to collect and share information on arms transfers."

9. Of course, the United States government used to be a major patron to warring factions in all three places, and this fact points to an important critique of all of the major arms suppliers' policy: it is backward looking, reactive, rather than forward thinking about the potential impact of the weapons that continue to be transfered today. Embargoes are always levied after a war has broken out or (objectionable) coup has occurred. But infantry weapons have extremely long lives, and they quite often outlive the original purpose or government for which they were sent.

10. Department of State, US Arms Exports: Direct Commercial Sales Authorizations for Fiscal Year 97, (aka Section 655 Report, fiscal year 1997), pp. 20-21.

11. Ibid., pp. 114-16.

12. Chris Smith, "Light Weapons and Ethnic Conflict in South Asia," Lethal Commerce, Jeffrey Boutwell et al., eds. (Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1995), pp. 62-4.

13. It is generally believed that the use of covert military supply operations by the US government has greatly diminished in the 1990s, and yet calls for armed destabilization of the regimes in Iran and Iraq persist. Most recently, the Iraq Liberation Act which Congress passed as part of the omnibus budget this fall authorizes the executive branch to spend up to $97 million to train and arm Iraqi opposition groups. In the wake of the latest show down with Saddam Hussein over UNSCOM inspections, the administration is apparently now pressing ahead with implementing this plan, despite the disastrous failure and in-fighting that ensued in 1996 when the CIA attempted to foster an insurrection among Iraqi Kurdish factions against President Hussein's troops. On-going covert arms supply by the US government to forces opposing the Sudanese regime is reported, as well.

14. Canadian Foreign Minister Axworthy's response is that, "Canada does not, as a matter of policy, advocate the arming of opposition groups in order to overthrow unpopular regimes. We believe that non-violent means are the best way to effect political change. Governments who signed the convention would effectively be recognizing that principle by doing so." Notes for a Speech by the Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to a Conference on Small Arms Organized by Project Ploughshares, 19 August 1998.

Lora Lumpe is a senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, working for the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT).

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

Return to top of page

Return to List of Contents

Return to Acronym Main Page