Tuesday, February 20

Austrian Embassy Replies Concerning sale of Weapons to Iran

On February 14 I sent the following email request to the Embassy of Austria in Washington, DC:
Attention: Mr. Wolfgang Renezeder
Dear Sir,

I am writing concerning Austria's approval to sell 800 rifles to Iran as part of their anti-drug program.

I was wondering what is Austria's position on fighting illegal drug trafficking by killing suspected drug traffickers? This seems to go against EU human rights as well as denies suspected drug traffickers of due process of a court trial.

The EU and Austria are against the death penalty so the approval to sell high-powered weapons for this purpose appears to go against Austrian values. So any clarification would be appreciated.
Also, previous Government statments claim that the intended use of the rifles had been thoughly checked. How was this accomplished.

Also, has the Government of Austria requested any explanation from the Government of Iran about this discovery?

Thank you in advance for your reply.
Best regards,

Fred Fry
Fred Fry International
Tel.: 202-895-6746
E-mail: austroinfo@austria.org
Today I received a reply:

Dear Mr. Fry,

The Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. acknowledges receipt of your e-mail.

The Embassy shares your concern regarding newspaper reports on the alleged discovery of Austrian rifles in the hands of terrorists in Iraq. Since any arms in the hands of terrorists pose a threat to international security, these concerns are taken very seriously by Austria.

However, at this point, no information has been provided verifying that the alleged rifles recovered in Iraq are part of the 2005 shipment to the government in Iran.

The Embassy would like to inform you that the 2005 sale of 800 HS50 Steyr-Mannlicher rifles to the Iranian government was subject to stringent investigation by the Austrian authorities; we would like to point out that the decisive reason for agreeing to the export was made by the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior based on exclusive use for border control and the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism purposes.

Combating the trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan through Iran is a major priority for the international community. Therefore, also UNODC-law enforcement projects have focused on assisting the counter Narcotic Law Enforcement Capacities equipping border control posts along the international border between Afghanistan and Iran.

In view of other highly sensitive foreign- and security-policy matters related to Iran, the Austrian MFA insisted on a detailed end-user certificate, certified by the Iranian MFA, clearly defining both end-use and end-user (National Police Organization and Anti-Drug Traffic Organization). These detailed certificates were provided by the Iranian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

As a matter of principle, the Austrian MFA examines every single license application for the export of war material on the basis of the current state of affairs at the time of application, and in compliance with the Austrian War Material Act, as well as the politically-binding EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. The Embassy would finally like to emphasize that Austria is aware that foreign policy parameters regarding Iran have changed over the last two years; since then no licenses on further export applications have been granted - neither in 2005 nor in 2006.

Sincerely yours,

Wolfgang Renezeder

Director of the Press & Information Service

Embassy of Austria

I am sure that Austria is now wishing that this sale never took place. As you can see from the email, I was sent a standard reply to this issue, as it completely ignores the death penalty/human rights question of how the Austrian Government found it acceptable to arm a Government that planned on executing suspected drug traffickers. Technically, Austria could have ignored that question/problem since this was an arms purchase with the UN's 'stamp of approval'.

It is yet to be seen if Austria will confront the Iranian Authorities concerning what they did with the rifles they sold them. It could be that they know the answer already and there is no point bothering to confirm what they suspect is true. After all, if the US had bothered to fabricate fake evidence in this case, why not just fabricate a warehouse full of WMDs in Iraq to shut international critics up.

This too brings out another point, it matters not that Austria secured end user certificates from the Iranians concerning these rifles. It only matters what the Iranians actually did with them. After all, the US went to war against Iraq for failing to prove to the UN that they no longer had WMDs. So it does not matter that little was found, as the war was not about the WMDs, but for failing to comply with UN Resolutions. But try telling that to the International community, many of whom have bank accounts full of oil-for-food money.

Also notice that this weapons sale was in compliance with "the politically-binding EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports." That code includes taking into account:
- the importing state's record on terrorism, implementation of humanitarian law (non-use of force against civilians), and arms control agreements
I would love to see the paper explaining how they took Iran's record on the above into account.

Original story here:
Austrian Firm OK with Collecting Blood Money from Iran as Long as It's 'Legal'

UNODC - Homepage
EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports


Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

This is a bizarre post Fred. Are U.S. DEA agents and border guards not armed? Do US SWAT teams not have snipers?

Do you have any idea how many Iranian police have been killed trying to stop drug traffickers coming out of Iran?

And why didn't the US actually ask the firm to check the serial numbers? http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?F=2553390&C=europe

Fred Fry said...

Actually I did check the UN pages and they have statistics on smugglers killed and Iranians killed in anti-drug activity. If I remember correctly, more Iranian police have been killed fighting drugs smugglers in one year than American troops over three years in Iraq. That does put US troop casualties in perspective doesn't it.

As for not checking the serial numbers, that assumes that the serial numbers were not available to the US. This was a UN coordinated sale and the UN might have the details. Also, I would think that other large quantity orders, if any, would be known. After all, these are not dime-a-dozen Saturday night specials that can be found on every corner. Also, I suspect that the other customers for these weapon are more reliable in terms of keeping track of them. Just where does the manufacturer think these things came from?

We all know that the US will shoot to kill. They however will not unless as a last resort. This is about the EU and UN approving of Iran picking off boarder crossers. There is a difference.

Thanks for your feedback!

Anonymous said...

I've read that the sniper rifles were for shooting holes in the engine blocs of smuggling vehicles and so disabling them. I've also read that the sale was intitiated/approved before Iran was put on the US "axis of evil" list, although the delivery occurred after.