Austrian sniper rifles that were exported to Iran have been discovered in the hands of Iraqi terrorists, The Daily Telegraph has learned. More than 100 of the.50 calibre weapons, capable of penetrating body armour, have been discovered by American troops during raids.
The guns were part of a shipment of 800 rifles that the Austrian company, Steyr-Mannlicher, exported legally to Iran last year.
The sale was condemned in Washington and London because officials were worried that the weapons would be used by insurgents against British and American troops.
Within 45 days of the first HS50 Steyr Mannlicher rifles arriving in Iran, an American officer in an armoured vehicle was shot dead by an Iraqi insurgent using the weapon.
Over the last six months American forces have found small caches of the £10,000 rifles but in the last 24 hours a raid in Baghdad brought the total to more than 100, US defence sources reported. - Telegraph, UK
The Austrian government approved the sale of the rifles, made by precision weapons maker Steyr Mannlicher GmbH, after it concluded in 2004 that they would be used to fight narcotics smugglers. [Just how did they conclude that?]
In comments to the AP that year, Steyr head Wolfgang Fuehrlinger said U.S. Embassy officials had expressed concerns that the rifles could be used against American troops in Iraq, adding that he had rebuffed a request to stop such sales.
Fuehrlinger described the 12.7 x 99 mm "Steyr .50 HS" as a high-power weapon able to penetrate metal as thick as a man's thumb. The gun is about 4 feet long, weighs more than 20 pounds and counts as an anti-armor weapon among experts because of the high punch of its projectile, Fuehrlinger said. [Just the type of weapon Iranians need to fight drugs in their own country. Maybe the US should start shooting drug smugglers at it's boarder too. How well would that go over with the International Community?]
The U.S. imposed sanctions on Steyr in December 2005, forbidding it from obtaining U.S. export licenses to do business in America. The Austrian government condemned the decision at the time, saying it made no sense to punish the company after the fact. Britain's Ministry of Defense said it had also raised the issue with the Austrian government shortly after the sale.
"We discussed it privately with the Austrian government shortly after the sale," a Ministry of Defense spokesman said, on condition of anonymity in line with government policy. "Now the potential that these weapons could fall into the wrong hands appears to have happened." - Fox News
It is not surprising that weapons sold to Iran are being found in Iraq. Iran is a country that is willing to back up it's agenda with supplies and personnel as well as lying no matter how obvious the lie is.
This is not the first time equipment sold to Iran to fight the drug trade as ended up in the hands of terrorists. The very same thing happened with night vision equipment that was sold by the UK to Iran. Only in that case, the night vision equipment was found in the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israeli intelligence officials have complained to Britain and the United States that sensitive night-vision equipment recovered from Hezbollah fighters during the war in Lebanon had been exported by Britain to Iran. British officials said the equipment had been intended for use in a U.N. anti-narcotics campaign.
Israeli officials say they believe the state-of-the-art equipment, found in Hezbollah command-and-control headquarters in southern Lebanon during the just-concluded war, was part of a British government-approved shipment of 250 pieces of night-vision equipment sent to Iran in 2003.
Israeli military intelligence confirmed that one of the pieces of equipment is a Thermo-vision 1000 LR tactical night-vision system, serial No. 155010, part No. 193960, manufactured by Agema, a high-tech equipment company with branches in Bedfordshire, England, and San Diego. A spokesman for Agema in San Diego denied all knowledge of the system.
The equipment, which needed special export-license approval from the British government, was passed to the Iranians through a program run and administered by the U.N. Drug Control Program. The equipment uses infrared imaging to provide nighttime surveillance that allows the user to detect people and vehicles moving in the dark at a range of several miles. - SFGate.com
This is the same ideological group that abhors the death penalty, and certainly would protest any death penalty sentence against any drug traffickers caught. Their justice is given through a rifle scope without as much due process as it takes to sight them in and pull the trigger. Luckily for the EU, Iran really did not intend to shoot drug traffickers.
Since we now know where one of Iran's weapons suppliers are, perhaps it should be flattened to send a message. Maybe not. You bomb Austria with lawyers instead.
Update: 14 February 2007
Surprise. Austria refuses to take responsibility for where these rifles ended up and even questions whether the US can tell an authentic rifle from a copy:
Austria yesterday washed its hands of any responsibility after it was revealed that powerful sniper rifles it sold to Iran had been acquired by insurgents in Iraq.
The Daily Telegraph revealed yesterday that American troops had recovered more than 100 Steyr HS50 Mannlicher rifles, part of a consignment of 800 sold to Iran by Austria last year, during a series of raids in Iraq.
Astrid Harz, a spokesman for the Austrian foreign ministry, said yesterday that the sale had been "checked very thoroughly" and what happened to the rifles after they were delivered to Teheran ostensibly for use by border police was not the responsibility of her government. It was the responsibility of the Iranians, she said.
Franz Holzschuh, Steyr's chief executive, said the company had not been contacted by anyone officially to verify the serial numbers on the rifles. He said it was possibile that the weapons were copies.
The Austrian government concluded in 2004 that the.50 rifles, capable of piercing all types of body armour, would be used to fight drug smugglers. But American and British officials had warned that the weapons could fall into the hands of insurgents. - Telegraph, UK
Personally, I am surprised that they bothered to comment at all. Of course they did not bother to explain how they determined that Iran was going to use these rifles to fight drug traffickers, nor did they explain how they thought it appropriate to shoot suspected drug traffickers with .50 caliber shells. I wonder how they figured out that the Iranians would be responsible at all in the matter.
This sale took place while the EU was negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. I have said it before, that the EU was in no position to negotiate with Iran due to the extensive financial dealing Member States have with Iran. This is a perfect example of that.