Turkey’s planned China arms deal ruffles feathers

(By Deutsche Welle) NATO member Turkey has agreed to enter negotiations with China over the delivery of a missile defense system, upsetting the United States and leading to a swift reaction from Washington.

The Turkish government’s preliminary decision to opt for a Chinese-made missile defense system over EU and US alternatives has angered Washington, with the State Department warning that Chinese technology cannot be integrated into NATO’s defense infrastructure.

Ankara has agreed to begin negotiations with Beijing over the delivery of 12 FD-2000 missile defense batteries, worth an estimated $3.4 billion (2.4 billion euros). Although the deal has not yet been signed, the Turkish Defense Ministry has openly said it prefers the Chinese offer, citing the cheap price and Beijing’s willingness to transfer the FD-2000’s technology to Ankara.

“We had asked for joint production and technology transfer,” Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz told the Vatan newspaper. “If other countries cannot guarantee us that, then we will turn to ones that can.”

But the Chinese company handling the deal has also been sanctioned by the United States as a result of its previous exports. The China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC) has allegedly transferred arms to Iran, North Korea and Syria.

“We have conveyed our serious concerns about the Turkish government’s contract discussions with the US-sanctioned company for a missile defense system that will not be inter-operable with NATO systems or collective defense capabilities,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a daily briefing for reporters.

According to Turkish foreign policy expert Sinan Ülgen, Ankara is not seeking to send any sort of political message to its NATO allies by opting for a system produced by a US-blacklisted company. Instead, Beijing’s offer was simply better than those made by the US companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin as well as the Franco-Italian firm Eurosam.

“This [Chinese] company happened to fulfill the criteria Turkey had set for itself in terms of price, in terms of performance and in terms of technology transfer,” Ülgen , with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told DW.

“And Turkey’s own national objectives were more important than the fact that this company happened to sanctioned by the US,” Ülgen said.

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UN treaty sparks backlash over US gun rights

(By Deutsche Welle) US Secretary of State John Kerry has signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. But the treaty will face fierce opposition in the Senate, where concerns over Americans’ gun rights predominate.

With the stroke of a pen, the world’s largest arms exporter signed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the United Nations this week amid widespread international praise. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States accounts for approximately 30 percent of the world’s arms deliveries, making its participation critical to the agreement’s success.

“Today’s signing of the Arms Trade Treaty by the United States is a significant victory for human rights and development,” Oxfam America President Raymond Offenheiser said on Wednesday.

“The US is the world’s foremost arms exporter, and US signature is a powerful step demonstrating the United States’ commitment to preventing mass atrocities and protecting civilians from armed conflict,” Offenheiser added.

But Secretary of State Kerry’s signature is not the final say on whether or not Washington will actually join the agreement. The US Senate still has to ratify the ATT. Senators from both parties have voiced concern that the treaty could infringe on Americans’ second amendment right to bear arms. Many have vowed to vote against the agreement.

“This treaty is already dead in the water in the Senate, and they know it,” said Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee. “The administration is wasting precious time trying to sign away our laws to the global community and unelected UN bureaucrats.”

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Libya struggles to maintain order in the face of post-Gadhafi chaos

(Deutsche Welle) Although Libya’s revolutionaries managed to destroy the Gadhafi regime with the help of NATO, the country’s interim leaders are sitting on a political powder keg as they struggle to establish law and order amid chaos.

The tasks facing Libya’s Western-backed interim government in trying to restore political and social order are big enough as it is. Now, there’s an additional challenge in the form of massive unsecured weapons stockpiles which threaten to destabilize the broader region. Revolutionary military councils have been engaging in skirmishes as retribution killings against alleged Gadhafi loyalists jeopardize the reconciliation process.

In western Libya outside the capital, Tripoli, fighters from the coastal city of Zawiya have clashed with armed tribesmen from Warshefana. The skirmishes killed at least 13 people during four days of fighting that saw heavy gunfire and the use of rocket propelled grenades, according to reports by the Associated Press. The cause of the clashes remains unclear.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has gathered mounting evidence of human rights abuses committed by forces associated with the National Transitional Council (NTC). Militias from the northwestern coastal city of Misrata – which suffered a brutal months-long siege at the hands of Gadhafi – have arbitrarily killed and detained residents and burnt homes in the now abandoned town of Tawergha, according to HRW. Many Tawergha residents fought for Gadhafi during Libya’s civil war.

And in Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, where the Libyan dictator was captured and killed, HRW reported finding the bodies of 53 regime loyalists who had apparently been summarily executed at the hands of revolutionary forces allied with the NTC. Attacks have also reportedly occurred against black-skinned Africans accused of having fought for Gadhafi as mercenaries.

“For all the talk about the need for reconciliation, for all the talk about the need of doing the right thing, doing the right is much harder,” Sarah Leah Whitson, who heads HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, told Deutsche Welle

“To the extent that there are these kinds of revenge attacks and this sort of division in the country of punishment for people who were loyal to Gadhafi, it will be very hard to transition in the direction the country needs to transition, which is accountability for past crimes but also reconciliation,” Whitson said.

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Infamous arms dealer goes on trial

(By Deutsche Welle) The trial of the world’s most infamous arms dealer, Viktor Bout, has got underway in New York. Yet around the globe, most dealers operate with impunity because they supply the demand for a hot commodity.

The consequences of Viktor Bout’s business stretch from Afghanistan to Colombia. For nearly two decades, Bout allegedly peddled arms to some of the world’s poorest countries so they could fight its most devastating wars.

Yet he also reportedly transported UN peacekeepers to Somalia, flew cargo to Iraq for the US government, and delivered flowers from South Africa to Dubai.

Many arms dealers today have no identifiable ideology. They have no enduring allegiances. And they believe in no greater political cause. They represent a nihilism that seeks consolation by making money through any means available – legal and illegal, moral and immoral.

Bout was arrested in Thailand after trying to sell weapons to US undercover agents posing as members of the Colombian rebel group FARC. He was eventually extradited to the US, however, Russian authorities are outraged that Bout – a Russian national – is now set to face trial in an American court.

Although Bout may face justice, the trade he practiced operates with the tacit sanction of nations around the world. Arms dealers are rarely held accountable, because they provide an essential service for a lucrative undertaking: war.

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Indictments of European gun dealers expose business of war

(By Deutsche Welle) A legal drama involving three European gun dealers offers a rare look into the small arms trade. The case exposes a murky global supply chain that seeks to fill Defense Department demand for guns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The growing legal case against three European gun dealers accused of trafficking weapons parts into the United States has shed unique light on the morally and legally ambiguous international trade in small arms.

German national Karl Kleber and British nationals Gary Hyde and Paul Restorick have been indicted for selling 5,760 AK-47 drum magazines to an arms dealer in Chili, New York. The 75-round drum magazines are of Chinese origin, making them illegal under America’s 20-year-old arms embargo against Beijing.

Kleber has since pleaded guilty to the smuggling charges and agreed to cooperate with law enforcement. According to his plea agreement, Kleber will share his knowledge of the illegal small arms trade as well as any information “related to terrorism, genocide or war crimes activity.”

Although the illegal drum magazines landed in the inventory of a licensed arms importer in New York, they were originally destined to fulfill a subcontract indirectly tied to the Defense Department. The case reveals a murky global supply chain that seeks to supply the demand for small arms in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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