John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Iran Now a Source for Ammunition in Africa

by John Campbell
February 1, 2013

M23: A M23 rebel guards weapons returned by the government's army in Goma city November 21, 2012. (James Akena/Courtesy Reuters)


C.J. Chivers has published a must-read article in the January 13 New York Times that shows that Iran has become an important supplier of small caliber ammunition to Africa. It is based on The Distribution of Iranian Ammunition in Africa, a report by Conflict Armament Research (CAR, a private British firm that tracks arms movements).

CAR also shows that it is African governments that are the “main vectors” in the movement of Iranian ammunition to the illicit market. Some governments deliberately supply the ammunition to civilians and insurgent forces. Some of the ammunition is stolen from government armories. And official corruption, as always, also plays a role.

The CAR report concludes that Iran’s African weapons and ammunition “footprint” in Africa is still minor compared to China’s, but it is new, and developing.  It also notes that even if Iran had not entered the market, there is plenty of ammunition available on the world market to keep conflicts well supplied. Ammunition trade and sales are highly profitable. That appears to be the primary Iranian motivation.



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