UN Monitors Struggling to Link Somali Arms to Iran

Amid Vagaries of Libya Looting, Where Are the Guns Coming From?

UN sanctions monitoring teams are constantly trying to track where the weaponry of Somali rebel faction al-Shabaab comes from. They are reporting “concerns” about Yemen and Iran, but the ability to actually pin the weaponry on anyone is another matter entirely.

Yemen, the nation with the most trade ties to Somalia, should be the easiest case. With a large Somali refugee population and weapons a-plenty, figuring out even where those arms are coming from is a struggle for the monitors.

The issue of weapons from Iran and North Korea is infinitely more difficult, with officials saying they came by way of Libya, which is awash in looted weapons after the NATO-imposed regime change.

Not only can monitors not prove either government sent weapons to Somalia, and neither seems to have any ideological reason to back the Sunni al-Shabaab faction, but they concede that they can’t even tell how long ago the arms were sent to Libya, making it possible they predate many rounds of sanctions.

The UN Security Council has an embargo on sending weapons to Somalia since 1992. Somehow absent in the probe is that the United States has openly sent around 40 tons of small arms to the self-proclaimed Somali government, and that many of them simply went missing upon arrival to wind up on the black market.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.