Italians Bust Iraqi Arms Deal Involving 100,000 Russian AK-47's

Italian authorities broke up a major international arms ring that was smuggling over 100,000 Russian-made rifles into Iraq. It is also not clear if the central Iraqi government knew of the transactions. The American authorities deny knowlege of the transaction.
The AP reported:

In a hidden corner of Rome’s busy Fiumicino Airport, police dug quietly through a traveler’s checked baggage, looking for smuggled drugs. What they found instead was a catalog of weapons, a clue to something bigger.

Their discovery led anti-Mafia investigators down a monthslong trail of telephone and e-mail intercepts, into the midst of a huge black-market transaction, as Iraqi and Italian partners haggled over shipping more than 100,000 Russian-made automatic weapons into the bloodbath of Iraq.

As the secretive, $40 million deal neared completion, Italian authorities moved in, making arrests and breaking it up. But key questions remain unanswered.

For one thing, The Associated Press has learned that Iraqi government officials were involved in the deal, apparently without the knowledge of the U.S. Baghdad command a departure from the usual pattern of U.S.-overseen arms purchases.

Why these officials resorted to “black” channels and where the weapons were headed is unclear.

Why these officials resorted to “black” channels and where the weapons were headed is unclear.

The purchase would merely have been the most spectacular example of how Iraq has become a magnet for arms traffickers and a place of vanishing weapons stockpiles and uncontrolled gun markets… It will be interesting to see which Iraqi figures knew about this massive arms transaction.

Iraqi middlemen in the Italian deal, in intercepted e-mails, claimed the arrangement had official American approval. A U.S. spokesman in Baghdad denied that.

“Iraqi officials did not make MNSTC-I aware that they were making purchases,” Lt. Col. Daniel Williams of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I), which oversees arming and training of the Iraqi police and army, told the AP.

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