Arms diversion, hard evidence and the need for accountability
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing small arms and ammunition to the Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Both Gulf countries, producers of a limited amount of small arms, were and are important importers of such weapons. They made public declarations in May 2012 in which their intentions of providing small arm to the Syrian rebels were clear.
Since then, numerous reports have been published, confirming that transfers were being done. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, himself, declared on the radio that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing weapons to the insurgents. The risk of arms diversion from the Gulf countries to Syria is high, but one thing was missing until now, according to the Walloon government: hard evidence of such diversion.
Since a couple of days, journalists and arms researchers collaborated to provide more details on an ammunition box the BBC had found in a rebel base in the city of Aleppo. Their investigation shows that Saudi Arabia appears to have diverted Ukrainian ammunition to the Syrian rebels.
More material has been collected in Syria by journalists: Serial numbers of Belgian-made FAL rifles that appear not to come primarily from Syria itself. In order to know if this material could constitute more hard evidence of arms diversion, a tracing procedure has to happen, and the results of such a procedure have to be made public.
Here are more pictures of Belgian FAL rifles in Syria:
Sample 1: Right side serial number (no left side serial number)
Sample 2 (down, with sample 1, up)
Sample 2: right side serial number (no left side serial number)
Sample 3: right side serial number (no left side serial number)
Sample 4: left side serial number
Sample 4: right side serial number
The Walloon government (the authority issuing arms export licenses when it comes to the FN Herstal factory, and the sole shareholder of the company), which should by now be able to use this material in a tracing procedure, should also give more details on what elements have to be gathered by researchers in the field in order to guarantee an effective tracing procedure.