Inside the Ring
By Bill Gertz
New intelligence reveals China is covertly supplying large quantities of small arms and weapons to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, through Iran.
U.S. government appeals to China to check some of the arms shipments in advance were met with stonewalling by Beijing, which insisted it knew nothing about the shipments and asked for additional intelligence on the transfers. The ploy has been used in the past by China to hide its arms-proliferation activities from the United States, according to U.S. officials with access to the intelligence reports.
AK-47 Assault Rifle here for illustration only.
Some arms were sent by aircraft directly from Chinese factories to Afghanistan and included large-caliber sniper rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and components for roadside bombs, as well as other small arms.
The Washington Times reported June 5 that Chinese-made HN-5 anti-aircraft missiles were being used by the Taliban.
According to the officials, the Iranians, in buying the arms, asked Chinese state-run suppliers to expedite the transfers and to remove serial numbers to prevent tracing their origin. China, for its part, offered to transport the weapons in order to prevent the weapons from being interdicted.The weapons were described as “late-model” arms that have not been seen in the field before and were not left over from Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq.
U.S. Army specialists suspect the weapons were transferred within the past three months.
The Bush administration has been trying to hide or downplay the intelligence reports to protect its pro-business policies toward China, and to continue to claim that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism. U.S. officials have openly criticized Iran for the arms transfers but so far there has been no mention that China is a main supplier.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday that the flow of Iranian arms to Afghanistan is “fairly substantial” and that it is likely taking place with the help of the Iranian government.
Defense officials are upset that Chinese weapons are being used to kill Americans. “Americans are being killed by Chinese-supplied weapons, with the full knowledge and understanding of Beijing where these weapons are going,” one official said.
The arms shipments show that the idea that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism is “utter nonsense,” the official said.
John Tkacik, a former State Department official now with the Heritage Foundation, said the Chinese arms influx “continues 10 years of willful blindness in both Republican and Democrat administrations to China’s contribution to severe instability in the Middle East and South Asia.”
Mr. Tkacik said the administration should be candid with the American people about China’s arms shipments, including Beijing’s provision of man-portable air-defense missiles through Iran and Syria to warring factions in Lebanon and Gaza."