An Unprecedented Flow of Weapons From Central and Eastern Europe Is Flooding the Middle East

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network has published a report of an year-long investigation into the arms trade of Central and Eastern European countries, and the flood of weapons into the Middle East and Syrian conflicts.

Examined export data, UN reports, flight records and weapons contracts reveal a steady flow of consistent weapons and ammunition supply to the Middle East states and Turkey used to fuel civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

Arms export licenses have been issued despite mounting evidence of weapons being diverted to groups accused of widespread human rights violations.

Weapons are delivered via cargo flights and ships, with Belgrade, Sofia and Bratislava emerging as the main hubs for airlifts. Detailed analysis pinpoints 68 flights that carried weapons to Middle Eastern conflicts in the past 13 months.

Arms bought by Saudis, Turks, Jordanians and the UAE are routed through a network of military operation facilities in Jordan and Turkey, which in turn coordinate their distribution to Syrian opposition groups.

“For operations of this type it would be difficult for me to imagine that there wasn’t some coordination between the intelligence services, but it may have been confined strictly to intelligence channels,” Robert Stephen Ford, US ambassador to Syria between 2011 and 2014, has been quoted as saying.

Official documents show shipments including heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, anti-tank weaponry, bullets, grenades, rockets and explosives.

The surge of demand for weapons following the Arab Spring has rehabilitated the Cold War arms industries of Balkan and Eastern Europe states, putting them in a profitable position due to their geographical proximity, arms control researchers have pointed out.

Martin Banov

Based in the Negev, Israel. Specializing in Continental Philosophy with keen interest in Political Theory, particularly as it regards the dynamics of the Middle East region.