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February 17, 2007

About Those Steyr-Mannlicher Sniper Rifles That Showed Up In Iraq! Smoking Gun From The Alps?

Topics: Iran

(Steyr-Mannlicher) The Steyr HS .50 can pierce light armor from a distance of up to 1.5 kilometers.

Via Debbie Hamilton, here's the latest information on the HS50 Steyr-Mannlicher .50 caliber sniper rifles, Austrian made, sold to Iran, and now being used in Iraq against American soldiers:

Officially the Austrian company's buyer was Iran's federal police force, specifically a special anti-drug unit. The Iranians claimed at the time that they needed the weapons for use in fighting the drug trade -- smugglers and dealers.

Concerned that these dangerous weapons could fall into the hands of insurgents and terrorists, the governments in London and Washington both tried to put a stop to the controversial sale, but were unsuccessful. Steyr-Mannlicher went through with the deal anyway.

The reaction came swiftly. In late 2005 the US government angrily imposed an embargo on the Austrian weapons manufacturer. Since then Steyr-Mannlicher, together with manufacturers from India and China, has been excluded from lucrative US government contracts.

The company remained stubborn. Wolfgang Fürlinger, the CEO of Steyr-Mannlicher at the time, made a public effort to downplay the dangers of the weapon, claiming that the HS .50 was less harmful than a pistol. He also insisted that the Iranian government had signed a so-called end-user certificate that ruled out the re-export of the guns.

Certificate or not, the Iranian weapons deal also triggered a heated political debate in Austria. The opposition party believed that the deal between Steyr and Tehran was everything but clean. Peter Pilz, a Green Party member of the Austrian parliament and his party's spokesman on security issues, even went so far as to call the deal "illegal." (Speigel Online)

More commentary here.

Posted by Richard at February 17, 2007 9:35 AM

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