Iran has provided the Assad regime with large quantities of arms, including rifles, machine guns, ammunition, and mortar shells. The regime has used such weapons to perpetrate its atrocities, including by using mortars to shell residential areas.
These instances only represent documented instances of arms transfers. The full scope of the arms trade from Iran to Syria is widely believed to be much greater.
March 2011: In March 2011, Iran attempted to send a cargo plane, containing 19 crates of weapons, including assault rifles, machine guns, nearly 8000 rounds of ammunition, and over 1800 mortar shells, to Syria.
Early 2012: Iran started transporting weapons to Syria through Iraq, before Iraq briefly cracked down on the use of its territory to transport arms.
June 2012 – onward: Iran resumed sending arms and supplies to Syria through Iraq after a bombing in Damascus that killed high ranking members of the Assad regime.
October 2012: Iranian tankers began transmitting inaccurate shipping signals, allowing at least one undisclosed shipment, likely of arms, to reach Syria.
Activists have documented the presence of elite Iranian troops inside Syria. U.S. Defense Officials also believe that Iran has helped build and train a militia to assist Syria’s security forces.
Reports indicate that Iran is providing Syria with diesel, necessary to power infantry vehicles and tanks in Syria. In exchange, Iran is receiving Syria’s lighter crude oil, helping Iran offset a gasoline shortage. Iran may also be helping Syria export its own excess crude oil to other markets.
There are a number of documented recent oil transfers and swaps between the countries. Given the highly evasive methods employed by Iran, it is unlikely that these transfers are the only exchanges between the countries.
Hillari (formerly Alvan): October 2012
Alvan (subsequently Hillari): Two shipments in mid-2012
Amin: two shipments, in April and June 2012
MT Tour: March 2012
In May 2012, sources told CNN that the Syrian regime received Iranian cash through banks in Lebanon. Iran has reportedly spent as much as $10 billion to support the Syrian regime, including possibly by paying the salaries of Syrian troops.
President Obama has said that stopping mass atrocities is not just a “core moral responsibility” of the United States but also a “core national security interest,” and this manifestly applies to Syria.
The threats to regional security make the Syrian crisis a vital threat to U.S. national security interests. But U.S. efforts to slow or stop the crisis—diplomacy and sanctions, primarily—have had little effect. The United States can more effectively stem atrocities in Syria by systematically isolating, pressuring, and disrupting its enablers.
The international supply chain of enablers of Syrian atrocities passes through the legal jurisdiction of a number of countries. And the United States is well poised to disrupt it. To that end, the U.S. government should take a number of steps in a comprehensive effort involving different branches and departments:
Congress should pass legislation targeting the enablers of Syrian atrocities, which for instance could require federal contractors to certify that they’re not in business with Assad’s enabler and mandate the Treasury Secretary to prohibit enabling foreign financial institutions from doing business with American financial institutions.
The State Department should publicly and privately pressure enabling countries, share information with the foreign authorities who can aid in the interdiction of enablers, and direct embassies to collect information on enablers
The Commerce Department should amend the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to secure control over the delivery of internet and communications technology to repressive regimes like Syria.
The Department of Defense should void its existing contracts with the enablers of atrocities in Syria, should adopt a regulation to prohibit activities with state-owned enterprises, commercial entities, and individuals that enable mass atrocities.
The Treasury Department should impose sanctions that prevent U.S. entities from doing business with the Assad’s enablers and that limit his ability to repatriate funds from oil exports.
Stop the Atrocity Supply Chain is a project of Human Rights First.
About the Report
For two years, countries and commercial entities have successfully provided the Assad regime with the munitions, supplies, and money they need to sustain their brutal campaign. Human Rights First's report, The Enablers of the Syrian Conflict: How Targeting Third Parties Can Slow the Atrocities in Syria, marks the two-year anniversary of the conflict in Syria and provides the most comprehensive look at these "enablers" of Syrian atrocities. As the U.S. government and other countries consider options in response to the Syrian crisis, they should use this roadmap to stem the bloodshed there by choking the flow of arms, resources, and money flowing to President Bashar al-Assad.
Despite the facts that the Russian arms dealer Rosoboronexport is the primary supplier of weapons to the Assad regime and Congress has explicitly banned contracts with the company, the Pentagon is spending millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to purchase helicopters for Afghan forces. Our blueprint, How to Stop Doing Business with Russia's Arm Exporter, documents how U.S. taxpayer money has flowed to Rosoboronexport. It provides a roadmap for the Defense Department to end U.S. arms procurement from companies that enable atrocities.
About Human Rights First
Human Rights First is an independent advocacy and action organization that challenges America to live up to its ideals. We believe American leadership is essential in the struggle for human rights so we press the U.S. government and private companies to respect human rights and the rule of law. When they don't, we step in to demand reform, accountability, and justice. Around the world, we work where we can best harness American influence to secure core freedoms.