Russia’s state arms dealer Rosoboronexport provides the Assad regime mortar shells and explosives, infantry vehicles, ammunition, sniper rifles, assault rifles, weapons maintenance, and other arms to carry out indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and other atrocities.
Maritime Shipments: A large number of cargo vessels have docked in Syria. Given evasive tactics and lack of disclosure, the exact quantity of arms shipments by sea is unclear. However, these are three shipments that attracted international condemnation.
- Chariot: In January 2012, the Russian-operated ship delivered nearly 60 tons of ammunition and explosives from St. Petersburg to the Syrian port of Tartous.
- Professor Katsman: In May 2012, Carried a cargo designated as spare parts and rotor blades, as well as other undisclosed cargo, from St. Petersburg to Russia in May 2012. The Syrian regime could use these parts to keep attack helicopters functional.
- Alaed: Attempted to carry repaired attack helicopters from Kaliningrad to Tartous in June 2012, before its U.K. based insurer retracted its insurance coverage.
Aerial Provisions: Russia has also attempted to transport military equipment to Syria through aerial corridor including:
- Communication Equipment: In October 2012, Russia reportedly attempted to ship communication equipment and ammunition to the Syrian Defense Ministry.
- Attack Helicopters: In November and December 2012, Russia attempted to ship repaired Mi-25 attack helicopters from the 150 Aircraft Repair Plant in Kaliningrad to Syria.
Russian military advisers have reportedly operated inside Syria, providing expertise on using air defense missile systems.
Diesel Fuel & Gasoil
Except for a brief pause in 2012, Russia continues to supply Assad multibillion of dollars worth of diesel fuel. Diesel powers all of the regime’s tanks and its entire ground infantry fleet, and is necessary to transport regime fighters and military supplies. Tanks and infantry vehicles are instrumental in perpetrating widespread and systematic indiscriminate acts on civilian areas, as well as other crimes against humanity.
Maritime Shipments: The exact quantity and number of shipments are unclear. These instances likely reflect only some of the provisions of diesel from Russia to Syria.
Cape Benat: In April 2012, the Cape Benat carried refined oil from Russia to Mahrukat, Syria’s petroleum storage and distribution company.
Ottomana and Barbarica: In December 2012, these two shipments traveled to Syria carrying about 42,000 combined tons of gasoil.
Syrian bank accounts in Russia allow Syria to pay for imports and receive funds for exports, while Russia also is printing banknotes for Syria and reportedly is considering or has provided loans to Syria. This financial assistance allows the regime to continue procuring resources, pay soldiers, and evade Western sanctions.
Banking: Documents reviewed by the Wall Street Journal from 2012 discuss creating offshore bank accounts in Russia and Malaysia in Euro and Ruble denominated accounts to pay for imports and receive funds for export.
Currency: Flight manifests and public comments from officials show that between July and Sept. 2012, Goznak, a Russian firm that prints money from several countries, sent 240 tons of banknotes from Moscow to Damascus.
Funding: Russian officials have reportedly negotiated a comprehensive loan program with the Syrian regime in Feb 2012. Syrian officials considered asking Russia in November 2012 for a $2 billion loan.
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.