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How Many Violations of US Arms Laws are Too Many?

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How Many Violations of US Arms Laws are Too Many?

It depends whether the miscreant enjoys "We will always have your back regardless"". status

Franklin Lamb

Beirut

On March 6, 2012, the US Congressional Research Service released a report to the US Congress concerning Restrictions on the use of American weapons by recipient countries. For those who have followed the subject there was not a whole lot new in the CRS study, yet it is instructive in identifying Israel once again as far and away the most egregious violator of virtually every provision of every US law which purports to regulate how American weapons are used.

According to one CRS researcher, requesting anonymity during a Skype conversation and subsequent memo:

 "An intern and I decided, almost for amusement, to count violations of US Arms Export Control laws by Israel between the date of ACEA enactment, 1976, through  last month and we estimated more than 2.5 million violations if we applied the law given the legislative history and intent of Congress at the time of its passage.  We based that figure on our estimation of each individual violation of the act as well as of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act.  It could be firing a US 155 mm artillery shell, various missiles, bombs, rockets and of course cluster munitions. For example, were Israel brought before a Court, the prosecutors would surely argue that each cluster booklet dropped on Lebanon in 2006 was a separate violation plus the two million estimated dropped during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and during the 1978, 1993 and 1996 invasions.  Add to this figure Israel's records of violating US Arms export laws in Gaza, the West Bank and Syria and the true number is surely several million violations.  Essentially all committed with impunity."

In accordance with U.S. law, the U.S. Government is mandated to enforce strict conditions on the use against civilians, of weapons it transfers to foreign recipients. Violations of these conditions can lead to the suspension of deliveries or termination of contracts for such defense items, and even the cutting off of all aid to the violating country.

Section 3(a) of the 1976 US Arms Export Control Act (AECA) sets the standards for countries to be eligible to receive American arms and it also sets express conditions on the uses to which these arms may be put. Section 4 of the AECA states that U.S. weapons shall be sold to friendly countries "solely" for use in "legitimate self-defense, for use in "internal security,"  and to enable the recipient country to participate in "collective measures requested by the United  Nations for the purpose of maintaining or restoring international peace and security."

Should the President or Congress determine pursuant to section 3(c)(3)(A) of the Arms Export Control Act that a "substantial violation" by a foreign country of an applicable agreement governing an arms sale or grant has occurred, then that country is automatically ineligible for further U.S. military hardware. This action would also terminate provision of credits, loan guarantees, cash sales, and deliveries pursuant to previous sales or grants. Other options include suspension of deliveries of defense items already ordered and refusal to allow new arms orders.

The United States has only once used such an option against Israel.

Questions raised by researchers in Beirut during the summer of 1982 and by Washington Post journalist Jonathan Randal regarding the use of U.S.-supplied military equipment by Israel in Lebanon in June and July 1982, led the Reagan Administration to determine on July 15, 1982, that Israel "may" have violated its July 23, 1952, Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the United States (TIAS 2675) and the AECA.

The pertinent language of the 1952 agreement between Israel and the United States states: "The Government of Israel assures the United States Government that such equipment, materials, or services as may be acquired from the United States " are required for and will be used solely to maintain its internal security, its legitimate self-defense, or to permit it to participate in the defense of the area of which it is a part, or in United Nations collective security arrangements and measures, and that it will not undertake any act of aggression against any other state."

Alarm centered on whether or not Israel had used U.S.-supplied antipersonnel cluster bombs against civilian targets during its carpet bombing West Beirut during the nearly three month siege.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held hearings on this issue in July and August 1982. On July 19, 1982, the Reagan Administration announced that it would prohibit new exports of cluster bombs to Israel. This prohibition was lifted by the Reagan Administration in November 1988 under US Israel lobby pressure on the White House designed to assist the Presidential campaign of George H. W. Bush against Senator Walter Mondale.

The facts of this case which mainly centered on events in Lebanon are instructive.  During the 1973 Ramadan war, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, watching Arab forces advance on Israel troops following the October 6 Egyptian and Syrian offensive, and being advised by the Israeli Defense Ministry of a pending disaster, threatened President Nixon with Israel using nuclear weapons unless the US rescued Israel. Nixon's immediate response was to order a massive air lift to Israel of US arms stockpiled for use in Vietnam at Clark air force base near Subic Bay, Philippines. The base commander at Clark immediately resigned because being on the defensive in Vietnam, he advised Washington US troops needed those weapons.  Included were eight types of US cluster bombs including the M-42, M-46,CBU-58 A/B, APAM (BLU) 77/B, MK 20 "Rockeye", MK 118 and he M-43 "Birdie" as the U.S. Marines in Beirut referred to the M-43 it in late 1982 and 1983.

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