Robert Fisk: “I Traced Al-Qaeda Missile Casings In Syria Back To Their Original Sellers”

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Originally appeared at ZeroHedge

Finally, a journalist for a mainstream UK media outlet is methodically tracking weapons shipment serial numbers and English-language paperwork recovered from al-Qaeda groups in Syria, and he’s literally showing up at arms factories and questioning arms dealers, including officials at the Saudi Embassy in London, asking: why are your weapons in the hands of terrorists? 

Veteran Middle East war correspondent Robert Fisk recently published a bombshell report entitled, I traced missile casings in Syria back to their original sellers, so it’s time for the west to reveal who they sell arms to. In it Fisk recalls a bit of detective sleuthing he’s lately been engaged in after stumbling upon a batch of missile casings and shipment paperwork last year hidden in what he describes as “the basement of a bombed-out Islamist base in eastern Aleppo” with the words “Hughes Aircraft Co/Guided Missile Surface Attack” emblazoned on the side of the spent tubes.

Of course, the Syrian government recaptured the area from Islamist insurgents including al-Nusra terrorists and their allies in December 2016, and has made rapid gains throughout the country’s east and south since; and Fisk has been trekking around the country to see what he can find.

Robert Fisk: "I Traced Al-Qaeda Missile Casings In Syria Back To Their Original Sellers"

Image source: Washington Business Journal

His “detective story” as he calls it actually seems to solicit the help of the public, and begins as follows:

Readers, a small detective story. Note down this number: MFG BGM-71E-1B. And this number: STOCK NO 1410-01-300-0254. And this code: DAA A01 C-0292. I found all these numerals printed on the side of a spent missile casing lying in the basement of a bombed-out Islamist base in eastern Aleppo last year. At the top were the words “Hughes Aircraft Co”, founded in California back in the 1930s by the infamous Howard Hughes and sold in 1997 to Raytheon, the massive US defence contractor whose profits last year came to $23.35bn (£18bn). Shareholders include the Bank of America and Deutsche Bank. Raytheon’s Middle East offices can be found in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Egypt, Turkey and Kuwait.

There were dozens of other used-up identical missile casings in the same underground room in the ruins of eastern Aleppo, with sequential codings; in other words, these anti-armour missiles – known in the trade as Tows, “Tube-launched, optically tracked and wire-guided missiles”

Robert Fisk: "I Traced Al-Qaeda Missile Casings In Syria Back To Their Original Sellers"

A prior spent missile tube in Syria with “Hughes Aircraft Company” listed as manufacturer which surfaced in 2014 (not part of the same batch of weapons analyzed in Fisk’s report). Notice the attempt to scratch off the serial numbers. Via Armament Research Services

The past year especially has seen an uptick in such systematic attempts to trace foreign-supplied weapons on the Syrian battlefield, most of them recovered from internationally designated terrorists groups (even ISIS), back to their origination points. We’ve previously detailed a number of these reports, for example: Journalist Interrogated, Fired For Story Linking CIA And Syria Weapons Flights as well as Weapons Went From The CIA To ISIS In Less Than Two Months — the latter based on extensive arms tracking and field forensics research produced by Conflict Armament Research (CAR).

Robert Fisk, however, represents the rare instance of a prominent journalist on a lone mission to trace weapons serial numbers recovered from the foreign-backed Syrian insurgency back to their origins in the United States (worrisome for US intelligence and military leaders, as The Guardian has called him “one of the most famous journalists in the world” for his being unrelenting in his investigations).

Fisk continues by relating the moment he confronted a former Hughes Aircraft (now Raytheon) executive about finding their product in the hands of terrorists:

Some time ago, in the United States, I met an old Hughes Aircraft executive who laughed when I told him my story of finding his missiles in eastern Aleppo. When the company was sold, Hughes had been split up into eight components, he said. But assuredly, this batch of rockets had left from a US government base. Amateur sleuths may have already tracked down the first set of numbers above. The “01” in the stock number is a Nato coding for the US, and the BGM-71E is a Raytheon Systems Company product. There are videos of Islamist fighters using the BGM-71E-1B variety in Idlib province two years before I found the casings of other anti-tank missiles in neighbouring Aleppo. As for the code: DAA A01 C-0292, I am still trying to trace this number.

Fisk writes further that even if he doesn’t ultimately come up with the American base from which the missiles originated, as well as specific factory they were made, he knows one thing for sure, that both Hughes/Raytheon and the US government have erected a paper trail system designed to shield them from violating anti-terror laws.

Robert Fisk: "I Traced Al-Qaeda Missile Casings In Syria Back To Their Original Sellers"

Robert Fisk recently drew controversy after writing that he failed to find evidence of a government chemical weapons attack on Douma as the first journalist to enter the site and interview eyewitnesses.

He explains of this legal cover, “This missile will have been manufactured and sold by Hughes/Raytheon absolutely legally to a Nato, pro-Nato or “friendly” (i.e. pro-American) power (government, defence ministry, you name it), and there will exist for it an End User Certificate (EUC), a document of impeccable provenance which will be signed by the buyers – in this case by the chaps who purchased the Tow missiles in very large numbers – stating that they are the final recipients of the weapons.”

And yet there’s no actual way of knowing that the official “recipients” identified as the “end user” are in fact the end users, as Fisk’s investigation proves (for the fact that he found the missile batch in a former Nusra/ISIS/al-Qaeda stronghold).

How many of these advanced Raytheon-made weapons does al-Qaeda still have in its possession? Does anyone in Washington or London even care? 

He points out that “there is neither an obligation nor an investigative mechanism on the part of the arms manufacturers to ensure that their infinitely expensive products are not handed over by ‘the buyers’ to Isis, al-Nusra/al-Qaeda – which was clearly the case in Aleppo – or some other anti-Assad Islamist group in Syria branded by the US State Department itself as a ‘terrorist organisation'”. So much for US anti-terror material support laws huh?

Naturally, Fisk follows up with an appropriately sarcastic quip:

Of course, the weapons might have been sent (illegally under the terms of the unenforceable EUC) to a nice, cuddly, “moderate” militia like the now largely non-existent “Free Syrian Army”, many of whose weapons – generously donated by the west – have fallen into the hands of the “Bad Guys”; i.e. the folk who want to overthrow the Syrian regime (which would please the west) but who would like to set up an Islamist cult-dictatorship in its place (which would not please the west).

Indeed it confirms what former MI6 spy and British diplomat Alastair Crooke once stated  that the CIA knowingly established the basis of a “jihadi Wal-Mart” of sorts  to which ISIS had immediate and easy access. Crooke noted that the weapons program was set up with “plausible deniability” in mind, which would allow its American intelligence sponsors to be shielded from any potential future legal prosecution or public embarrassment.

Crooke noted in a 2015 BBC interview that, “The West does not actually hand the weapons to al-Qaida, let alone to ISIS…, but the system they’ve constructed leads precisely to that end.”

Fisk confirms this analysis when he concludesThus al-Nusra can be the recipients of missiles from our “friends” in the region – here, please forget the EUCs – or from those mythical “moderates” who in turn hand them over to Isis/al-Nusra, etc, for cash, favours, fear or fratricidal war and surrender.

And then he shreds both the weapons companies and Western governments that make it all happen, noting that though a certain weariness, banality and self-imposed ignorant laziness has generally set in when it comes to major media investigating these things, this continues to be a huge, scandalous story of epic dimensions that ought to demand exposing all involved.

Fisk rages:

Why don’t Nato track all these weapons as they leave Europe and America? Why don’t they expose the real end-users of these deadly shipments? The arms manufacturers I spoke to in the Balkans attested that Nato and the US are fully aware of the buyers of all their machine guns and mortars.

Why can’t the details of those glorious end user certificates be made public – as open and free for us to view as are the frightful weapons which the manufacturers are happy to boast in their catalogues.

Though dutifully ignored in the American mainstream press (and thus we feel it our duty to continue the coverage), Fisk is in the midst of a multi-part investigative series for his the Independent (UK) — recently tracking foreign supplied arms to the doorsteps of US-partnered suppliers in the Balkans, as well as the Saudi embassy in London, where he presented shipping and manufacturer’s paperwork proving that various medium weaponry went straight from European factories to terrorist group in Syria via the Saudis (including munitions factory workers’ eyewitness accounts of Saudi officials inspecting the facility).

Robert Fisk: "I Traced Al-Qaeda Missile Casings In Syria Back To Their Original Sellers"

The Independent has published over a dozen items of paperwork recovered from al-Nusra (Syrian al-Qaeda) positions in Aleppo.

Predictably, Saudi officials denied the evidence, saying the Kingdom did not give “practical or other support to any terrorist organisation [including Nusrah and Isis] in Syria or any other country” and described the allegations raised by The Independent as “vague and unfounded”.

Fisk responds in his latest column:

These papers were not “vague” – nor was the memory of the Bosnian arms controller who said they went with the mortars to Saudi Arabia and whose shipment papers I found in Syria. Indeed, Ifet Krnjic, the man whose signature I found in eastern Aleppo, has as much right to have his word respected as that of the Saudi authorities. So what did Saudi Arabia’s military personnel – who were surely shown the documents – make of them? What does “unfounded” mean? Were the Saudis claiming by the use of this word that the documents were forgeries?

And Fisk answers his own question in concluding, “I bet they’re not,” explaining, “For I don’t think either Nato or the EU has the slightest interest in chasing the provenance of weapons in the hands of Islamist fighters in Syria or anywhere else in the Middle East – certainly not in the case of Damascus, where the west has just given up its attempt to unseat Assad.”

* * *

We might also recall, lest it disappear down the collective public memory hole forever, that all the way back in 2013 when as all analysts agree the Obama White House came very close to launching an Iraq-style war of regime change against Damascus… guess who was a foremost media “expert” aggressively lobbying for regime change?

At that time Stephen Hadley, then a Raytheon director (since 2009) and former National Security Advisor to George W. Bush, made multiple appearances on FOX, CNN, MSNBC, and Bloomberg News during the height of the national debate over whether the US should go to war in Syria. In all of these appearances, as well as in an influential Washington Post op-ed piece, he argued for a U.S. missile strike on Damascus as a matter of national security.

In each case, Hadley was presented as an objective national security expert – it was only his role as former national security advisor that was revealed.

However, the meticulously researched Public Accountability Initiative media study of pro-war pundits that had undisclosed ties to the defense industry exposed him as not at all a “neutral expert” in this summary statement about Hadley’smultiple network TV appearances:

In each case, Hadley’s audience was not informed that he serves as a director of Raytheon, the weapons manufacturer that makes the Tomahawk cruise missiles that were widely cited as a weapon of choice in a potential strike against Syria. Hadley earns $128,500 in annual cash compensation from the company and chairs its public affairs committee. He also owns 11,477 shares of Raytheon stock, which traded at all-time highs during the Syria debate ($77.65 on August 23, making Hadley’s share’s worth $891,189). Despite this financial stake, Hadley was presented to his audience as an experienced, independent national security expert.

Sadly as the study confirmed across multiple networks, such an example as Hadley is still pretty much par for the course in terms of major “experts” who “independently” lobby for war on news talk panels.

Raytheon, the manufacturer of the BGM-71 TOW (Hughes was bought out by Raytheon in 1997), has been heavily invested in the course of the Syrian conflict from the beginning the TOW missile system being the weapon of choice the CIA handed out to “rebels” for years as part of operation ‘Timber Sycamore’, and its Tomahawk cruise missile being what was used when President Trump ordered a massive single-night strike on Damascus in April of 2017 (about 59 were launched at an estimated over $1 million a pop).

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  • Ronald

    A man of honor and dignity is brought to light. Robert Fisk, well done.

    • Lazy Gamer

      He is also the guy who challenged the msm narrative about chlorine gassing

  • so

    Go to an American engineering school and this is where you end up working. Raytheon, General dynamics and the list goes on and on. Its amazing that people will sell their soul for a job. Our best and brightest serving real terrorists who kill innocent men ,women and children. Sorry engineers there is no separation from the act that you serve.

    • FlorianGeyer

      Well said.

  • Concrete Mike

    Good job Robert, glad to see a reporter with some intergrity left. Watch your back though.

  • S Melanson

    Great article about a great investigative reporter.

  • Pave Way IV

    “Note down this number: MFG BGM-71E-1B”

    ‘MFG’ is not part of the model number line (BGM-71E-1B) on any label – it’s either fake or copied down wrong. MFG = Contracted Manufacturer on authorization, which (for a TOW) will still be Hughes. It doesn’t matter that Raytheon owns them now – the MFG is administrative, not technical. It relates to the authorizing contract, not the actual manufacturer or their current name.

    BGM-71E-1B is the model number/version/variant. Nothing special, here. BGM-71E is the TOW 2A model line, and the -1B is the variant produced (for TOW 2A): explosive-tipped probe HEAT variant designed to defeat Soviet reactive armor. Original TOWs produced since 1970, TOW-2A model has been produced since 1987. The -1B itself has RF and non-RF variants.

    “As for the code: DAA A01 C-0292, I am still trying to trace this number.”

    This should have been the government contract number under which the missile was procured. It’s not in the right format, nor is it a valid contract number that I can tell, so it was either altered (fake) or Fisk copied it wrong. It should be DA-AH01-##-C-0171. There are several kinds of contract ID’s related to military equipment – the one on a missile can only relates to the procurement/manufacturer contract.

    DA = DoD Army procurement contract

    AA01 = Should be part of the contract ID. It would be unique to either Hughes or the US Army’s Redstone Arsenal (= the ‘customer’) for TOWs, but the numbers/characters themselves have no special meaning. There is no Army contract that begins with DAA-A01, so again – either fake or copied wrong. All TOWs are manufactured under a contract that has AH01 in this position as shown on images of any TOW ID label I’ve seen.

    ## – (There should be a two-digit year in between the A01 and C-0292, missing on Fisk’s) Last two digits of the authorizing contract’s fiscal year. This is not the year of manufacture, but the year the contract was awarded or additional production re-authorized. It is an integral part of the contract ID. The only information it would have provided is that the weapon was manufactured on or after that re-authorization fiscal year, under that authority.

    C-0292 – Unique contract number for the DAAA01 (should be DAAH01) identifier part of the contract ID. The ‘C’ designates that the ID before it is a procurement contract, and this number distinguishes a particular contract at Hughes. The number that follows is meaningless by itself, but would have been the only C-0292 used by Hughes/Redstone. The numbers are sometimes used sequentially (with gaps), but not always. At best, you might be able to tell what year the contract was originally awarded. Hughes/Redstone has no contract of any type using C-0292 that I can tell, so fake/mis-copied or this contract number is otherwise unidentified in public. TOW-2As use C-0171.

    The export variants of the TOW-2A are essentially the same as the domestic versions, AFIK. The government contract ID in this case wouldn’t have identified whether this was exported or to whom. Since Saudi Arabia bought 11,000 RF-enabled TOW-2As in 2013, the Syrian missiles were either old Saudi TOW-2A wire-guided stock, or newer RF versions from this sale. An unnamed ‘international customer’ (some CIA front organization) bought another 8,000 or so in 2014. The U.S. Army could have sold the Saudis missiles from its own stock, or new ones right from the manufacturer.

    At best, Fisk may be able to track the shipment using crate numbers. But the ID numbers off the missile can he has only tell us the head-chopper TOWs model/variant and that they were manufactured by Hughes/Raytheon for the US Army. They don’t tell us how they got there, but we already know that: either shipped by the CIA or Saudi Arabia through Jordan and Turkey.

    • goingbrokes

      Great info, thanks. So, how does the Dept of Offence or some watchdog (or anybody) trace weapons trails backward?

      • Pave Way IV

        You’re not suppose to be able to do that – the government(s) involved prefer the public does not know. You have the most sophisticated intelligence agencies in the world working hard to obscure the trail through shell company transfers, fake paperwork and altered weapon markings. Watchdog organizations like Conflict Armament Research dig up a lot, but are western government-funded (bias?). The public seems largely indifferent to their findings, and the MSM ignores it.

        The rare time an investigative reporter is able to make any sense of it, they get censored (Hersh), get whacked, i.e. Serena Shim, or are fired. Dilyana Gaytandzhiev lost her job but managed to stay alive despite pissing off the CIA and exposing their arms trafficking ratline to Syria using diplomatic flights of Azerbijani’s Silk Ways Airlines:

        https://twitter.com/dgaytandzhieva/status/900731359769001984

  • Barba_Papa

    If only there were more journalists like him. Maybe there are, I know that former war reporter Arnold Karskens in the Netherlands is trying to debunk the refugee myths and that we’re dealing with illegal immigration and organized smuggling rings. But the MSM is doing its utmost to ignore anything that doesn’t fits its own narrative.

    It’s sad to see that most journalists have become so biased that they can no longer see that they have lost their objectivity. Or willing to go to the length of Fisk to actually find out what is true and what is fake news.

  • Gregory Casey

    I wish, I wish that publications like the NY Times, WaPo, Times of London, Telegraph, Le Monde, Le Figaro together with BBC, ITV, SKY, FOX, NBC, ABC, CNN, France 24 …….. all of the usual suspects could be forced to publish Robert Fisk’s work and finally allow the dumb public to see and understand what (I believe) all here know and that is that US & UK & France & Belgium & Germany & Czech Republic & Slovakia & Hungary ALL sold enormous quantities of WMD’s together with Missiles, Missile Launchers and uncountable amounts of Ammo to Terrorists in Syria, including to ISIS …… and all funnelled through Saudi Arabia and the EU Emirati who are still at their Wars of plunder, provocation, pestilence and terror in Yemen.

    • Sergey Tokarev

      I think those outlets you mention are fake news, so they shouldn’t be forced to publish real news. They should be replaced by real media with time.

    • so

      As for conflicts don’t stop at Syria. The list just keeps on growing.
      Who are the real Terrorists?

    • Garga

      I wish that too, but everyday passing it seems more distant and more unobtainable.
      Fisk published some of his works in The Independent. No wonder [less than a year ago] A Saudi national (Sultan Muhammad AbulJadayel, 43yo, had no other business in the UK) bought between %25 to %50 of the shares of The Independent Digital News and Media, resulting in the fall of Evgeny Lebedev’s (owner of ESI Media, the parent company to Independent) shares below %50. Who will decide what to publish now?

      The way these Saudi shareholders act is known as the “reverse profit”, where money goes from the shareholders into institution instead of profit from it going to investors.

      It’s very simple. Saudis’ hold on power comes from outside and foreigners’ support, not their own people. They need to manipulate the public opinion of their supporters’ people in order to prevent them pressuring their own governments to stop supporting Saudis, which spend huge amounts of money for buying, bribing and silencing all kinds of media in the west.

      • Gregory Casey

        I was aware of the Saudi “investment” in The Independent and have been wondering when outside (Saudi Wahhabi) influences over Editorial control & content will begin to bite ……… For as long as Robert Fisk and a few others remain with the Independent I am satisfied that there will remain Editorial Independence BUT if there are any signs of his departure (or that of M/s Cadwalladr) we can all assume that bin Salman has taken over control from whence it will act as a Saudi mouthpiece in the British and in the English-speaking media

      • Sinbad2

        It’s not just the Saudis, look at how the Jews have bought up all of the western media.
        The UK Guardian is owned by Rothschild, and they have turned a once respected newspaper into a scandal rag that is going broke.

    • Gregory Casey

      It’s good to see that the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea has finally come to a halt ……. seemingly from nowhere!! That leaves Sudan and Somalia in East Africa where Jihadi pretend Governments remain in power and are happy to send their Armed Forces to fight on the Arabian Peninsula in the craven destruction being wrought upon the Houthis (and other) Peoples of Yemen by Wahhabi Sunni Saudi Scum

    • frankly

      The best fix is to stop using the MSM.

  • SurfshackTito

    Robert Fisk cuz is the Last Western Journalist that actually knows what’s going on in the islamic world.
    He met Osama Bin Laden when the west considered him a good guy for awhile.
    He actually went to the countries that were in total chaos. While the rest are too scared to go or going there will only expose their credibility.

    • Sinbad2

      I think most journalists know what is going on, but they don’t report the truth, they are now script writers.

      When the war is over, Mr Fisk should receive a medal, the rest of his profession, a bullet.

    • goingbrokes

      Most journalists are actively discouraged from travelling to trouble spots. The various State Departments of different countries want stupid journalists more than anything else. One US talking head (senator I think) said: “The average age of a foreign correspondent is 27, and their experience of politics is having taken part in a campaign. They literally know nothing!”

  • frankly

    Robert Fisk is like Ray McGovern, he has worked on both sides of these issues. Like Ray he is first and foremost dedicated to doing his job in a professional manner. His questions at times seem naïve but probably that is just the rhetorical response required by his profession.

    Who was that plumber? in Texas whose truck wound up being used by ISIS with his logo on it. You would have struggled to arrange that shipment at all, but someone manage to get it there fast. It’s pretty obvious someone paid for all the weapons and someone profited. As they say follow the money, but don’t think you can vote this cabal out of power. They play for keeps.

  • alejoeisabel

    If anyone has doubts that the Al Qaeda terror attack on the Twin Towers was a false-flag operation by the US/Zionist Deep State, perhaps these Al Qaeda finger prints and smoking gun tell it all. To put it in perspective, we have spent $4.6 Trillion in a perpetual war in the Middle East, at the behest of Israel, that we lost. Now we are asked to go to war, again at the behest of Israel, with a much more formidable Iran?

  • Fisk is getting close to the truth, like Michael Hastings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LSY3wVuASg

  • Drogba

    This is what journalism should be about,informing the public about corruption in high places.Unfortunately most of the news networks are owned by the crooks in high places.This MAN,Robert Fisk should be celebrated for the great human being that he is,and treated as such.BRAVO.

  • St. Augustine

    Sprinkle in some truth and give people the impression that something is being done.

    Business will resume as normal. More and more weapons to psycho proxies. Continue the political back-and-forth puppetry.