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You Get a T-72! And You Get a T-72!

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It turns out that the T-72s carried by the MV Faina (the Ukranian vessels that was seized and held by pirates for several months) weren’t destined for Kenya after all:

But one mystery lingered: the true destination of the Faina’s cargo. Kenya’s government said the weapons and munitions were for its military, but observers speculated that they were intended for the breakaway government of South Sudan.

With the aid of some satellite analysis, Jane’s Defence Weekly has the answer: The weapons were part of a series of weapons shipments bound for South Sudan. JDW Middle East/Africa editor Lauren Gelfand and Jane’s imagery analyst Allison Puccioni drew on extensive satellite imagery to track the movement of the T-72s from the port of Mombasa, Kenya; while Jane’s does not conclude definitively that the tanks from the Faina ended up in South Sudan, the analysis does show a pattern of tanks making their way north to Sudan. Jane’s also confirmed previous arms shipments from Ukraine.

Some brief thoughts:

  • I don’t know enough about the conflict in South Sudan to say what impact the delivery of the T-72s will have, but in general the purchase of major heavy weaponry by a sub-state actor can’t be regarded as a good thing for national stability. I also don’t fully grasp what it means that the Kenyans are willing to run interference for actors in South Sudan.
  • The ability of private civilians to use publicly available satellite images to track weapons shipments is one of the things which makes me doubt the “Saddam was about to escape his cage” arguments that are so common in pro-Iraq War circles. Such arguments typically run as such: Oil for Food corruption-perfidious Frenchmen-fully rearmed and hegemony threatening Saddam! The Underpants Gnomes would blush at the argument, but apparently it makes sense to neocons. Saddam would have needed to rebuild his hopelessly degraded conventional capability in order to threaten anyone, and even a decaying sanctions regime is likely to have remained robust where heavy conventional arms were concerned. Unless Saddam could someone sneak huge amounts of heavy, modern military equipment into the country without anyone noticing, rearmament seems pretty unlikely.
  • The fighter wing of Kenya’s air force apparently consists entirely of 25 F-5s. Now you know.
  • The Patterson School still needs a T-72.
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