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End-User Certificates

Education time, kids… For those of you that don’t know, international legal protocol surrounding the shipment of lethal weapons requires that the shipper have a certificate of “end use” in which the buyer declares that the weapons are for its use only, and will not be transshipped.

The end-user certificate in this example covered shipments of weapons from Austria in the 1980s to the Royal Jordanian Army. Actually, the Austrian weapons — ranging from mortars to advanced long-range artillery and ammunition — were transshipped through Jordan to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Why the deception? Iraq was at war with Iran, and that war was the subject of a U.N. embargo. So for a fee, reportedly at least 10 percent of the purchase price, Jordan’s King Hussein provided the end-user certificates. He also provided the route for the weapons to get to Saddam from Jordan’s Red Sea port and then overland by truck to Baghdad.

The Jordanian link and paperwork was critical to Saddam’s survival during the 1980s. The Iran-Iraq war would become the bloodiest conflict of the last half-century, with millions of casualties. Despite the embargo the sides received billions in weapons and ammunition mostly from the United States, European and South American countries, all of whom obtained “end-user certificates” to give them deniability.

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