U.S. puts sanctions on Israeli ex-general over South Sudan arms sales

Israel Ziv, a former head of operations for the Israeli army, is accused by the Treasury Department of selling weapons to both sides of the civil war in South Sudan, on which there is an arms embargo.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Israeli businessman and former IDF major general Israel Ziv. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli businessman and retired IDF general Israel Ziv. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The U.S. Treasury Department placed sanctions last week on Israeli businessman and retired IDF major-general Israel Ziv for his role in the civil war in South Sudan.

According to the Treasury Department, Ziv had used an agricultural company as a cover for the sale of approximately $150 million worth of weapons — including rifles, shoulder-fired missiles, and grenade launchers — to both government forces as well as opposition fighters.

“While Ziv maintained the loyalty of senior government of South Sudan officials through bribery and promises of security support, he has also reportedly planned to organize attacks by mercenaries on South Sudanese oil fields and infrastructure, in an effort to create a problem that only his company and affiliates could solve,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The U.S. has designated Global N.T.M. Ltd., Global Law Enforcement and Security Ltd., and Global IZ Group Ltd., all three entities in Israel that according to the Treasury are owned or controlled by Ziv, for sanctions. The U.S. also placed sanctions on former governor Gregory Vasili and businessman Obac William Olawo for helping fuel the violence.

Crowdfund banner 600px

Ziv, who served as commander of the IDF Paratroopers Reconnaissance Unit during the First Lebanon War, and eventually served as head of IDF Operations Directorate, has denied any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, A spokesman from the president’s office in Juba told the local Radio Tamazuj on Monday that South Sudan has “never bought weapons and ammunition from the retired Israeli general because he [was] working in the agricultural sector here.”

Under the sanctions, the government will seize all of Ziv’s assets in the United States and ban any U.S.-based financial transactions with him or companies under his control. The U.S. banned the export of weapons and defense services to South Sudan in February, while the U.N. Security Council narrowly passed an arms embargo against country in July. During the Obama years, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power tried but failed to pass an arms embargo.

Ziv’s shady dealings in South Sudan were first exposed by an investigative report published by Yael Marom, John Brown, and Nadav Frankovich on Local Call, a Hebrew-language site co-published by Just Vision and 972 – Advancement of Citizen Journalism, the latter of which also publishes +972 Magazine.

Illustrative photo of South Sudanese combatant. (Steve Evans/CC BY 2.0)
Illustrative photo of South Sudanese combatant. (Steve Evans/CC BY 2.0)

According to the Local Call report, Ziv had met with South Sudan’s agricultural and defense ministers, and Global N.T.M. Ltd. had inked a deal with the government. The investigation also included a number of testimonies that indicated Ziv’s company had been involved in security deals in South Sudan, as opposed to agricultural projects as he maintains.

In recent years, Global N.T.M. Ltd. has been providing security advice and military training to security forces in various countries around the world, including South Sudan, according to the Treasury Department. In the past, the company was involved in arms trade in Colombia, while reports alleged that Ziv had been instructing the Colombian army in guerrilla warfare methods.

South Sudan declared independence in 2011, although since 2013 the country has been torn by a civil war that has left nearly 400,000 dead and forced millions from their homes or to the brink of starvation. The sanctions were announced a day before the country marked five years since the start of the fighting. The two sides signed a new peace deal in September, although the fighting and human rights abuses continue.