STOCKHOLM — Businesses or governments in at least 26 countries have sold weapons to both sides in the Iran-Iraq War, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in its annual report Wednesday.
Policy-makers are losing control of the arms trade to businessmen, and many of the sales took place without the knowledge or support of the governments named, the institute said in its 1986 yearbook.
The report said that since the last Iran-Iraq War survey two years ago, 17 countries joined the list of those selling weapons to both sides, including Sweden, Britain, South Africa and the Netherlands. The United States and the Soviet Union were among those on the 1984 list.
The institute called the 6 1/2-year-old Persian Gulf War "one of the most significant wars of the century" and the bloodiest of the 36 conflicts of 1986, which involved a total of 5 million soldiers and 41 countries.
The institute, an independent group funded mostly by the Swedish Parliament, monitors worldwide developments in armaments and arms control. Its report also said:
--Nuclear testing in 1986 was at its lowest level in 25 years, with only 23 explosions recorded, but it is rising again now that the Soviet Union has ended its 19-month moratorium.
--New technology has made arms control verification so certain that this "cannot be an excuse for not pursuing or achieving accords."
--Real military spending fell in 40% of the 86 countries for which figures were available. U.S. allocations fell for the first time in 10 years, by 3.5%. The institute said the Soviet military budget was "impenetrable" and declined to publish estimates for Soviet or Chinese spending.
--China has emerged as a major arms exporter, controlling 4.3% of the Third World market.
Researcher Thomas Ohlson said at a news conference that the dramatic rise in the number of countries selling arms in the Persian Gulf could be traced in part to the disclosure of U.S. sales to Iran, which prompted other countries to relax their embargoes.
Profits are high, competition is fierce and commercial interests are winning conflicts with foreign policy considerations, Ohlson said. "The politicians are loosening their grip," he said.
The report said a shift toward black market deals could be seen in "the use of private arms dealers, obscure shipping lines, middlemen and false end-use certificates."
The institute listed the U.S. sale to Iran, a West German sale of submarine blueprints to South Africa and Sweden's sale of munitions to the Middle East as cases when profits proved more persuasive than policy.
The report said the worldwide level of arms exports remained stable in 1986. The United States was the largest exporter, accounting for 34%. The Soviet Union was second with 31% of all exports.