Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bout Wins Out

Victor Bout, the notorious Russian arms trader, was picked up last year in Thailand on charges of brokering a deal to supply the Colombian FARC terrorists with arms to kill Americans. The US wanted him extradited to New York since he was indicted there, but it looks like the Thais were in a tight spot and chose a safer path:
Viktor Bout, the former Soviet intelligence officer suspected of arms trafficking on four continents, has won the first stage of his battle to avoid extradition from Thailand to the US on charges of offering to supply weapons to Colombian rebels.
The story suggests the unusual decision might have been influenced by the cheap oil Russia has been selling the Thais along with a fighter jet deal, so who knows. Some liberals appear disappointed, which means they figured if he ever got here he'd spill his guts about the secret sins of Republican past.

Bout has been accused of working with just about everyone but like many crooks claims to have drawn the line on working with al Qaeda. The Clinton crowd never got interested in him until the very last year of term two. This from 2002:
Two U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN there is also circumstantial evidence that Bout has shipped weapons technology into Iraq. U.S. intelligence believes he may have supplied Baghdad with a sophisticated missile guidance set. U.S. military officials urgently want Bout in custody to ask him about any possible link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
And there's this about Bout's business partner Richard Chichakli, a Syrian by birth and former member of the US Army after naturalization:
Meanwhile, Sharjah and its airport will become a hub for al-Qaeda and the 9/11 plot. By 1996, there are daily flights between Afghanistan and Sharjah, and al-Qaeda uses Sharjah for drug and arms smuggling (see Mid-1996-October 2001). 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will live in Sharjah in 1998 (see July 8, 1999), and 9/11 plot facilitator Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi will be based in Sharjah in the months before the 9/11 attacks. Some of the 9/11 hijackers will pass through there and visit him (see Early-Late June, 2001).
And lastly, from a Clinton-era NSC official:
National Security Council official Gayle Smith will later comment, “You want to talk about transnational threats? We had [al-Qaeda’s bombing in] East Africa, global warming, and Victor Bout.”
What about Bush? He signed a writ in 2004 prohibiting the US government from doing business with his air freight company but later he was accused of ferrying equipment to Iraq after the invasion. Like the Clinton crowd, the Justice Dept didn't seem to show any great interest in bringing him down until the last year of Bush's second term.

It's hard to get a grasp of how much this guy might spill if he came back and was free to talk. He could certainly take people on a worldwide tour of buried bodies. One has to wonder if he would simply smear the Bushiburton Texas empire or, as Wretchard asked in this piece about Bout and another international arms dealer arrested in 2008 named Monzer al-Kassar, would the ties run a shade of blue as well:
The DEA and DOJ description of charges against Monzer make interesting reading. And so does the DOJ sheet against Bout. Here's my guess. The US wants both Monzer and Bout down for offenses not limited to the FARC manpad missile sale. But making the FARC missile sale the actual offense of record means that the discovery will go to places nobody minds visiting, except certain politicians who are now frantically checking so see whether they are in any shape, way or form connected with FARC, Syria and Lebanon.
Tangled webs and such. Remember McCain was in Colombia before the election when those hostages were rescued from a FARC camp and so far Obama's Latin American policy has come off less friendly to places like Colombia and Honduras than it has to Cuba and Venezuela, so make of it what you will. It's almost as if the Bush/GOP folks thought that news about FARC and Bout might make a dent before the election...for some reason.

Investigator Douglas Farah has done a lot of research on this guy and seems to think the desire to get him is bipartisan though, at least at the lower levels, noting the contingent of US politicos who now want to punish Thailand for siding with the Rooskies. Gee, for such a no-name player he certainly seems awfully powerful and important.

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