Russian weapons, organized crime, and the Iraqi government.10:50 AM, Aug 21, 2007 • By RUEBEN F. JOHNSON
Bulgarian-produced weapons of Russian design, like this one
manufactured at the Arsenal plant, made up most of the deal.
THE HIDDEN WORLD OF arms trafficking was in the spotlight last weekend with an Associated Press http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,293028,00.html target=_blank>report uncovering a $40 million weapons deal that would have sent more than 100,000 automatic weapons of Russian design to Iraq. But, before the contract could be completed and shipments put into motion, the Italian and Middle Eastern middlemen in the deal were swept up by Operation Parabellum, an on-going investigation that was begun two years ago by Dario Razzi, an anti-Mafia prosecutor.
This operation targeted against organized crime first began in 2005 when investigators inquired into drug trafficking by Mafia kingpins. The scope of their activity soon widened as the team under Razzi began tracking mafia-linked arms deals first with Libya, and then with Iraq.
The AP obtained Italian court documents showing that the proverbial smoking gun (no pun intended) was unearthed early last year when police in Rome, in the course of a drug trafficking investigation, covertly opened the luggage of a suspect they'd been monitoring after he had checked in for a flight to Libya. They were expecting to find a load of narcotics. Instead, the suitcase contained helmets, body armor, and a weapons catalog.
The purchase of Russian-designed weaponry for Iraqi security forces is not unusual. Russian and other Soviet bloc/Warsaw Pact arms was what the Iraqi forces already had in stock, and it is the type of equipment that the troops now fighting alongside U.S. forces are most familiar with.
Concern about past problems with having the U.S. military make the buys may be one of the reasons that there were Iraqi government officials controlling the purchase. Those same officials also did not inform the U.S. government that the procurement had been initiated, nor did they provide any details of which entities they were dealing with as intermediaries in the deal. Both of these actions are not the norm for these transactions, which have usually been closely controlled by the U.S. military.
In the past, problems with the procurement and subsequent inventory control of Russian-design equipment has cast doubt on the ability of the U.S. military to properly manage these acquisitions. Iraqi security forces have had to wait months longer than promised to receive rather basic equipment, such as armored vehicles. Some of the equipment that they had received was so substandard when compared with U.S. kit that Iraqi officers had quietly taken to telling Coalition and foreign liaison intelligence officers that the rank-and-file Iraqi troops felt at best like "second class citizens."
Whether or not the arms were actually intended for the Iraqi Security Forces is still unclear, but it is almost certain that officials in Baghdad involved in the deal will use the spotty past performance by the U.S. military on such contracts as justification for their decision to go and freelance this latest purchase on their own.
The mystery deepens with the revelation that intercepted emails and other communications that had been monitored by the Italians state that the Iraqi officials involved claimed the contract for these weapons had official American approval, an assertion that was denied by a U.S. spokesman in Baghdad.
"Iraqi officials did not make MNSTC-I aware that they were making purchases," said Lt. Col. Daniel Williams. MNSTC-I is the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq - the organization that oversees the arming and training of the Iraqi Army and National Police.
The details of the chain of companies involved are--as they say in Washington--malodorous, and suggest that the Iraqis were misleading the Italian middlemen in stating that the entire affair had been blessed by U.S. authorities.
The first of these is that the intercepts of communications and other information led the investigators to a group of Italian businessmen who were unrelated to any of the narcotics probes. However, these same businessmen were utilizing front companies that had been set up in both Malta and Cyprus. These two nations have relatively loose controls on arms trading, and both are notorious for hosting shell corporations and other corporate entities that act as the legal pass-throughs for trafficking in arms.
Dec 19, 2005, Vol. 11, No. 14 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Crime and Punishment, Iraqi-style
Never let it be said that The Scrapbook has no kind words for the New York Times. Even before the United States invaded Iraq, the paper's veteran foreign correspondent John F. Burns was on the ground in Baghdad, filing articles that dripped with telling details, sharp insight, and--most important--moral sanity.
Why conservatives are the most eager to dump Trent Lott as Senate majority leader.2:45 PM, Dec 18, 2002 • By NOEMIE EMERY
ANY DAY NOW, the Democrats may come to regret deeply the moment the Trent Lott disturbance caught media fire. It is now a great mess for the Republican party, but one that has the potential to turn into a great opportunity, and one the party should eagerly seize. It is a chance for the GOP to clean up its act and its household, haul tons of old rubbish out of the attic, and banish some shopworn old ghosts.
And Social Security reform is a major part of it.Dec 23, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 15 • By FRED BARNES
THINK PRESIDENT BUSH has put off reforming Social Security until 2005? Not necessarily. Republican congressman Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who's eager to enact reform legislation next year, raised the issue with Bush at a White House Christmas party. He was very encouraged by Bush's response.
Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Tom Daschle, and their fellow Democrats try to explain why their party floundered in the 2002 elections.11:00 PM, Dec 8, 2002 • By FRED BARNES
WHEN FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON addressed the Democratic Leadership Council the other day, he declared it "unconscionable" what Republicans had done in attacking now ex-Senate majority leader Tom Daschle. And, yes, Clinton was serious. He was repeating what has become a Democratic talking point. But like other staples of the party's rhetoric, the tale of abuse of Daschle is a myth.
It's one of six myths I've spotted--there are probably more I've missed--that Democrats have been repeating since their election losses a month ago.
America has gotten over Florida, but he hasn't. Dec 16, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 14 • By NOEMIE EMERY
HAVING A FAMILY that rears you for greatness can be a mixed blessing at best. Now and then a George W. Bush or a John Kennedy will exceed expectations, but often the outcome is grim. John Adams and his wife Abigail desperately wanted their three sons to be famous lawyers--and president. One of them made it (John Quincy Adams) but the other two broke under the strain and became alcoholic, one dying young and estranged from his family. John Quincy Adams then wanted his three sons to become famous lawyers, and president.
Democrats are complaining about pork in the Homeland Security bill. But they're really just shilling for their trial lawyer pals.11:00 PM, Dec 3, 2002 • By KATHERINE MANGU-WARD
pork (n) 2. Government funds, appointments, or benefits dispensed or legislated by politicians to gain favor with their constituents.
-American Heritage dictionary
DEMOCRATS are up in arms about the "pork" in the Homeland Security bill that President Bush signed last week. But what they are most upset about isn't really pork at all. The amendments they are complaining about don't dispense cash or paid positions. Instead, they protect vaccine makers, airport screeners, and others from potential lawsuits.
From the December 9, 2002 issue: The last election of 2002, Terrell vs. Landrieu, may also be the meanest.Dec 9, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 13 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
When they faced off in a televised debate here last week, Suzanne Haik Terrell accused Senator Mary Landrieu of abandoning her Catholic faith because of her votes in favor of abortion. The comment--one of the strongest in-person attacks in recent memory--was virtually ignored by the media.
Perhaps that's because the charge is just one among dozens of harsh attacks traded in a race that is quickly becoming one of the most bitter of the 2002 election cycle. Maybe it's because Louisiana voters have heard similar sentiments before.
From the December 9, 2002 issue: Conditions may be ripe for a long-term realignment in 2004.Dec 9, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 13 • By FRANK CANNON and JEFFREY BELL
IF THE LAST 180 YEARS of American politics are any guide, the 2004 election will see one of the two major parties become dominant in presidential politics for 36 years.
If that seems a bit deterministic, consider these facts. In 1824, Andrew Jackson won a strong plurality in the popular vote and in the Electoral College.
To stay competitive the Democrats must do the unthinkable: Go right on the war on terror.11:00 PM, Nov 26, 2002 • By FRED BARNES
DEMOCRATS ARE HAVING a nervous breakdown--needlessly. Sure, they lost the 2002 election badly, but it wasn't a catastrophic defeat. They lost for a simple reason: Voters caught on that they weren't serious about the war on terrorism, including regime change in Iraq. So the one thing Democrats need to do is adopt a tough position on fighting terrorists. Then they'll be competitive again.
Libertarians, Karl Rove, Libertarians, James Bond, and Libertarians.11:00 PM, Nov 24, 2002 • By
THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.
In his article Bond Forever, Jonathan V. Last writes that part of the secret of James Bond's success was his accent. He states, "If an American were to tell a girl, 'I hope my big end can stand up to this!' he'd be a troglodyte.
If it weren't for Kelley McCullough's quick thinking, Bob Riley wouldn't be governor.11:00 PM, Nov 24, 2002 • By RACHEL DICARLO
LAST MONDAY, twelve days after declaring victory, Alabama's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Don Siegelman conceded the election to Republican Bob Riley. But it almost didn't turn out that way. If it hadn't been for one woman, the Republican National Committee's regional director Kelley McCullough, things might have gone terribly wrong for Riley.
We've just seen the future of campaign finance reform, and it's not pretty.Dec 2, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 12 • By CLINT BOLICK
ON NOVEMBER 6, when most Americans were awakening to Republican electoral triumphs, Arizonans learned that they had bucked the trend by electing a left-wing Democrat as governor.
The White House was strategizing for the midterm elections long before November.11:15 PM, Nov 20, 2002 • By FRED BARNES
THERE WAS MORE to President Bush's wildly successful intervention in the 2002 midterm congressional election than meets the eye. The White House decision to play a large role was made many months ago (but post-September 11). It involved candidate selection and behind-the-scenes participation in reapportionment of House districts as well as more campaigning by Bush than ever before by a president in a midterm election.
Libertarian candidates cost Republicans a number of victories in the last election.11:00 PM, Nov 19, 2002 • By RACHEL DICARLO
IN SOUTH DAKOTA'S Senate race, voting irregularities on the Oglala Sioux Indian reservation have made some Republicans wonder whether Democratic senator Tim Johnson's 524 vote victory over Representative John Thune was legitimate. Voter fraud, they speculate, sent South Dakota's junior senator back to Washington for another six years.