Merchant of Death
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The Conviction of Monzar al Kassar and News of the Criminal/Terrorist Nexus
The good news yesterday was the conviction on all counts of Monzar al Kassar,the international weapons trafficker and friend of numerous terrorist organizations.

Al Kassar and his accomplice, Luis Moreno Godoy were convicted in New York of conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals; conspiracy to murder U.S. officers and employees; conspiracy to acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles; conspiracy to provide material support and resources to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), a designated foreign terrorist organization; and money laundering. The convictions represent the first time anyone has been charged with and convicted of the anti-aircraft missile statute.

Al Kassar, like Viktor Bout and others, are part of the shadowy world of facilitators that work across criminal and terrorist organizations, supplying them with what they need-from weapons to passports to money laundering services.

Successfully targeting these shadow facilitators hurts both groups and is one of the more effective ways of crippling the terrorist/criminal enterprises they empower.

As I wrote when he was arrested (and you can find the indictment and other articles here too), the arrest sprang from a sting operation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to whom he thought he was selling surface-to-air missiles which he hoped would kill Americans. The US won al Kassar's extradition from Spain in order to stand trial in the United States.

It was the same template the DEA used to arrest Viktor Bout in Thailand. The conviction augers well for what would be a very similar case against Bout, if he ever gets here.

(It is not yet clear if he will. The lower court will rule around Christmas on whether he can be extradited, and that ruling can-and likely will be-appealed by either side. An appellate court then takes up the case, and has the final word.)

Not long before he was arrested, although he claimed to be retired, he was reportedly supplying weapons to the Baathist groups in Iraq.

Prior to that, (as I have written before) he armed Farah Aideed in Somalia, the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, and was close friends with Abu Abbas, the notorious PLF terrorist. As the Observer in London noted:

“The litany of allegations against him, even aside from his links to Abu Abbas, is jaw-dropping. Government files in various countries indicate that he was jailed in the UK on hashish charges in the 1970s, although he denies it.

“The official US Iran Contra report says he sold weapons to the ‘Enterprise’ arming the Contras. A UN report says he violated arms embargoes to Croatia and Somalia in 1992. A Swiss court froze and later released millions related to a multi-million-pound arms sale to Croatia. Documents in US court related to a Spanish inquiry indicate he has been investigated, but not prosecuted, on allegations of providing a silenced 9mm pistol used to shoot a suspected Israeli agent in 1984.

“He may have been involved in procuring components of a Chinese anti-ship missile for Iran, according to records cited by the Washington Post. He has been investigated in Argentina on charges of passport fraud. A report in the Library of Congress relays charges that he delivered explosives to a group headed by a known terrorist in Brazil, and that he had earlier sold arms to Iranian militias in Cyprus.”

So, one down. Unfortunately, it took decades to get him, and there are many others stepping up. But his arrest saved lives and put a significant dent in an important transnational organization, as did Bout's. So, the bad guys don't always win.

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