Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Viktor Bout: From International Outlaw to Valued Partner - International Justice - Global Policy Forum
...Bout’s value to the Bush administration His value to the Bush administration in Iraq is immense, however. As one specialist in the arms trade, speaking on condition of anonymity said of his crews and aircraft, "they're accustomed to land in any kind of war zone without having a fit. And if one of their planes is shot down, there's no risk of American pilots' bodies being dragged through the streets". While after 9/11 the Bush administration suspected Bout of running arms to al-Qaida, according to a Belgian secret service source, the US nonetheless used Bout to ferry arms shipments to the northern Alliance for its operations against the Taliban. In 2004, the Bush administration began to press for Bout to be left off planned UN sanctions, in spite of French efforts at the UN in March 2004 to freeze his assets and an outstanding Interpol warrant for his arrest. A senior Western diplomat aware of the issues said, "We are disgusted that Bout won't be on the list, even though he is the principal arms dealer in the region. If we want peace in that region, it seems evident that he should be on that list." The Bush administration pressured the Blair government to remove Bout from its preliminary list of individuals for inclusion, and this was duly noted. Washington's logic is that Bout should be dealt with by separate UN measures dealing specifically with arms dealers. In the final analysis, Bout is able to operate freely for two simple reasons: he provides a service and is discreet, operating through his many front companies. Indeed Bout shuns publicity; only one public photograph of him is known to exist. A Belgian investigator, speaking on condition of anonymity, summed up Bout perfectly, noting, "The problem with Viktor is always the same one. He is a useful man, and can therefore count on important support."

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