Documents shed important light on Viktor Bout case

By Matt Schroeder

As the trial against alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout gets underway, we thought the following documents from the case might be of interest:

(1) Handwritten notes that Bout reportedly took during the meeting in Thailand. The notes include short-hand references to various weapons, including “AA” or anti-aircraft (believed to be a reference to Igla missiles), “AK-47,” “UAV” (unmanned aerial vehicle), 10,000,000 “7,62 x 54” (ammunition used in Russian Dragunov sniper rifles and PKM machine guns), RPG-7 and RPG-22 rocket launchers, and “AG-17” – presumably a reference to the AGS-17 30 mm automatic grenade launcher. Some of the notes are more cryptic, including references to 500 “60 mm”, 200 “82 mm” and 40 “120 mm.” Presumably, these are references to mortars since 60mm, 82mm and 120mm are all common calibers for mortar rounds.

(2) A print-out of an email that Bout allegedly sent to one of the DEA’s confidential sources. This email is mentioned prominently in other court documents made public shortly after Bout was arrested. Oddly, the email was reportedly sent from an address linked to an account set up by a “Victor But.” Use of an alias so close to his own name when setting up an email account intended for negotiating arms transfers seems uncharacteristically careless for Bout.

(3) Excerpts from pamphlets on Soviet-era cargo planes that Bout allegedly recommended for delivering weapons to the FARC. According to investigators, the weapons were to be air-dropped from these planes. The same delivery method was used by the orchestrators of a 1999 plot to divert to the FARC 50,000 Jordanian assault rifles intended for the Peruvian military. The traffickers managed to drop 10,000 of the rifles into FARC-controlled areas of Colombia before the government of Jordan learned of the scheme and canceled the deal. In their book, Merchant of Death, Doug Farah and Stephen Braun suggest that Bout was linked to the diversion. They claim that the plane used to deliver the rifles “…belong[ed] to one of Bout’s front companies…”

(4) One of several articles on the FARC that describes their criminal activities.

(5) A map of South America that Bout reportedly used in discussions about the locations of American radar stations.

(6) Technical documents on anti-tank missiles that Bout allegedly offered to sell to the FARC. The documents were reportedly taken from a memory stick provided to the DEA during the sting. It appears that missile on offer was the AT-4 Spigot, a wire-guided Russian missile system that has a maximum range of 2000-2500 meters and can penetrate up to 400-460 mm of armor, depending on the type of missile used.

The documents (and the above assessments) were originally posted on the Strategic Security Blog in 2009. The original post, which contains additional analysis, is available here.

New Report on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Iran’s controversial nuclear program has been front and center on the international stage for more than eight years. Despite negotiations, sanctions, and political tug-of-war, the United States and its allies have yet to tame Iran’s atomic phoenix. At the center of this nuclear standoff is Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment program and efforts to obtain full nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities. To alleviate concerns about the intended nature of these activities, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has demanded -through six resolutions – that Iran suspend enrichment activities as well as construction of a heavy-water research reactor. Yet, Iran has opted to pay no heed to these resolutions and despite numerous proposals from different sides, the stalemate persists.

Dr. Charles D. Ferguson, President of the Federation of American Scientists, and Dr. Ali Vaez, Fellow for Science and Technology, authored a FAS report (PDF) analyzing the outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program, and provide recommendations to the major stakeholders in this debate including Iran, the United States, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Additionally, the report proposes a multipronged approach to resolving this deadlock, including enhanced safeguards and positive-sum diplomacy with incentives for Iran and other aspiring nuclear states.

Read the report Towards Enhanced Safeguards for Iran’s Nuclear Program (PDF).

Letter Urges Super Committee to Reduce Nuclear Weapons Spending

FAS joined 48 organizations in signing a letter to United States Representatives asking them to cosign Representative Markey’s letter to members of the Super Committee. Markey’s letter urges Super Committee members to increase U.S. security by reducing spending on outdated and unaffordable nuclear weapons programs.

Additionally, this support letter offers specific suggestions to Congress on how to scale back new nuclear weapons programs and help close the budget deficit. Continue reading