Declassified Documents Reveal More Information on Government's Opportunistic Relationship with World's Biggest Arms Smuggler, Sarkis Soghanalian
U.S. Cooperated with Arms Dealer Despite Record of Smuggling, Weapons Sales to Saddam Hussein, and Reported Ties to Armenian Terrorists
Soghanalian Tried to Link House Speaker Newt Gingrich to Bribery Scam in 1990s; and Assisted Ferdinand Marcos in Coup Attempt in 1980s
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 502
Edited by Lauren Harper
Posted February 23, 2015
For more information contact:
Lauren Harper - 202/944-7000, firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, DC, Posted February 23, 2015 -- Documents posted for the first time -- in a collaboration between the National Security Archive and VICE News -- provide insight into the U.S. government's paradoxical and opportunistic relationship with arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian, whose larger-than-life deals were so well known that he was an inspiration for Nicholas Cage's character Yuri Orlov in the 2005 film, Lord of War.
Sarkis Soghanalian was the Cold War's largest arms dealer, made over $12 million a year at his peak, and had his hand in seemingly every major conflict across the globe -- with the U.S. government's tacit approval. His largest weapons deal was a $1.6 billion sale to the Saddam Hussein regime at the outset of the Iran-Iraq War that included U.S. helicopters and French artillery, and he sold arms to groups in Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, and Peru from the 1970s through the 2000s. Soghanalian was nicknamed the "Merchant of Death" for arming so many conflicts, a moniker he dismissed by arguing Alfred Nobel was called the same for inventing gunpowder, "and then they named it the Nobel Prize." At one point the U.S. government indicted Soghanalian for, among other things, wire fraud and violating United Nations (U.N.) sanctions, but then freed him another once he provided useful intelligence.
The U.S. relied on Soghanalian's unique intelligence so much that it kept him out of jail -- for the most part. In 1982 he was sentenced to only five years probation for wire fraud in connection with reneging on a 1977 $1.1 million machine gun deal to Mauritania, and a federal judge dismissed all charges against him in 1986 after he was arrested at the Miami International Airport for possession of -- among other things -- two unregistered rocket launchers. Despite his oftentimes illegal arms trade, the longest prison term Soghanalian ever served was two years in connection with the 1983 sale of 103 Hughes helicopters and two rocket launchers to Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions. The initial sentence was six and a half years, but was reduced after Soghanalian helped Americans infiltrate a sophisticated counterfeiting operation into his native Lebanon. Soghanalian said, "When they needed me, the U.S. government that is, they immediately came and got me out."
After his 2011 death, the Archive filed a series of targeted FOIA requests for documents on Soghanalian to the FBI, the U.S. Central Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, and the Department of State. The hard work of archivists and declassifiers at these agencies resulted in the declassification of nearly 2,500 pages of documents on the notorious arms dealer, and today the National Security Archive is posting the 'top 10' documents from this trove.
Check out today's posting at the National Security Archive - http://www.nsarchive.org/NSAEBB/NSAEBB502/
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