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By Yasha Levine

Colombians, Guns, Coke, Syrians and Jews

Yesterday, the New York Times reported on the arrest of one Jamal Yousef of the Syrian military, who tried to trade a buttload of machine guns and high grade explosives in exchange for 2,000 lbs. of high grade cocaína.

Here’s what happened:

According to federal prosecutors, the man, Jamal Yousef, had plans to supply rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, with an enormous cache of weapons that included 100 M-16 assault rifles, 100 AR-15 rifles, 2,500 hand grenades, C-4 explosives and antitank munitions. He was unaware that the men claiming to be FARC representatives were informants for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan said in its indictment.

Mr. Yousef was charged with narco-terrorism conspiracy, which carries a maximum of life in prison. He pleaded not guilty, and is being held without bail. His lawyer, Philip Weinstein, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday night.

While officials declined to explain how the investigation started, they said that the negotiations between Mr. Yousef and the informants began in July of last year. Mr. Yousef, they said, claimed that the weapons he was selling had been stolen from Iraq with the help of a cousin who was a member of Hezbollah.

Through months of discussions over the telephone, Mr. Yousef and his partners provided the informants with photographs of the weapons and said they were prepared to make the exchange for a little more than 2,000 pounds of cocaine, prosecutors said. The transaction never took place, and Mr. Yousef was eventually arrested and imprisoned in Honduras on separate charges.

Mr. Yousef’s Latin misadventures reminded me of an Israeli war hero I wrote about last year, Yair Klein, who was nabbed in Moscow for doing pretty much the same thing, but on a bigger, badder and more professional scale.

Unlike his Syrian competitor, though, Klein wasn’t into arming pinko Colombian guerrillas. He might have been a kibbutz-defending socialist, but like Tony Montana, he’d kill communists for fun, mang. So Klein worked exclusively with right-wing paramilitary death squads, arming and training them to square off against FARC rebels and the government.

Arming rag tag mercenaries, that’s what the man did for a living:

Yair Klein was born in British-occupied Palestine in 1943, the son of hardcore Zionist settlers. He is a member of the Ariel Sharon Generation, a tough Jewish warrior mofo. A veteran of the IDF’s special forces, Klein fought in the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and was part of the 1972 team that rescued dozens of hostages held captive in a Libyan plane at Lod airport in Tel Aviv.

Klein entered the mercenary business in the early 80s, when he founded a private security firm called Spearhead. The timing was perfect. Israel soon invaded south Lebanon and Spearhead landed its first major contract training and supplying basic army gear to the Phalangists, the notorious Lebanese Christian militia responsible for shooting up the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The attack left hundreds of Palestinians dead and tarnished Israel’s reputation around the world. According to a 2007 interview Klein gave on Colombian TV, his infant firm made $2 million from that deal alone. He was off and running.

In the mid and late 80s, Klein made a number of trips to Colombia to arm and train local drug cartel militias. These militias formed the basis of the right-wing paramilitary death squads who squared off against the FARC guerillas (who were at the time being armed by Klein’s Russian-Jewish competitor, Viktor Bout) and sometimes the Colombian government. One of Spearhead’s Colombia employees, Lt. Col. Amatzia Shuali, later explained the company’s role in Colombia to American public television: “Yair mentioned the Contras. I think here it’s the same thing: the Americans won’t interfere directly. We are willing to do it.” (Klein maintains that Bogota was aware of his business activities.)

Klein’s training activities had a big and bloody impact on Colombia. Local human rights activists accuse Klein of single-handedly turning inept cartel goons into highly efficient death squads. Bogota, which at first turned a blind eye to the right-wing militias, were forced to finally take action when government officials started getting knocked with alarming regularity and professionalism. In 1989, the shit hit the fan when a promotional video showing Klein and other Spearhead employees training drug cartel militias was leaked to the public, causing a PR disaster for Klein—and for Israel. Spearhead was operating under an Israeli government license, putting Israel on the hook. A subsequent investigation by the Colombian government exposed Klein’s ambitious plans to set up a “freedom fighter” training camp on the island of Antigua. Along with a diploma, every graduate would be sent back to Colombia with his very own machine gun.

Russian authorities arrested Yair on an Interpol warrant in 2007. Rumor has it he was betrayed by the Israeli government because it didn’t want the competition. Last I heard, he was still sitting in a Moscow jail, fighting extradition to Colombia through the European Court of Human Rights.

You can read more about Klein and the shady world of Israel’s weapons trade here: YAIR KLEIN: RUSSIA’S “OTHER” VIKTOR BOUT . . . WEAPONS, COCAINE, ISRAELIS AND OLIGARCHS.

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Add your own

  • 1. mikey  |  August 21st, 2009 at 6:31 am

    I was thinking of posting an anonymous anti-Israel comment, but I thought, “no, only a fag would do that.”

  • 2. uranidiot  |  August 22nd, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    so you choose homophobia instead, overcompensating for your own desires, inadequacies, etc.

    stay classy, Mikey. . ..

  • 3. SweetLeftFoot  |  August 24th, 2009 at 2:36 am

    I believe israel also played both sides in the Sri Lankan/Tamil Tiger conflict

  • 4. The Mad Medico  |  August 24th, 2009 at 10:09 am

    The title is misleading, the paramilitaries are not rebels, their essentially proxies for the Colombian government

  • 5. Oksana  |  August 24th, 2009 at 11:11 am

    “We saw a lot of times the United States government, when it was too hot for it to directly support, say, military regimes in Central America, they would have Israel, the government, be the surrogate. And then even when it was too hot for the Israeli government, they’d get their mercenaries to do it.”

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