Merchant of death

The Observer profiles Monzer al-Kassar, arms dealer extraordinaire. Someone needs to write a good book on arms dealers in the Middle East, some of the stories you hear are incredible. Said Aburish's first book (unfortunately out-of-print, and considering its second-hand price now I can't believe I've misplaced my copy) in the early 1980s was a very entertaining account of being a middleman in the region, but imagine what you could do if you added everyone since then. Khashoggi alone could be a book, and once you add all the Israeli, Egyptian, Syrian, etc. dealers you could basically have a parallel underground history of the Middle East. Of course not to forget their Western counterparts -- people like Donald Rumsfeld who either facilitated arms deals as government defense officials or chairmen of corporations like Raytheon. Imagine that: an account of how Egyptian arms dealers with top government connections sold small arms to both sides of the Rwandan genocide, or Israeli arms dealers (including a very close friend of Ariel Sharon) sold weapons to South Africa's Apartheid government and its various militias operating in southern Africa, or indeed how European companies, acting through Palestinian or Lebanese middlemen, sold all kinds of military systems to Saddam Hussein. This industry goes to the heart of virtually of every regime in the region.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.