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Big Mac book review: Operation Shakespeare

Shakespeare_CoverThe biggest surprise/disappointment of the new book "Operation Shakespeare", which details illegal arms shipments from U.S. companies to armies such as Iran, is not that such transactions take place but the staggering amount of red tape and legal loops American enforcement officials must fight to have a prayer to put these men away.

The 260-page book is a fascinating read that explains the black market game of arms dealers who covertly, and sometimes stupidly, move big and small arms from American companies illegally to Iran, China and other nations.

Author John Shiffman, who now works as a reporter for Reuters, does a nice job of compiling live interviews to complement his extensive research detailing the real-life sting operations conducted by the U.S. department of Homeland Security. Most of them never pan out, but the one in this book hit.

The scariest part of the book is how easily, and often brazenly, U.S. firms sell their parts from helicopters to small items used in road side bombs to foreign dealers to increase profits. Armies in Iran and China often receive the parts to reverse manufacture and create something they would never have been able to complete.

If a man has Google, he can find nearly anything from anywhere. Shipping and routing is not as simple as "Send it to Tehran", but it can be done through another country.

Shiffman focuses on one major arms dealer from Iran, who falls into a trap set by U.S. agents in Philadelphia who pose as sellers. These deals take years as establishing trust is tricky; while you would think the U.S. has this particular suspect cold the steps the agents must take to ensure there is not a single legal loophole he could use to escape are numerous, and often absurd. 

Aspects of this book and this one particular sting are Hollywood-like, but the amount of red tape and bureaucratic bickering between U.S. agencies detailed in this book would never hit the big screen.

The book reads fast, and at 260 pages never is bogged down in jargon or details that may cause the reader to lose interest. You don't have to be some war, or political, junkie to enjoy this book.

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Shiffman will be speaking on July 29 at the Fort Worth Club. You can get tickets at Fascinating book.

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