Much of the Islamic State arms and ammunition were captured on the battlefield, but intelligence reports have suggested that the group’s income from oil sales and other sources is high enough to finance purchases of additional weapons directly from the companies and dealers that routinely profit from strife in the Middle East.
Experts say the fact that the armaments have such disparate sources – some were even made at a major U.S. munitions plant in Missouri – provides a cautionary note as Washington prepares to undertake expanded shipments of military supplies, including small arms, to rebel groups in Syria and to a revived Iraqi Army force.
“We faced an enormous [monitoring] challenge when we, in effect, owned Iraq and had many bases where we could do this type of training,“ said Joseph Christoff, who directed international affairs and trade issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office between 2000 and 2011, when the GAO repeatedly identified shortcomings in controlling the use of U.S. weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I don’t know how we’re going to do it securely in this new program” meant to arm Western-allied rebel forces in Syria, Christoff said.
The new data were collected by a three-year-old, London-based group called Conflict Armament Research, which sends investigators into conflict zones to identify the types and origins of weaponry used in the fighting. Its latest report, financed by the European Union, lists the origins of more than 1700 cartridges collected last July and August in northern Iraq and northern Syria by investigators working alongside Kurdish forces that had fought the forces of the Islamic State, generally known as ISIS or ISIL.
The cartridges they found after four battles were manufactured for machine and submachine guns, rifles and pistols. One Soviet-manufactured cartridge dated from 1945, a grim testament to how the production of such weaponry can impact many generations hence.
Manufacturers in Russia and the former Soviet Union made a total of 492 of the recovered shells, according to the report. Russia has been a major arms supplier to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, whose forces also have been battling the Islamic State. (article continues below)
The presence of such weapons in ISIS’s hands makes clear that its fighters seized substantial stocks not only from Iraqi troops, but from Syrian troops as well. Another 26 of the recovered shells were made in Iran, an ally of Assad’s, and 18 were made in Syria itself, the report states.
Source: Washington Post