Iraqi gains in Mosul reveal huge scale of ISIS arms industry

Sunday 18/12/2016
Ammunition and mortar launchers confiscated from ISIS in Qaraqosh, Iraq

London - Iraqi forces around Mosul have exposed the extent of the arms industry of the Islamic State (ISIS), including factories churning out tens of thousands of munitions and an entire street turned into a conveyor belt for car bombs.
In the more than two years since it seized control of large parts of Iraq and Syria, ISIS has established a sprawling and highly organised system that experts say no other insurgent group matched.
The capability boosted the threat from the group as it battles to cling to territory in Iraq and Syria.
“These people are not stupid. They are very well-organised,” Ira­qi Army deminer Hashim Ali told Agence France-Presse (AFP). “If you give them more time, then they always find ways to surprise you.”
AFP visited several sites where ISIS had cannibalised existing in­frastructure to create improvised arms factories.
“In terms of scale, planning, cen­tralised command and control and the precision to which they are manufacturing, this is something else,” James Bevan, director of Conflict Armament Research, a UK-based group that investigates arms flows around the world, told AFP.
“I can’t name another armed group that manufactures on such a scale and with such a degree of co­ordination.”
Bevan and teams from his or­ganisation have been in Iraq cata­loguing the extent of ISIS arms production. Their findings show a sophisticated system that pours out tens of thousands of mortars, rockets and explosives on an “un­precedented scale” and under strict quality controls.
The raw materials for shell cas­ings and missiles include scrap metal and spare parts in areas ISIS has captured. The explosives and propellants are made from precur­sors mostly procured in bulk on the open market in Turkey and divert­ed through Syria.
The Europe law enforcement agency has warned that ISIS was evolving tactics to attack soft tar­gets in Europe and could use car bombs like those employed to dev­astating effect in Iraq and Syria.
From France and Belgium to Egypt and Turkey, ISIS and its af­filiates have carried out bloody at­tacks.
“If you look at the Iraq and Syria theatre as a hotbed for the devel­opment of more and more sophis­ticated improvised devices, then it is probably unparalleled,” Bevan said. “If and when Islamic State is pushed out of Mosul and pushed out of large parts of Syria, its fight­ers will disperse and that means its bomb-makers will disperse, too.”
Iraqi forces began an assault on October 17th to force ISIS from Mo­sul, its last Iraqi stronghold. Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service controls several eastern neighbourhoods and is closing in on the Tigris river, which divides the city.
Federal police and Interior Minis­try forces have mostly been fighting on a southern front, stalled within striking distance of Mosul airport.
The United Nations said 93,500 people have been displaced be­cause of the Mosul operation and the UN children’s agency said about 35,000 children have fled Mosul since mid-October.
UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, called for emergency measures to prevent looting at the historic Iraqi city of Nimrud, which has been wrecked by ISIS. A fact-finding UNESCO mission confirmed “large-scale, systematic” destruction of the site.
In London, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and his British coun­terpart, Michael Fallon, expressed confidence that the Trump admin­istration would continue the United States’ role as leader of the inter­national military coalition against ISIS.
“Among my recommendations [to my successor in the Trump ad­ministration] will be the need for the United States to remain actively engaged as leader of this coalition,” Carter said during a news confer­ence in London. “Our coalition can and, I’m confident, will finish this job together.”
Carter said the coalition must remain involved in Iraq even after ISIS is driven from Mosul.
“We’ll need to continue to coun­ter not only foreign fighters trying to escape but also [ISIS’s] attempts to relocate or reinvent itself,” he said. “To do so, both the United States and the coalition must re­main engaged militarily. In Iraq, in particular, we must be prepared to provide sustained assistance to the Iraqi security forces to consolidate security over the rest of the coun­try.”
The United States has about 5,000 troops in Iraq. The Arab Weekly staff and news agencies.