Millennium Post

Black is the ISIS blueprint

Michael Vlahos, PhD Professor in the Strategy and  Policy Department at the US Naval War College has an interesting take on ISIS decapitations. Drawing parallel with series such as Games of Thrones, where a beheading happens on the pike, Vlahos says that the brutal murders may be mere fantasies from antiquity and the medieval world, conjured simply from our late night entertainment.

Vlahos further explains that the human mind actually seems to derive pleasure from the passionate rush of taking a human head and because of this unanticipated and completely oblivious to human consciousness rush, we remain all the more at its mercy in our reality. Speaking specifically about the nerve jangling exposition of terror as advocated by ISIS in its venerable hackings, Vlahos comments that if the terror outfit continues to stage such horrific executions it does not do it without purpose. According to him, decapitation is central to human politics because it has extraordinary ritual power. Moreover, it is primitive, not in its human baseness but rather in its raw capacity to assert authority.

Thus if Alan Henning became the last victim of Jihadi John, it is understood that Peter Kassig, a US national who goes by the name of Abdul-Rahman now, will be the next. But, here is the catch: Kassig or Rahman is a devout Muslim who offers prayers five times a day and as per the tenets of Quran, Muslims cannot kill other Muslims unless by accident. Whether Kassig/Rahman will be killed or not becomes immaterial in the wake of a larger question that needs to be answered now.

As political brains strive hard to find the perfect semblance to associate ISIS terror with, militants of the now US’ public enemy number 1 continue to play a game of aggressor and aggrieved all across Iraq and Syria with eyes firmly set on the nuclear arsenal that Iran is in possession of.

However, there is more to the game that ISIS is keen on playing and how much would the world be a level playing field after this damning exposé by Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a London based think tank, is case in point.

If we talk of culpability, this research propounded by CAR is more than enough to bring to light the inglorious underbelly of international arms supply and the murky business that is usually associated with it. All in all, it is for certain that this analysis is bound to raise eyebrows and initiate debate on the alleged terrorist funding activities. It is also given that none of the nations, whose names have appeared, will accede to the details being shared but since the think tank is based out of the United Kingdom; veracity of its information may not be questioned, based upon its always-truthful-no-matter-what western origins.

Having documented ammunition (1,730: being the sample number) used by ISIS, manufactured in 21 countries with dates of production ranging from 1945-2014, CAR lists out China with 445 documented cartridges, Soviet Union with 338 and not surprisingly enough, United States with 323 as the three uppermost global powers, weaponry and ammunition of whom has either been captured and used or has been supplied and used. The Russian Federation with 154 and Serbia with 142 come in at the fourth and fifth spot respectively.  Further the study reveals that only 10 per cent of the sample dates from 2010 or later and that Chinese and Bulgarian cartridges account for more than half of this recently manufactured ammunition. Other countries that are worthy of mention are Romania, North Korea, Turkey, Iran and Kyrgyzstan which have a total of 184 cartridges amongst them.

 If we probe further into these findings we’ll analyse that it is besotted with historical connotations, the earliest being that from the Second World War when the entire of the Arabic world in Asia and Europe was controlled by the British Middle East Command.

Iraq and Syria, which have been the basis points of the recent ISIS offensive, were also the theatres of war then. Iraq, which was officially granted independence by the United Kingdom in 1932, was till 1941, a large base for British forces. Rashid Ali, the then pro-Axis Prime Minister ordered the Brits to withdraw and the Anglo-Iraqi war thus ensued from 2-31 May, 1941. Thus, a lot of ammunition which pre-dates to 1945 can be attributed to the Allied Forces and the Axis powers, governed and controlled by Germany and Fascist Italy along with Iraq in this scenario.

However, the American invasions of Iraq which began on 2, August 1990 and then subsequently on 19 March, 2003 should ideally be treated as the source of a lot of abandoned American weaponry and ammunition.

Similarly if we look at Syria and Lebanon, the Vichy French (French state governed by Marshal Philippe Pétain), fought the Australian, Free French, British and Indian units from June to July 1941 in these two twin countries. Thus the ammunition that may have been found from 1945 can thus be ascribed to any of the belligerent nations who must have been at war then.  

Syria, again most famously went aggressive in 2011 during the Arab Spring and a large cache of arms and ammunition which was supposed to have been passed to help the rebels destabilise the government of Syrian dictator Bashar-al-Assad eventually landed in the hands of the ISIS militants. ISIS, was also one of the many forces working to remove Assad but with an objective of its own.

In addition to this deduction, the New York Times reports that American blameworthiness for mishandling arms and ammunition can also be attributed to the fact that rifle cartridges from the United States have played a significant role in the excesses. The 323 American cartridges that have been recovered and researched, form 19 per cent of the total cache. Manufactured from 2005 to 2007 at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Missouri, these were typically 5.56 millimetre cartridges used for American M-4 and M-16 rifles, which were widely distributed to Iraqi security forces during the later years of the American occupation.

147 cartridges bearing the famous WOLF stamp used by Sporting Supplies International, an American company that sells Russian manufactured ammunition under its own brand were also a part of the sample.

The company was one of the biggest distributors of military ammunition to the United States which further changed hands with the Iraqi security forces. However, much of the Iraqi forces have lost their defence mechanism to ISIS and it is being increasingly felt that 8.5 per cent of the documented ammunition in ISIS’s possession was sent into the region by the United States.

Speaking to the New York Times, James Bevan, director of Conflict Armament Research says, ‘The lesson learned here is that the defence and security forces that have been supplied ammunition by external nations really don’t have the capacity to maintain custody of that ammunition.’

Chinese ammunition which is 26 per cent of the total recovered and analysed by the Kurdish forces along with CAR, is a source of massive military grade ammunition supplied to the world. Bevan further notes that this isn’t a surprise as presence of it is a common feature in modern conflicts.

Elucidating further, he says that the Chinese ammunition used by ISIS could have originally been provided to Syrian forces or to Iraqi forces that then retransferred Chinese-made cartridges to the region. As far as determining the route to the conflict is concerned, Bevan explains that it may require further research as China’s ammunition exports often are not transparent in any way.

The reason why United States in particular should take note of these reports  is because of the reason that Iraq has been its hunting ground in the past and in the current scheme of things, its air-strikes are almost tantamount to a proxy war that it continues to fight with the ISIS militants.  When President Obama authenticated the strikes on 7 August, 2014 he held an air of optimism that the advancing F/A-18 Hornets would be able to cull the heads of the rebels of the ISIS. But sensing that the fighting militants were nowhere close to buckle under the US offensive, he said on 13 August that US would deploy 130 military advisers to Northern Iraq in addition to the 800 US troops that were securing American installations like the Embassy in Baghdad, the consulate in Erbil and the Baghdad Airport.

On the same date, up to 20 US Marines and special forces servicemen landed on Mount Sinjar to coordinate the evacuation of Yazidi refugees to work along with a team of British SAS. On 3 September, 350 more servicemen were announced to be sent to Baghdad, increasing the overall number of American troops in Iraq to 1,213. On 10 September, Obama  iterated  that American ground soldiers will not fight in combat but invariably said that about 500 more troops will be sent to Iraq to help train Iraqi forces. 

In the wake of these developments US too has drawn enough criticism for not giving a name to this operation. The intent is clear: It doesn’t want to take responsibility for its actions any more.  But would the same help it from restraining the ISIS militants from not running amok in the entire Arab world to establish the caliphate they desperately want to? United States, because it has taken a plunge should now also take moral responsibility and contain the advancing and threatening ISIS militants from wreaking havoc any further. After all, the militant outfit is staking claim to a country which the US has formerly plundered and ravaged twice. If it considers it to be dirty work it ideally shouldn’t have stepped in but if it doesn’t restrain the ISIS now, tomorrow they could well be the kings of the nuclear arsenals of Iraq and Iran, proof of which can be found in their manifesto.
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