assessments

The Iraq War and the Spread of IEDs

3 MINS READDec 10, 2004 | 00:05 GMT

Another car bomb exploded in Iraq on Dec. 9, injuring several Iraqis in a Mosul marketplace. The bombing was just one more in the continuing onslaught of improvised explosive devise (IED) attacks in the country. This seemingly bottomless barrel of IEDs leads STRATFOR to believe that the equipment used and the expertise gained in the Iraqi insurgency will, over time, spread to militants beyond the Iraqi border.

The vast majority of IEDs in Iraq are fashioned out of old and unused ordnance: artillery shells, anti-tank missiles and mines. In fact, according a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, not one bomb made of "homemade explosive" material has been encountered in Iraq. This is a direct result of the sheer volume of readily available ordnance. The combination of this huge volume of easily available weaponry, Iraq's extremely porous borders and the fact that the insurgency cannot continue forever, points to the eventual development of a Middle Eastern black market for unused Iraqi weaponry.

In other areas of the world, terrorist bombings are most often staged with homemade and/or stolen explosives, including those made with fertilizer or stolen construction explosives. Although effective enough, these are comparatively less deadly and less efficient than "ready-made" unexploded ordnance bombs. This last group is deadlier because an artillery round used as the main charge not only provides military-grade explosives, but military-grade shrapnel. These bombs are far more lethal than a homemade IED with a triacetone triperoxide (TATP) main charge wrapped with nails, as Palestinian militants have used.

Furthermore, the apparently endless supply of IEDs in Iraq is creating a large cadre of trained bombmakers. Coalition forces are killing or capturing these insurgents in droves, but plenty remain. Once the insurgency dies out, these experienced bombmakers undoubtedly will ply their trade elsewhere — and share, or more likely sell, their expertise.

STRATFOR expects this to result in a proliferation of bombmakers — and their products — throughout the region. Clearly the Middle East is already fertile ground for terrorism, but the adaptation of lessons learned from Iraq — and the exportation and dissemination of ready-made bombs in the form of ordnance — could make militant groups all the more deadly and efficient. The world already has witnessed such cases. The reduction of national armed forces following Central America's civil wars in the 1970s and 1980s saw modern weaponry fall into the hands of guerrilla groups that otherwise would have struggled to obtain such equipment. Additionally, criminal gangs in Central America also succeeded in arming themselves with military-grade weaponry left over from conflicts in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. These weapons ended up having a direct impact on security in countries such as Costa Rica, Colombia and Mexico. STRATFOR expects a similar impact on Iraq's neighbors — Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Furthermore, this expertise and materiel could end up in the hands of Palestinian militants as well. The massive amount of unused and unexploded military ordnance in Iraq could provide sufficient bomb-making material to last for years, and could even result in a reduction in arms prices in the region — making acts of terrorism that much cheaper to carry out. If the situation we expect in the Middle East does develop, the arms will go not only to rebel groups, but most likely will find their way into the hands of Islamist militants throughout the region.

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