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11/22/16

Middle East: Islamic State Receiving Weapons From Eastern Europe In 'Rapid' New Supply Chain Says Arms Expert - by Louise Ridley

Unlimited weapons supply from E-Europe to ISIS via Saudi Arabia and Tukey
Islamic State fighters are illegally using guns and other weapons made in Eastern European factories, in a newly-discovered supply chain that is “almost direct”, a weapons expert has claimed.

The Huffington Post Reported  that James Bevan, the director of Conflict Armament Research (CAR), told The Huffington Post UK that investigations this summer have seen a rapid, frightening change in the source of weapons used by the so-called Islamic State to fight other groups and carry out massacres.

These weapons are moving from Eastern Europe to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria within weeks through a “very rapid” transfer through several countries, according to Bevan, whose company tracks the movement of illegal weapons.

Up until now, IS’s weapons were mainly guns formerly used by the Iraqi army, including some American-made weapons given to it by the US army when they withdrew from Iraq between 2007 and 2011, Bevan told HuffPost UK in an interview.

“Islamic State then overran Iraqi army positions, took those weapons and moved them into Syria.” IS arms could also have come from Syrian armed forces who the group had beaten in battles, he explained. “This is normal with any kind of rebellion or insurgency, they first use the weapons and ammunition of their adversaries.”

But the Islamic State arsenal now includes far newer models, “from 2013 to 2014 and even 2015 dates of manufacture,” Bevan says. He has tracked this rise in recently-made weapons to Eastern Europe, including AK-47s, machine guns and explosives.

n an interview with HuffPost UK, Bevan said CAR is currently challenging the governments of Bulgaria and Serbia, among others, over the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Despite signing an ‘End User’ agreement saying it will use the weapons itself and not sell these them to any other countries, Saudi Arabia (with the approval of the US)b appears to send them “straight to Turkey”, from where they get into Islamic State’s hands “very, very rapidly” via illicit means, Bevan said.

“We have a supply chain which goes from an Eastern European manufacturer, to a second Eastern European country, to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey, to a Syrian opposition group and then to Islamic State in Falluja in Iraq, in less than two months,” he said. “That’s almost direct. If you want to put something on a boat and float it, it’s going to take a month.”

Bevan said his evidence, collected from analysing weapons after the siege of Fallujah ended in May, showed that anyone supplying weapons one of the many rebel Syrian opposition groups has “absolutely no control” over where they end up. Syrian factions that supposedly oppose IS often merge with them or work with them, leading to weapons quickly getting into IS possession, he explained.

Some foreign powers trying to help groups fighting IS are actually backing “pretty hard line Islamist forces,” he claimed, adding that: “it’s very difficult to distinguish between them and Islamic State. They are subsumed within Islamic State, or have a deal with them, or the group will fracture and its fighters will leave with their weapons and join Islamic State.”

“It means that anyone supplying Syrian opposition groups has absolutely no control over the ultimate destination of those weapons. It’s almost a mirror image of what happened in Afghanistan in the 1980s, in the sense that the US, Saudi Arabia and allied states were supplying weapons to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.

“They then had discretion as to who to give them to. They picked the winners, which were the hard line Islamist forces that were the origins for Al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

It is possible that the Eastern European governments actually know that their weapons are being sold on through Saudi Arabia, Bevan said, because the heavy ‘Soviet Calibre’ guns they are selling would never be used by Saudi Arabia’s army which favours light, American-made, expensive guns.

In total this year already EURO 1.2 billion of weapons were sold by Eastern European nations to the Middle East.

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