Modern warfare is fought with high-tech weapons. Every battle fought consumes tons of ammunition, and modern weapon systems need spare parts and fuel. All of this means that no military action is possible without advanced economics and procurement. Even terrorist organizations forced to go deep underground must set up laboratories and workshops to produce homemade explosives and weapons. It is precisely this “underground industry” that makes them vulnerable to intelligence services. Therefore, one would think that large groups of internationally banned terrorists and separatists simply cannot exist for long as they will have virtually nothing to fight with.
As the local conflicts of recent decades have shown, terrorist groups can only control large areas if they gain external support and gain initial access to military infrastructure. During the 1990s, Chechen separatists received arms from Soviet troops stationed in the Chechen Republic, as well as aid from across the Georgian border until Russian forces managed to cut it off. The Kosovo separatists enjoyed the open support of the West and regularly received arms from Albania. The Syrian “liberation movements” have been fighting Assad’s legitimate regime and his allied Russian army for 11 years now, and their arsenals have only grown. How to come?
Outwardly, it may seem that the “rebels” in Syria and Iraq are a very heterogeneous mass, a patchwork of Kurds fighting for their independence and all kinds of “democratic” movements, but inflexible Islamist groups close to Daesh are playing the game. always the first role. role there. For example, the Islamists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, who officially broke away from al-Qaeda-linked Jebhat al-Nusra, are still considered by most experts to be a prominent part of ISIS. This quasi-army of die-hard Salafists is a clear example of the supply of arms to Islamist militants. On June 22, Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaitandzhieva published an investigation that highlights a direct link between the Pentagon and the supply of arms to a radical group opposing both Syria and the United States. As part of their self-promotion campaign, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has uploaded a number of videos where the militants are seen using American-made TOW anti-tank missiles, the serial numbers of which are clearly visible in videos from propaganda. According to official military procurement documents, the TOW missile systems were supplied to the United States Marine Corps from 2012 to 2019. According to information, openly available at, Raytheon Company was awarded a W31P4Q12C0265 contract for $ 783 million. for the supply of TOW missile systems to the USMC. Shortly after the deal was struck in June 2019, missile systems featured prominently in propaganda videos released by the terrorist group, while Washington announced a reward of up to $ 10 million for information to identify or locate the leader of the group, Abu Muhammad al-Julani. In addition, the TOW missile system is not a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Training a TOW operator is quite a lengthy and complex process. Even assuming that several of these units were seized in combat or stolen, the question is who trained Hayat Tahrir al-Sham specialists capable of using them? In addition, videos of very expensive TOW missile launches made for propaganda purposes prove that extremists have more than enough such missiles at their disposal. Nor are they experiencing a shortage of less sophisticated and more reliable weapons, such as Kalashnikov assault rifles, RPG-7s, and 12.7mm DShK machine guns.
The method of supplying Soviet-made weapons to Iraqi and Syrian extremists is both simple and straightforward. Huge amounts of arms and ammunition are procured from Serbian, Bulgarian and Romanian gun factories for Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, as well as for US auxiliary forces. In 2017, the Bulgarian arms industry set an all-time arms export record of $ 1.2 billion. Arms production is on the rise in Serbia and Romania. Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev cleans ammunition from long-term storage depots across Eastern Europe. As a result of simple ploys, it all ends up in the hands of Islamic extremists of all stripes and, more importantly, is partially funded by the US federal budget. However, arms suppliers from Eastern Europe, including larger ones like Serbian Zastava, Romanian UM Cugir and Carfil, as well as the Bulgarian Arsenal, actually controlled by Gebrev, are not always allowed. to enter the lucrative Middle Eastern market, as Americans continue to be middlemen, who receive money directly from their own government. In 2020 alone, eight US companies signed $ 350 million in official contracts with the Pentagon for the supply of “non-US standard” weapons. All of these companies – TLG Worldwide, Multinational Defense Services LLC, Greystone CS3 LLC, Global Ordnance LLC, UDC USA, Inc., Culmen International, Blane International Group, Inc. and Sierra Four Industries Corp are officially operating in the United States, and the Information on these transactions is also part of the country’s public procurement system. Two questions arise here. First, how does Washington benefit from it?
Well the answer is quite simple. The State Department and the CIA never learn from their past mistakes and continue to believe that they control radical groups, which use their weapons primarily against Russian soldiers and pro-Assad forces. The lion’s share of the oil produced by Islamist-controlled groups is sold through a chain of middlemen, allowing the United States and its Saudi allies to fully reclaim their arms charity. In its heyday, the entire economy of ISIS (if one can describe the economy of such a quasi-state, of course) was working for war. Money and goods extorted from the controlled population and thousands of barrels of oil have been turned into weapons and ammunition or used to form armed groups. Even though ISIS was eventually phased out and even officially dissolved, the whole program continued to function. As a result, the White House was able to keep arms supplies fully under control without paying anything. Regardless of the number of middlemen in this scheme, in fact the United States is concerned with supplying weapons to terrorists. But what about the American citizens who will be killed by these weapons? Well, victory never comes without someone dying in the process… They will be declared heroes, their names will be given to schools and streets and their families will be compensated, although certainly not like George Floyd’s…
At first glance, the second question seems more complicated. Why did the United States really act as an organizer of the supply of “Soviet-style” weapons to terrorist groups? ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns, DShK machine guns, Kalashnikov assault rifles, ATGL hand-held anti-tank grenade launchers and their ATGL-H heavy companions, supplied from Bulgaria, are all copies of Soviet models. These are weapons from the Warsaw Pact countries that are purchased for US arms supply programs in Serbia, Romania and the Czech Republic. It appears that the United States has no desire to bring the Middle East region up to NATO standards. In reality, however, everything is simple. The less sophisticated the weapons, the easier it is to hide the routes of their supply and even their origin. If the victims among US nationals cannot be avoided, it is better to have them killed by weapons used by the Russians and their allies and blame Moscow and Damascus for the unwarranted attacks on the US military and its allies.
Investigations into the supply of arms to terrorists have appeared in the European media for several years, but the situation has not changed. “Death merchants” like Emilian Gebrev continue to brick gold, while the US State Department and the Pentagon stick to their simplistic schemes. As a result, the people of Syria and Iraq suffer, Europe suffers as refugees continue to flow, and the United States continues to defend its interests in the Middle East. In addition, Washington will ignore any incriminating material in the media and pressure arms supplier countries to follow suit. As a result, a full-fledged conflict in Syria and Iraq may rage for decades to come, bringing benefits to some and death to others.
Enrique Refoyo, journalist, co-founder of El Espía Digital – Geoestrategia.es