Weapons: IEDs Cast In Stone


July 16, 2007: Roadside bombs (IEDs, Improvised Explosive Devices) in Iraq have changed over the last few years. American intelligence and reconnaissance efforts have been quick to discover new disguises for these weapons (with the troops quickly notified), and widespread use of jammers, has forced bomb makers to largely abandon wireless detonation. As a result, the best paid bomb makers now are those that can build bombs that look like part of the landscape. This includes casting concrete or bricks, or fabricating metal, to create a container for the bomb that turns it into an expected object. Thus bombs can be built into the walls of buildings, curbs or underpasses and bridges. The big risk with these is that it takes longer to install them, and increases the chances of being spotted. This can get you killed (by a missile or sniper) or arrested. The latter is particularly bad if Iraqi soldiers or police grab you. Saddam era interrogation methods are still widely used, and justified because Iraqi security personnel, and civilians, are more likely to get hurt by the IEDs, than foreigners.

Another interesting development is that, despite there being over five million tons of munitions lying about after the 2003 invasion, most of it has apparently been destroyed or locked up. Saddam had lots of ammo left over from the 1980s war with Iran, and he never threw anything away, or used much of it for training. Coalition, and eventually Iraqi, EOD (Explosives Ordnance Disposal) troops have been finding, and blowing up, the stuff ever since 2003. But you rarely hear, or see, any of the spectacular explosions that the EOD people were setting off all the time in 2004 and 2005. As a result, many IEDs are now using fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) for explosives. This stuff works, and Iraq is a largely agricultural country, with lots of ammonium nitrate about. But fertilizer bombs are bulkier, and trickier to set off, than artillery shells or military grade explosives. Some bomb workshops have contained industrial grade explosives, either stolen from construction sites, or smuggled in. Lots of explosives, and bomb making gear, is still being smuggled in from Syria (more so than Iran, or any other neighboring countries.) A lot more of it is being found now, as U.S. and Iraqi forces clear out the Sunni Arab suburbs of Baghdad.

The guys who build, place and detonate the bombs get paid, and in Sunni areas, it's a big business. In fact, it's one of the few sources of jobs for someone who does not have a farm. The lack of reconstruction in Sunni Arab areas (because of the terrorists) has made the terrorists major employers. But it's not a lot of jobs, and it's dangerous work. Most Sunni Arabs would like the terrorists to leave, and more are helping make it happen by passing information to the police, or American troops. Many are switching employers, and now working for the police, or tribal militias fighting the terrorists. Meanwhile, lots of that roadside bomb knowledge has made its way to the Internet, where is is translated into many languages, so that more terrorists can continue killing. Sunni Arabs have only produced one Nobel Prize winner in science (Chemistry, with most of the work being done in the U.S.), and not many useful inventions. For the moment, IEDs are about the only notable thing Sunni Arab engineers have contributed to the world.


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