The Islamic State (IS) is battling its adversaries with weapons that were made or designed in at least 25 countries — including the countries now bombing the group in Syria and Iraq — Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday.
The human rights organization’s report said “reckless arms trading” and has allowed IS to access weapons. The report also said governments haven’t done enough to ensure the arms they supply to militaries and security units won’t fall into enemy hands.
“Poor regulation and lack of oversight of the immense arms flows into Iraq going back decades have given IS and other armed groups a bonanza of unprecedented access to firepower,” Patrick Wilcken, an arms control researcher with Amnesty.
While illicit trade is a factor, Amnesty traces much of IS’ arms acquisition back to the Iraqi army.
Analyzing “thousands of videos and images,” Amnesty found the weapons IS fighters appear to use closely align with the stockpiles the Iraqi army acquired over the past five decades.
“The quantity and range of IS stocks of arms and ammunition ultimately reflect decades of irresponsible arms transfers to Iraq and multiple failures by the US-led occupation administration to manage arms deliveries and stocks securely, as well as endemic corruption in Iraq itself,” Amnesty says in its 44-page report, titled Taking Stock: The Arming of Islamic State.
IS, which was born out of al Qaeda in Iraq before being disavowed by the terror network, has seized territory and military installations across Iraq and Syria since 2013. But it was the capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June 2014, that turned the tides.
“IS fighters acquired a windfall of internationally manufactured arms from Iraqi stockpiles,” Amnesty reported. “They included US-manufactured weapons and military vehicles, which they used to take control of other parts of the country, with devastating consequences for the civilian population in those areas.”
It’s not just U.S. weaponry used on the battlefields or in the mass killings, hostage-takings, rapes and torture that IS is notorious for.
The report outlines weapons in IS’ arsenal from Russia, China, Belgium Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. And it’s not limited to guns. The militant group’s stockpile includes anti-tank weapons (guided and unguided), mortars and armoured fighting vehicles.
“While precise chains of custody are difficult to establish, a substantial proportion of IS’ current military arsenal comprises weapons and equipment captured or illicitly traded from poorly secured Iraqi, and, to a lesser extent Syrian, military stocks.”
It’s the chains of custody that raise concerns about arming the groups battling IS on the ground — Kurdish militias, so-called moderate Syrian rebel groups. The report noted at least one instance in which weapons meant for Kurdish fighters ending up in the hands of IS.
“This catastrophe is another wakeup call – all states must take a long view and conduct much deeper institutional risk assessments for arms export decisions and act with much greater precaution and restraint when transferring and managing arms,” the report warns.