Amid the chaos of the Syrian Civil War, it looks like armaments manufactured from around the globe and supplied to different factions eventually fell into the hand of Islamic State militants.
A new report from Conflict Armament Research (CAR) sheds light on the amount and type of weapons and ammunition ISIS forces obtained in Syria and Iraq. From 2014 to 2017, CAR has documented the origins and supply chain of over 40,000 items, including rifles, missiles, and improvised explosive devices.
Around 97% of weapons and 87% of ammunition used by ISIS is assumed to have originated primarily from China, Russia, and eastern European states, as evidenced by their 7.62mm caliber.
According to the report, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia purchased much of the arms from European Union countries in eastern Europe, which were distributed, without authorization, from the supplying country to Syrian rebel forces battling President Bashar al-Assad's army.
"At the very least, the diversion of weapons documented in this report has eroded the trust that exporting authorities placed in the recipient governments," the report said. "At worst, the diversions occurred in violation of signed agreements that commit recipient governments not to retransfer materiel without the exporter's prior consent."
In one such case, CAR found that an advanced anti-tank guided weapon that was manufactured in the European Union was sold to the U.S., only to be given to a party involved in the Syrian conflict, which then found its way to ISIS militants in Iraq — a process that took two months.
The FGM-148 Javelin Anti-tank Guided Missile. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Thomas Duval 1/25 SBCT PAO)
Judging by its serial number, the report stated, the anti-tank guided missile found in Iraq is believed to have been part of the same supply chain as the ones provided to a U.S.-supported rebel group in Syria. In the same year, sources with knowledge of the Syrian conflict reportedly said that the CIA was establishing small rebel units capable of taking down tanks and had received anti-tank missiles, a BuzzFeed News report said.
Although the exact process through which the militants obtained their arms from groups involved in the Syrian conflict remain unclear, it has been previously reported that members of rebel groups, such as the Free Syrian Army, were believed to have joined ISIS forces amid the sectarian violence in the country.
"These findings are a stark reminder of the contradictions inherent in supplying weapons into armed conflicts in which multiple competing and overlapping non-state armed groups operate," the report said.