In a textbook example of The Law of Unintended Consequences, the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are complaining that their (mainly) Warsaw Pact-era weaponry is no match for the more modern tech being wielded by Sen. John McCain's ISIS chums.
Kurdish leaders have been volubly complaining that these have been no match for the modern American weaponry the Islamist extremists picked up in huge numbers as the US trained Iraqi forces ran away.It would almost be comical were it not for the death and misery that has resulted. Sengupta points out that there are two lessons to be learned from this tragic farce: firstly, that a poorly armed but highly-motivated fighting force (ISIS) will defeat a better-equipped but poorly-led and demoralized one (the ill-paid troops of Maliki's corrupt and sectarian regime).
When Isis had initially charged into Iraq from their Syrian strongholds, seizing huge swathes of territory, they did not, of course, have the Humvees and the Abrams tanks. What they used, to such great effect, were assorted mortars, rocket propelled grenade launchers, heavy machine-guns, anti-tank weapons. A significant proportion of the hardware was of Warsaw Pact origin.
These weapons had been supplied by the West and its allies, the Saudis, in late 2012 and early last year to the rebels in Syria fighting the Assad regime. No less than 3,000 tonnes of the stuff were reportedly shifted in 75 planeloads. They came from the same sources which are now being used by the British government to supply the Peshmerga forces desperately trying to combat one of the beneficiaries, Isis, of the previous airlift.
Secondly, that when you start shipping vast quantities of armaments into a war-zone, it's almost impossible to keep track of them. Where the arms go and to whom becomes entirely unpredictable.
And so it is that the allies of the West (the Kurds) are less well equipped than the West's sworn enemies (ISIS) who are now rocking Humvees, Abrams tanks and anything else that came in the deadly goody-bag that Uncle Sam provided to the Iraqi army.
In the case of the east European arms for the rebels, it was not even clear if the West knew who they were destined for. The consignments came from Croatia, which has vast stockpiles of kit, a lot of it from the Yugoslav civil war. The Croatian government denied this at the time, but ample proof has emerged of the country’s role in the trade. The arms were flown from Zagreb by Ilyushin jets of a Jordanian air cargo company, mainly into Jordan, but also into Turkey, before being moved to Syria.That's just swell; America's great ally, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is involved: the fundamentalist, misogynist hellhole that produced most of the 9/11 attackers and funds most of the world's Wahhabi madrassas; the country that gave us public beheadings, absolute monarchy, the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and the whipping and jailing of rape-victims. What could possibly go wrong with that?
Western officials stated at the time of the previous shipments that were for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) the umbrella group, a dysfunctional one at the time, of the more moderate fighters against the regime amid great clamour in western Europe and the US that they should be armed.
CIA and MI6 officials helped arranged the purchase and transport. But the bulk of the money had come from Saudi Arabia which was nurturing the more extreme jihadist groups, including Isis in the early stages of its formation.
In Syria I remember rebel commanders, more moderate ones, speaking excitedly about the consignments of eastern European arms. One, in the town of Al-Baab displaying a Yugoslav anti-tank weapon, it was, he proudly pointed out, an M79 Osa.
Six months later when I was back in Syria, at the same time Barack Obama was supposed to be bombing the Assad regime, the commander and his colleagues in al-Baab were talking about the march of Isis, how they were taking over town after town from other rebel groups, seizing arms from other khatibas (battalions), and also receiving increasing supplies from the Gulf Arabs.
Al-Baab fell a week later to Isis, the local battalion fought as hard as they had done against the regime forces, but they were outnumbered and lost; some of them, men I had come to regard as friends, died. As Isis swept into swept into Iraq, blogging sites focusing on such matters, showed the type of weaponry they were using, including, I noticed, Osa anti-tank weapons.