A case for letting a 12-year-old boy play with knives. On the NYT.
A case for letting a 12-year-old boy play with knives. On the NYT.
From the Workbench: Another Workshop-Grade Anti-Material Sniper Rifle.
This one, under development, is said to be chambered in 14.5mm, like a KPV heavy machine-gun or a PTRD-41, another descendant of the Soviet arms-production heyday. (The weapon is built around a Soviet cartridge designed in the 1930s, and still produced and widely available on battlefields today.)
The rifle looks unwieldy, naturally, though not as unwieldy as this.
How well it works can’t be told from a single photograph, of the very limited Facebook post, by a Kurd who claims allegiance to The Islamic Front. It appears in any event to have been incomplete when this photo was made.
It is a reminder that the longer the the wars in the Middle East continue, the more arms shops like this one, and efforts like this or this, will be incubated. Rebels call this kind of project the natural outcome of necessity. The risks associated with this kind of necessity will likely reverberate for many years.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH
From the FB page of Dr. Abdul Karim Kurdi.
New Reads on the Arms Trade.
Buzzfeed and Reuters weigh in with separate pieces on the shadowy workings of two arms-trafficking heavyweights: the governments of the United States and Russia.
First, Aram Roston’s story on Ara Dolarian, a former pig trader turned arms dealer, and his business funneling arms from the former Eastern Bloc to a host of U.S.-endorsed recipients. A very useful look at how the United States continues to channel weapons to proxies and clients in multiple wars (none of which, it should be noted, that have turned out very well), and to work with dealers and trafficking networks with checkered records.
Next, Reuters publishes a special report claiming that a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking anti-aircraft missile used by Ukrainian separatists appears to have come, very recently, from Russian Defense Ministry stocks. The missile, one of the earlier variants of the very capable Igla class, was allegedly linked to Russia by a logbook confiscated by the Ukrainian government. This is a serious allegation, and presented in the service of trying to define what Ukraine and the United States say has been a steep uptick in the past two months in arms Russia has been providing to separatists. It also stands as a further step toward implicating another apparent exporter in the illicit distribution of anti-aircraft missiles, weapons that are coveted by terrorists and pose grave risks to civilian aviation.
All of the above said, the Reuters special report has a curious character. Given that Ukraine has made similar claims for many weeks, the wire-service’s special report might have attributed previous published work that also presented a point-by-point allegation about Igla transfers from Russian stocks to eastern Ukraine. Here is an example, by Nic R. Jenzen-Jones from mid-June. It is basically the identical allegation made with the same type of records, provided by Kiev.
The Reuters report is still valuable and welcome. It would not have hurt the story to nod to those laboring in the same patch, and who had already framed the same argument in print.
Back to that former pig trader.
Over the last decade, the U.S. has sent more than 700,000 weapons — the vast majority foreign-made small arms — to Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama has staked his strategy on training and arming the army and police. Likewise, in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, the U.S. disbanded the security forces only to rebuild and rearm new ones for eight years, sending over a million weapons by some estimates. The majority of these were Russian-designed small arms.
These are the types of arms that Dolarian, a man the state of California banned from selling certain financial securities, was given U.S. tax dollars to purchase.
Improvised (& Rechargeable) Batteries for SA-7 MANPADS
On the NYT, a report on the development among Syrian rebels of locally made and reusable batteries for the old SA-7 heat-seeking antiaircraft missile system, known as a “Strela” or “Arrow” in Russian.
Improvised batteries are a potentially significant development, with implications not just in the air-defense war over rebel-held ground in Syria but also for civilian aviation. Quick background:
A weapon of a class often colloquially called Stingers, as the best-known American model is known, Strelas have for decades been the most commonly seen antiaircraft missiles among rebel and terrorist groups. But the limited availability and short life span of their batteries, which are attached to the exterior of the tube that contains the missile, has meant that nonstate groups often struggle with power supply, posing limits on the Strela’s use.
But that limit could fade away, and old stocks of missiles out of state control could become useful anew, if improvised batteries are developed at any scale.
Matthew Schroeder, a missile proliferation analyst at Small Arms Survey, an independent research project based in Geneva, said the design was “extremely worrisome.”
Strelas have appeared in conflicts since the Vietnam War. Untold numbers were stolen from Libya’s arsenals during the uprising that deposed Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011. They have recently been documented in Syria and eastern Ukraine, where a shoulder-fired missile was believed to have hit a Ukrainian military transport plane near Luhansk in June, killing 49 troops.
“If these devices proliferate,” Mr. Schroeder said of the improvised batteries, “black-market missiles that are currently unusable because their batteries are dead could become operational again, with potentially devastating consequences.”
We have many more details than the NYT could publish this morning, due to space constraints, and will post them here or on the At War blog next week. (Busy today: onion and garlic harvest is on, there are posts to set for a new three-sided shed, and fish to haul tonight out on the rips. Time to switch off the Internet, and live.)
ABOUT THE IMAGES
Top, first generation of improvised battery designed by Major Abu al-Baraa, who is shown, below, with the second generation, which he fielded this week in northern Syria. Courtesy of Major Abu al-Baraa.
Ukrainian Rebel Gun Locker: A 72-Year-Old Returns To War.
Note this piece from Hill 277.9, in Saur-Mogila, in which Noah Sneider, a preternaturally prepared young correspondent working in eastern Ukraine, documents a PTRD-41 anti-tank rifle, b. 1942, in service again.
We’ll have more about this weapon, and another from the same time, soon on the At War blog. In the interim, Noah sums up one of the tragedies of Ukraine, and of many wars, with a pitch-perfect understanding. It is painful to read, because it rings so true. This:
The encounter is emblematic of the war in Ukraine: fought from afar against inhuman opponents. Neither side wants to look the other in the eye, because to do so would be to acknowledge that, for the most part, they aren’t fighting Nazis and terrorists, but neighbors and countrymen.
When Hitler and Stalin had it out here, George Orwell wrote of a force that he called “nationalism.” He did not mean allegiance to a nation-state though, but the conviction around which one can construct a reality. “Having picked his side, [the nationalist] persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him,” Orwell writes. “Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also—since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself—unshakeably certain of being in the right.”
ABOUT THE IMAGE
By Noah Sneider, a short while ago, of a 14.5mm weapon made to stop the Third Reich’s tanks, now, more than 70 decades on, in use in an internal war.
Lingering Excesses: The Continuing Perils of Surplus Soviet Arms.
Two samples of small-arms cartridges gathered by reporters from The New York Times after battles in eastern Ukraine show their origins in the constellation of Soviet arms plants (and from a particular set of circumstances) late in the Cold War. On the NYT’s At War blog. Here.
ABOUT THE IMAGE
An expended 5.45x39mm rifle cartridge from Slovyansk, Ukraine, bearing stamps indicating manufacture in Lugansk in 1981. By the author.