Islamic State’s weapons are perceived as a secret that might need long time for its details to be revealed. These details may be buried then under the rubble of the Syrian and Iraqi cities ISIS ruled and expanded within since 2014. However, ISIS managed to retain the privacy of its weapons’ capabilities up to now.
Enab Baladi displays the narratives of people who lived through the rule of ISIS and have been in contact with its members, in an attempt to foreshadow the fate of the weapons deployed in the eastern region of Syria, amid the successive changes that are taking place and which coincide with the battles against ISIS in Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa.
Confidential and Security Structure
Abu Khattab, a 29 years old man and a former member of the “Free Army” in the city of Deir ez-Zor, stated that the city was the center of tens of weapons warehouses before ISIS got into the province. However, ISIS took hold of large quantities of these weapons at that time.
The fighter, who was displaced along with his family to the countryside of Deir ez-Zor, stated that “nobody can determine the size of the armament of ISIS and the sources of its weapons, since some of which were known while most of them remained indefinite despite the various stories woven around it.”
Reports spoke about ISIS’s use of the weapons it took hold of during its battles in Iraq. Abu Khattab pointed out that “it is difficult to estimate the losses of ISIS or the quantity of weapons that is still inside its warehouses and in the possession of its leaders and members because of the very discreet and confidential security structure.”
The Free Army member clarified that “every sector in Deir ez-Zor had a responsible for arming whose role is submitting reports to the general armament prince in the city or region.” He stressed that “this includes only the weapons used in the sectors and recognized by everyone. The rest of the weapons and ammunition are unknown to the officials and the members.”
According to Abu Khattab, the administrative and military divisions established by ISIS contributed to the good management of armament affairs. He affirmed also that “despite the existence of the Central Bureau of War, it did not include clear statements about the number, type and quantity of weapons.”
Although the fighter left Deir ez-Zor months ago, he confirmed the spread of many weapons warehouses, “which are known by a number of trustworthy ISIS security officers and unknown to the rest of its members and leaders.” He reinforced his claim saying that “this part may justify the reason why ISIS was not affected by the different ranks dissidents and kept its fiery power, in spite of the loss of many of its sponsors.”
Strategy of Concealing Weapons
Although many people avoided talking about ISIS for fear of its “extended arms” and punishment as described by others, many stressed that “ISIS is still effective and able to reach its enemies, in addition to its security policy and keenness which significantly contributed to keeping its warehouses and weapons factories away from its affiliates.”
Abu Ali, an activist from Deir ez-Zor, stated that many ISIS fighters were unaware of the types of weapons ISIS possesses, “except for what fell into their hands.” He pointed out that “this does not undermine their confidence in the arsenal of individual and heavy weapons, in addition to the near and mid-range missiles they possess.”
Others talk about ISIS’s conducting of chemical experiments in an attempt to develop its ammunition and increase its power. This backs up tens of reports issued by human rights organizations and confirms that ISIS possesses chemical weapons used in different areas of Aleppo countryside and the eastern region.
The 30 years old activist considered that “ISIS has deployed its weapons in several areas and in small and spaced warehouses in order to mitigate the losses that result from bombings or sudden retreat.”
The activist noticed that the past experiences of jihadist organizations “confirm that they are setting their plans for the present and the future so as to ensure their survival. This applies also to ISIS which has maintained its existence for years, starting from its appearance in Iraq.”
Hypotheses about the Fate of the Weapons
Various hypotheses have been made in case ISIS is expelled from the areas it controls, especially about the fate of ISIS’s weapons which could be either taken over by its opponents, most notably the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (QSD), or by the international coalition, which is very supportive of the battles against ISIS.
Taha al-Mohammed, a 27 years old journalist from Deir ez-Zor and one of the observers of ISIS issues, stated in his speech to Enab Baladi that ISIS’s withdrawal from an area does not mean its total absence, as it “leaves many dormant cells waiting for its instructions along with hidden members and sympathizers.”
In the journalist’s point of view “these members can become soldiers at any moment.” He concluded that “it is necessary for the weapons to be nearby, available and easy to obtain when needed,” pointing out that “the weapons left behind by ISIS are often simple and in small quantities. Taha asked the following question: “Where did the entire arsenal that we used to see go?”
Most of our poll respondents agree that ISIS’s weapons are either hidden or smuggled from the areas ISIS is losing control of. According to them, the fate of the weapons is a question that strongly poses itself in the current events, especially in the coming period, “considering that the weapons will remain one of the tools that contribute to the making of the Syrian scene for a long period of time.”