Sunday, March 04, 2007

Feel the steel balls

OK, so we the first to highlight the fact the military is none too certain about the EFPs-from-Iran meme. Then we were the first to draw attention to how trivially easy they are to make, and how widely available the materials and information required are.

Since then, the US Army has actually shown off what it claims to be evidence - you can read the NYT story which also mentions the fact a lot of the stuff on show originated in, ahem, Dubai. I wonder how it got there? In the back of a big aeroplane, whether with malice aforethought, or just because all the stuff required is available in commerce - it's not as if ball bearings, plastic pipes, or sheet copper are materials of war subject to strict control, and even the explosive isn't that hard to source - and that's assuming you didn't just get it from an old depot like the one at Al-Qaaqaa.

Anyway, since then, they have discovered machine shops in Iraq churning out the copper stampings - a considerably more sophisticated method than the one I suggested. After all, I was thinking of cutting out the copper with snips and beating it to shape against the bottom of a gas canister, using a rubber mallet. No wonder British manufacturing industry is in the shape it's in - one day I'll tell you about the job I had bending metal rods for supermarket displays into shape against a working drawing by hand.

Now, the fallback argument is that the triggering devices are, as they say, the smoking gun. So where do they come from, then? According to an article by James Glanz of the NYT, in which a degree of scepticism is displayed that might have come in handy back in 2003, the US Army says they are from Radio Shack - yup, the American chain of hobbyist electronics stores known in the UK as Tandy, and two other well-known brands.

And this, apparently, is evidence that they really come from Iran! The logic here is impressively weird. According to Major Marty Weber, described as a senior EOD officer, all the IEDs in Iraq he's examined that use passive IR triggers contain IR components from Radio Shack or two other firms. He claims that none of the southern Lebanese ones use Radio Shack components. Therefore, the Sadrists (since when do they use IEDs?) can't be getting them from Hezbollah, and therefore they must come from Iran! Now, the Americans officially believe that Hezbollah is an arm of the Iranian secret service. So this is quite literally insane reasoning. We are being asked to believe that because the electronics in the Iraqi IEDs comes from a different source than supposedly Iranian-supplied ones in Lebanon, therefore, the Iraqi ones must be supplied by Iran.

Weber also claims that the only places in the world where EFP, passive-IR triggered IEDs are used are south Lebanon and Iraq. This is simply wrong, and if he read this blog, he'd know that he could add Northern Ireland and Germany to that list.

You can see the photos here. I particularly like the packet of ball bearings marked "Feel the Performance! Feel the Power! Feel the Steel Balls!"

In fact, the title should be "Feel the Indian steel balls!". I've just taken the time to have a peer at the photo in Adobe Photoshop from a couple of angles and enlargements, and I'm pretty sure they come from Jindal Fine Industries, an Indian bicycle parts manufacturer.

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