The longer the Iraq war goes on, the farther the use of the Improvised Explosive Device – IED – spreads around the Middle East. This weapon is tailored for terrorists to operate with impunity. Produced quickly in large quantities, the IED inflicts death and injury on whole armies of men equipped with space-age weapons and body armor, and destroys the heaviest tanks.
On Tuesday, June 12, in a bid to stem the rising clamor in the US and across the Middle East over the American Army’s inability to overcome the crude IEDs, the US command unveiled the EA-68 Prowler, announcing its increasing use for defusing the weapon which has become the biggest killer of American soldiers in Iraq.
The EA-68 Prowler is an aircraft which jams small ground signals, such as those emitted by the mobile phones and garage door openers which trigger the roadside bombs in Iraq. Even its fans admit that the EA-6B Prowler’s effectiveness is hard to measure; there is no saying whether an IED which fails to explode has been jammed by a Prowler signal or is simply defective.
On March 16, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 293 first reported “Jihadist terrorists have a device for blocking American IED jammers and sniffers.” Several experts disputed this information.
Even after a $6 bn investment, the US Army’s Joint IED Defeat Organization – JIEDDO, has failed to produce electronic circuits for jamming the frequency of the detonator devices and preventing them exploding.
The American army and Sunni and al Qaeda terrorists appear to operate in different eras, according to different rules of engagement and on different planets.
As one expert put it, “Low-tech seems to trump high-tech.”
And not only in Iraq.
The IED scourge reaches Lebanon, Turkey and Gaza
Terrorists across the Middle East are seizing on the IED as an invincible weapon for defeating Western armies. In the last two weeks, roadside bombs have been encountered by the Lebanese army fighting Fatah al-Islam and pro-Syrian Palestinian factions in the northern Nahr al-Bared camp near Tripoli.
The Turkish army has come across them in battles with the Kurdish rebel PKK in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq. They are planted at the sides of roads and detonated by mobile phones and wireless remote control.
For nearly three weeks, the United States ran an airlift to Beirut carrying APCs and armored vehicles as well as ammunition to help the Lebanese army beat al Qaeda’s affiliates and pro-Syrian factions before the pro-Western government headed by Fouad Siniora was destabilized.
The armored vehicles were blown sky high by roadside bombs and anti-tank weapons. Both were smuggled into Lebanon by the same Syrian military intelligence service which pushes IEDs into Iraq to kill American soldiers.
In the last month, the US command in Iraq have encountered in Baqouba and other parts of Diyala Province northeast of Baghdad bigger and more powerful IEDs which are capable of blowing up even the heavy Bradley and Abrams tanks.
In 2006, Israeli Chariot Mark-4 tanks deployed against Hizballah in Lebanon were prey to roadside bombs at a heavy cost in casualties.
In Gaza, today, the radical Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami are known to have strewn hundreds of roadside bombs on the territory’s main routes. They have been planted to ambush Israeli tanks in any major ground operation for stamping out Palestinian missile attacks on Israeli towns and villages.
According to incoming intelligence, Gaza is the only place in the Middle East where local terrorists have magnified the explosive power of IEDs by packing them into tunnels snaking under the Gaza’s surface. They are primed for a mighty chain-reaction blast that would not only inflict heavy casualties on the invaders but on broad civilian residential areas as well.