ded reckoning

The Militaristic, Environmental, Telecom blog that doesn't know where it's going

10 March 2005

Cell phone war

No, it's not about Verizon Wireless vs. Cingular, but a good article about the use of cell phones among the terrorists in Iraq. Rowan Scarborough covers the use of phones for communications and IED attacks here. I've seen a few reports and articles on this before, but the article describes some very sophisticated techniques by the insurgents using various communications technologies and is the best overview yet of what they are doing:

Insurgents use other types of phones. In April, near the insurgent-heavy town of Latifiyah, an Army convoy was devastated by a series of IEDs. An investigation showed that bombs were ignited by satellite phones activated by another satellite phone, the Marine officer said.

Then there is this terrific photo from LGF. A great grunt's eye view of what they are up against (one of the few calls you want to miss). And remember, Iraq only got a cellular network after we invaded. Either the Mukbarat has been working on this stuff for a long time, as Scarborough says, or, as I have always thought, it made it's way there through Al Qaeda or Iran.

I think the Iraqis probably got a lot of Intel from Lebanon and did a lot of work on their own. Hezbollah is Shia, supported by Iran and would only be a favorite of Saddam because they are the only Arabs who put a serious hurt on Israel and got them to pull out of Lebanon. I remember seeing pictures of the plastic rocks Hezbollah was making to conceal large IEDs they would use against the Isrealis. As in Iraq, the tactics they used had far reaching implications on Isreali strategy and equipment (see the tank-based APCs they eventually developed in response, like the Achzarit).

Anthony Cordesman echoes this in the only reference I've seen to Hezbollah related to the war in Iraq. In an article in National Defense Magazine, Insurgents Learn to Exploit U.S. Military's Vulnerabilities, Cordesman says:

"Insurgents have been using a mix of crude and sophisticated IEDs, said Cordesman. “Hezbollah should be given credit for having first perfected the use of explosives in well-structured ambushes, although there is nothing new about such tactics,” he said. “Iraq has, however, provided a unique opportunity for insurgents and Islamist extremists to make extensive use of IEDs by exploiting that nation’s massive stocks of arms.”

As I said, the cell phone network is very new to Iraq so the skills to make remote detonated bombs, though probably fairly simple, had to come from somewhere, and Hezbollah combined with the Iraqi Secret Service combined with Al Qaeda is a potent recipe. Luckily, as with all technologies, not everything is bad news, and if you believe that information freedom will help Iraq, this article (found it originally on Instapundit) shows bears that out. In Iraq, text messages help track insurgents, which includes this sentence,

“Many, many people tell us about the terrorists with this,” al-Zobaidi said, tapping his black cell phone and thumbing down to show more messages

And to cap it off, the opening up of cell phone service is going about as you'd expect it to anywhere, up and up. Can't expect perfect service from a network that was deployed in about 6 months, but as with a lot of things in Iraq, anything is better than nothing, and this is just another nail in the coffin of the Baathists there. There is no way they can defeat a teenager with a cell phone. And just wait until the camera phones arrive!

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