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Addressing the threat posed by IEDs

National C-IED initiatives: Middle East conclusions

The Middle East as a whole suffers from so much IED violence, but has also seen many C-IED initiatives, that it is difficult to summarise. Iraq alone could probably merit its own conclusion. The IED threat seen in Iraq is on a scale never previously experienced, and the civilian impact from such use is overwhelming. Greater preparation is needed to ensure that not only training but also equipment is granted to local forces. The fact that the Peshmerga forces must resort to using their bare hands, and that they lack the basic equipment that would make their already deadly job safer, is shocking.

A great deal of delay has also been reported in allowing C-IED actors, whether humanitarian or private, into liberated areas to begin surveying and clearance. This prolongs the time until civilians can return to their homes and puts them in danger, as some will try to return to their homes despite the area not being cleared. Better organisation is needed to ensure C-IED actors are deployed to carry out such tasks as quickly as possible. These efforts must also include awareness raising and victim assistance.

For less impacted states in the region, such as Israel and Oman, border security has been the main priority. However, protection against terrorists and smugglers crossing the border must also be matched to better prevent IED components and dual-use materials from entering the country. One of the key areas of C-IED that is currently inadequate in the Middle East region is the monitoring of explosives and chemical components in customs. A CAR report showed that even one of the most developed countries in region, Turkey, saw IED components and dual-use materials travelling across the border, eventually making their way into IS’ IEDs. Though many of these countries are engaged in training for customs, it is likely that many in the region could benefit from an extension of the assistance provided by Programme Global Shield (PGS) to further assist the Middle East region. PGS have looked to extend their programmes in this region to respond to the need but require funding to assist this endeavour.

Risk education is another area in which improvement could be made in the region, particularly as the scale of the problem has escalated in recent years. In Iran, Yemen and Iraq, for example, it is clear that some civilians do not fully comprehend the danger explosives can pose.

The Middle East region has been a distinct focus of Western states as part of counterterrorism and C-IED operations. However, despite this focus, many still lack the local capacity to provide effective C-IED, particularly given the scale of the problem. Forces in both Iraq and Palestine (West Bank) have reported equipment shortages for managing explosives.

In an area so impacted by IEDs, it is understandable why many programs seek to target de-radicalisation. However, there is concern that these efforts might eclipse countering violent extremism. Although de-radicalisation is preventative, cross-cultural and inter-religious community building initiatives and efforts that provide youth empowerment could add to the initiatives already being carried out in the region. Saudi Arabia may provide some useful examples to the rest of the region.

The C-IED training and knowledge in the region is now high compared to other regions due to experience and assistance. Now efforts must focus on providing equipment and other resources to ensure the knowledge is used effectively, and implementing further preventative measures, from countering violent extremism to combating terrorism financing.

To see the areas of the published report, see here. To see a list of all the C-IED actors examined as part of the project, please go here. To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.