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Local Arms Production in Syria’s Aleppo Governorate.

On the NYT’s At War blog, a report and analysis on improvised arms in one corner of the Syrian war. The first part is live. A second installment will publish soon.

One set of guiding thoughts, lest anyone read the post as a buff:

The outlook and merits of Syria’s flourishing craft in improvised weapons can be assessed very differently depending on the time scale. In the short- and medium-terms, those who support the uprising might be buoyed by the energy and adaptiveness behind the arms production, and welcome its products for their utility in the war and as indications of popular support for the Free Syrian Army.

But wars go through phases. And over the longer term, this type of production can work much like the widespread distribution of modern military arms in a civilian population. It can raise risks that surviving weapons and weapons-making skills will become a source of local insecurity and persistent danger, even in the event that the Syrian government abruptly falls and a coherent and functioning transitional government steps forward in the vacuum.

It can be almost axiomatic: As hard as it can be for a society to arm itself for war, and as urgently as an uprising’s supporters seek more weapons, it can be even harder, later, to disarm. Absent strong leadership that also happens to be smart and committed to public safety, the lingering effects of Syria’s burgeoning arms business could pose perils that Syrians of all persuasions suffer from for years.

The new At War posts focus on the ongoing processes involved in arming. Many supporters of the FSA will welcome these processes. But again, this is a phase. We expect to be writing about the difficulties in disarmament in Syria for years. And that’s if Syria gets lucky. In some places that have been rearranged by violence, people have not set aside their stores of infantry arms or idled their weapons-making skills after a generation, or more. In such places, many more people become victims — long after the first fight is done.


Components of a 62-millimeter workshop-grade artillery shell. By the author. Syria. Last month.

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