Why AK-47 Ammo Sucks So Much

by James Dunnigan
April 11, 2008
Discussion Board on this DLS topic

One unspoken reason for Iraqi and Afghan troops switching from AK-47s to M-16s, is problems with ammunition quality. AK-47 (7.62mm) ammo has long had quality issues, at least to a greater degree than M-16 5.56mm stuff. As new Iraqi and Afghan security forces were recruited, trained and sent into action, there was a huge increase in demand for AK-47 ammo. This led to a lot of older stuff coming onto the market. In many nations that use the AK-47, including China, not a lot of ammo is used.

Put simply, the troops don’t get a lot of practice firing their weapons. But large stocks of ammo are stockpiled in case there is a war. With the increased demand from Iraq and Afghanistan, many nations with these stockpiles saw an opportunity to unload their older (often 40 years or more) stuff. This elderly ammunition was not only suffering from the usual aging problems of old ammo (the chemicals in the propellants breaks down and makes the bullets move a lot slower, and less effectively), but often showed the effects of poor storage (corrosion). All that, plus the ease with which one can bribe Iraqi or Afghan supply officials to accept the bad stuff, led to many Iraqi and Afghan troops going into battle with defective ammo.

These problems largely go away with M-16 ammo, which is made to higher standards in the first place, and rarely lies around for a long time (M-16 users let their troops practice more often). There is some crap 5.56mm ammo out there, but to a much lesser degree than is the case with the AK-47 stuff.

Petraeus points to war with Iran

Posted: April 10, 2008
8:27 pm Eastern

© 2008

The neocons may yet get their war on Iran.

Ever since President Nouri al-Maliki ordered the attacks in Basra on the Mahdi Army, Gen. David Petraeus has been laying the predicate for U.S. air strikes on Iran and a wider war in the Middle East.

Iran, Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee, has “fueled the recent violence in a particularly damaging way through its lethal support of the special groups.”

These “special groups” are “funded, trained, armed and directed by Iran’s Quds Force with help from Lebanese Hezbollah. It was these groups that launched Iranian rockets and mortar rounds at Iraq’s seat of government (the Green Zone) … causing loss of innocent life and fear in the capital.”

Is the Iranian government aware of this – and behind it?

“President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders” promised to end their “support for the special groups,” said the general, but the “nefarious activities of the Quds force have continued.”

Are Iranians then murdering Americans, asked Joe Lieberman:

“Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?”

“It certainly is. … That is correct,” said Petraeus.

The following day, Petraeus told the House Armed Services Committee, “Unchecked, the ‘special groups’ pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.”

Translation: The United States is now fighting the proxies of Iran for the future of Iraq.

The general’s testimony is forcing Bush’s hand, for consider the question it logically raises: If the Quds Force and Hezbollah, both designated as terrorist organizations, are arming, training and directing “special groups” to “murder” Americans, and rocket and mortar the Green Zone to kill our diplomats, and they now represent the No. 1 threat to a free Iraq, why has Bush failed to neutralize these base camps of terror and aggression?

Hence, be not surprised if President Bush appears before the TV cameras, one day soon, to declare:

“My commanding general in Iraq, David Petraeus, has told me that Iran, with the knowledge of President Ahmadinejad, has become a privileged sanctuary for two terrorist organizations – Hezbollah and the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – to train, arm and direct terrorist attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, despite repeated promises to halt this murderous practice.

“I have therefore directed U.S. air and naval forces to begin air strikes on these base camps of terror. Our attacks will continue until the Iranian attacks cease.”

Because of the failures of a Democratic Congress elected to end the war, Bush can now make a compelling case that he would be acting fully within his authority as commander in chief.

In early 2007, Nancy Pelosi pulled down a resolution that would have denied Bush the authority to attack Iran without congressional approval. In September, both Houses passed the Kyl-Lieberman resolution designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

Courtesy of Congress, Bush thus has a blank check for war on Iran. And the signs are growing that he intends to fill it in and cash it.

Israel has been hurling invective at Iran and conducting security drills to prepare its population for rocket barrages worse than those Hezbollah delivered in the Lebanon War.

Adm. William “Fox” Fallon, the Central Command head who opposed war with Iran, has been removed. Hamas and Hezbollah have been stocking up on Qassam and Katyusha rockets.

Vice President Cheney has lately toured Arab capitals.

And President Ahmadinejad just made international headlines by declaring that Tehran will begin installing 6,000 advanced centrifuges to accelerate Iran’s enrichment of uranium.

This is Bush’s last chance to strike and, when Iran responds, to effect its nuclear castration. Are Bush and Cheney likely to pass up this last chance to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities and effect the election of John McCain? For any attack on Iran’s “terrorist bases” would rally the GOP and drive a wedge between Obama and Hillary.

Indeed, Sen. Clinton, who voted to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, could hardly denounce Bush for ordering air strikes on the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, when Petraeus testified, in her presence, that it is behind the serial murder of U.S. soldiers.

The Iranians may sense what is afoot. For Tehran helped broker the truce in the Maliki-Sadr clash in Basra, and has called for a halt to the mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone.

With a friendly regime in Baghdad that rolled out the red carpet for Ahmadinejad, Iran has nothing to gain by war. Already, it is the big winner from the U.S. wars that took down Tehran’s Taliban enemies, decimated its al-Qaida enemies and destroyed its Sunni enemies, Saddam and his Baath Party.

No, it is not Iran that wants a war with the United States. It is the United States that has reasons to want a short, sharp war with Iran.
Middle East
Apr 15, 2008

Ehud Olmert on the Damascus road

By Spengler

The only practical way to defeat irregular forces embedded in a civilian population is to destroy the states that back them. That is why America overthrew Saddam Hussein, and also why Israel is considering a pre-emptive war on Syria on the model of 1967.

After Israel began military exercises on the Syrian border last week, the prospect arose of war with Damascus. In fact, for Israel to strike at Syria today would require the strategic equivalent of a conversion experience for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as it were, a conversion on the road to Damascus.

A week before the 1967 war, no one could have predicted if then-prime minister Levi Eshkol would stake the existence of the Jewish state on the fortunes of Israeli arms. In retrospect, it

seems clear that Israel had no other choice. The existential choice today is no less real, but far less clear in Israeli minds.

For example, the May issue of the The Atlantic Monthly asks on its front cover, “Is Israel Finished?” Among friends and sympathizers of the Jewish state, the prospect of its liquidation now is debated openly. The 2006 attack on Lebanon revealed an enervated Israel, unwilling to act decisively, and Israel may not be able to summon the fighting spirit that sustained it through previous crises.

Olmert desperately wants a Palestinian state on the West Bank, Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg reports, to separate the growing Palestinian Arab population and keep the integrity of the Jewish state. But the Palestinians never will form such a state at the price of recognizing the permanent presence of a Jewish state. The radical Islamists of Hamas control Gaza and would make short work of Mahmoud Abbas’ regime on the West Bank, except for the presence of the Israel Defense Force.

Olmert’s popularity in Israel is lower than President George W Bush’s in the United States. In August 2006, Olmert promised to destroy Hezbollah, after the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah kidnapped Israel soldiers. Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, many of them through the windows of private apartments in southern Lebanon. To keep his promise, Olmert would have needed to expel a million people, raze their villages and use incendiaries to destroy the network of tunnels built underneath them with the help of Iranian military engineers. This was not in the cards.

Israel is now caught between an undefeated and rearmed Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in Gaza, a non-state living on international aid, with a non-army firing missiles at southern Israel from civilian neighborhoods. Without razing the Gazan neighborhoods near its border and expelling the population, Israel cannot suppress the rocket attacks, which now are an annoyance but will become a serious threat as Hamas acquires longer-range weapons. Hamas, in effect, is daring the Israelis to inflict harm on the civilians who screen its rocket teams.

It is messy to suppress irregular forces by reducing the ambient population and impossible for Israel to do so in the present international environment. Guerilla movements, however, require arms, money and intelligence from sympathetic states. Hamas and Hezbollah would represent no threat to Israel without the backing of Syria and Iran. Military and political logic requires Israel to attack their sponsors, rather than their militants embedded among civilians. Iran is hard to reach, but Syria is a sitting duck.

Israel’s problem with Hamas and Hezbollah is not much different from America’s problem with al-Qaeda after the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Without weapons, training, intelligence and passports from sympathizers in Arab states, terrorists could not pose a threat to the United States. It was not necessarily the case that Saddam, for example, conspired to commit acts of terrorism against the US. In no sense are most of the Middle Eastern regimes states in the Western sense of the term. Anwar Sadat famously said that Egypt was the only state in the Middle East, calling the others “tribes with flags”. They are more like hotels that rent rooms to a varied clientele, including some who abet terrorism.

After September 11, the United States did not know precisely what elements of which governments sponsored terrorism, although it knew that Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran hosted certain terrorist groups. It did not have the leisure (and perhaps not even the capacity) to infiltrate these groups gradually; it was simpler and more expedient to take down one of the regimes as a horrible example to the rest.

Washington chose to make an example of Iraq rather than some other state for two reasons. First, the existence of United Nations resolutions condemning Iraq’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction provided a quasi-legal basis for the attack. It really did not matter whether Saddam actually had such weapons, because he acted as if he did, and the Security Council had condemned him for it on 17 prior occasions.

Second, Washington falsely believed it could create a stable and functioning regime in Iraq that could serve as its partner in the region. Although an attack on Syria or Iran might have made more sense if the sole objective were to discourage terrorism, nation-building was not imaginable in either country.

The original motive for the Iraq invasion, which I supported, has been lost in the shambles of the American nation-building charade, which I ridiculed from the outset. Washington’s supposed hardliners cringed and cowered before the strategic choice before them: without taking down one of the regimes, Washington could not suppress state support for terrorism.

But it was illusory to believe that the US was capable of creating a stable to regime to replace it. To prevail in the regime meant an unending series of small interventions and unending chaos in the region, with hideous humanitarian consequences. Cardinal Richelieu had the stomach to pursue such a policy towards the German empire during the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648, but not Bush. Yet a Richelovian policy towards the Middle East, horrible as it would be, is the inevitable consequence of American interventionism.

America faces humiliation in consequence of its irresolve, but its survival is not at stake; in parallel circumstances, Israel faces eventual extinction. As Goldberg portrays Israel’s anguished debate in the Atlantic, the country is divided between hawks like Olmert, who needs a deal with Abbas for a West Bank Palestinian state, and a peace faction that demands unilateral withdrawal from West Bank settlements. Somewhere on another planet are the religious settlers who are sure that God will sustain them in the entirety of Biblical Israel.

Olmert’s ostensibly aggressive policy during the 2006 Lebanon War was a timid man’s idea of ferocity. Israeli bombers raised a lot of dust but did little damage to Hezbollah’s entrenchments. The limited commitment of Israeli ground forces showed the flag, took a few casualties, and accomplished little.

Rather than bomb the puppies of war in South Lebanon, military logic required a crushing blow aimed at the puppies’ master in Damascus: destruction of the Syrian air and tank forces on the ground followed by an armored incursion. Washington would have objected, no doubt, just as it objected to Israel’s pre-emptive attack on Egypt, Syria and Jordan in June 1967. Nothing wins, however, like winning.

From a military vantage point, the military risk to an attack on Syria today is negligible compared to the risks Eshkol assumed in 1967. The psychological barriers, though, are vastly greater. Israel’s cabinet four decades ago included men and women who grew up with continuous danger, had already fought two wars, and expected to fight more. Olmert is a lawyer, not a soldier, and he presides over a society that is sick of war and longs to enjoy Israel’s exceptional prosperity and amenities of life.

To attack Syria at this juncture would be an admission that peace will be out of reach for the conceivable future. Despite his unpopularity, Olmert remains in office because the majority of Israelis see no alternative to his objective, namely a Palestinian state on the West Bank. A nasty sort of sobriety prevailed in Israel in 1967. That has given way to a delusion. Ariel Sharon in 2002 reportedly spoke of a 100 years of war with the Arabs, a prospect that today’s Israelis find too horrible to contemplate.

Nonetheless, a century of war is just what Israel shall have, whether it wants to or not, unless it decides to abandon the Third Jewish Commonwealth – and that option is on the table.

Whether Israel will attack Syria is beyond prediction; to do so would require an existential leap on the part of the body politic. Syria, to be sure, takes the threat seriously enough. Writing in Asia Times Online on April 10 (War and peace, Israeli style) Syrian analyst Sami Moubayed said:

The Israelis insist they are not seeking war with the Syrians, even as Israel began its biggest military maneuver in its history since 1948. This was on the border with Syria, which has been calm since the June war of 1967 … President Shimon Peres insisted this was not a prelude to war with Syria, telling the Syrians not to worry. Israeli Radio, however, told citizens the scenario being practiced was for how things would look like on the fourth day of an “imaginary” war with Hezbollah on one front, and the Syrians on the other … Adding spice to the show were the words of General Dan Harel, the deputy chief of staff of the IDF, who said, “Anyone who tries to harm Israel must remember that it is the strongest country in the region, and retaliation will be powerful – and painful.” If all of the above is not a prelude for war, then what is?

No matter what Israel offers, the Palestinian Arabs as well as Israel’s neighbors cannot accept a permanent Jewish state. Sadat was right: Egypt is the only state in the region, and it could make peace with Israel as a matter of state interest. How long the Egyptian state will last is another matter. But the secular nationalism that created the modern Egyptian state half a century ago is a dead letter. Islamic governments cannot accept the return of the Jews to Zion according to Biblical prophecy, for this would question the Koran’s claim to be a final revelation to supplant the Judeo-Christian scriptures.

The Arabs are a failing people, I have argued in earlier studies (see Crisis of faith in the Muslim world Asia Times Online, October 31 and November 5, 2005). It is not only the triumph of globalized Western culture over traditional society that threatens them, but the ascendancy of Asia. Last week’s food riots in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East bring the point home. Arabs are hungry because Chinese are rich enough to eat meat, and buy vast quantities of grain to feed to pigs and chickens. If the rise in Asian protein consumption portends a permanently higher plateau of food prices, the consequences are dire for populations living on state subsidies, from Morocco to Algeria to Cairo to Gaza. A people that have no hope also have nothing to lose.

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