“I’ll draw it for you,” says Abu al-Tayeb. He sketches a circle on his napkin, representing a village in southern Syria, about 12.5 miles away as the crow flies. Beneath the circle, Abu al-Tayeb draws three concentric semicircles. “Buried explosives,” he says and taps the outermost one. “Mines” and points to the middle one. “They’re antipersonnel mines lying on top of anti-tank mines so that two explosions are triggered at once.” Finally, he taps the innermost semicircle, “machinegun nests.”
This is a ring of defense set up by the terror organization “Islamic State” (IS), at least according to information from Abu al-Tayeb’s spies. The stocky, balding man is tired, he only had two hours sleep the night before. Abu Al-Tayeb, which isn’t his real name, is a Syrian rebel group’s liaison man here in Jordan. Dozens of these groups form the Southern Front, whose area of operations run along the Syrian-Jordanian border. They are supported by the U.S. Army and Western, as well as Arab, intelligence services with weapons and munitions, money and know-how. Military advisers recently trained the rebels in clearing mines.
Some of the mines used by IS in southern Syria were obtained from enemy depositories. But they make most of their explosive devices themselves. In Iraq, in the area surrounding Mosul, where an international coalition is fighting the jihadists, the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga have discovered massive hordes of IS explosives, buried under sand hills. They are also stumbling upon actual factories for making explosive charges.