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Dragon's Claws: The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) as a Weapon of Strategic Influence

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Master's thesis

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The purpose of this research is to identify how the Improvised Explosive Device IED is being used as a weapon of strategic influence by insurgent groups in Iraq. It is intended to explore how individual IED events, as well as an IED campaign, achieve strategic influence. This thesis will examine how immediate and cumulative effects of IED attacks achieve strategic goals politically, economically, socially and militarily. Particular goals will vary depending on the motivations and objectives of the organization carrying out the attack, so distinctions will be made between Sunni nationalist, Shia nationalist, and the jihadi salafist insurgent groups such as Al Qaeda in Iraq AQI. Both terrorism and guerilla warfare are used as insurgent tactics in Iraq - sometimes by the same organization. As a symbolic weapon, the IED is particularly suited as a weapon for not only terrorist organizations, but insurgents as well. As a weapon of symbolic violence and instrument of terror, the IED aids in accomplishing the strategic political goals of the insurgent groups. IED events have a target of attack specifically chosen to reach the audience of the target of influence. Successful influence of the target of influence audience achieves both the short and long term objectives through immediate and cumulative effects related to the psychological impact of the events. The psychological impact the IED achieves outweighs the immediate physical damage. This thesis is not intended to provide a solution for the current IED problem in Iraq or elsewhere, but is intended to provide framework for understanding the IED problem from a strategic perspective.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Ammunition and Explosives

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