Qaim: A Tale of Two Tribes

The battle for control over the Syrian border region in the vicinity of Qaim continues. Jack Kelly points us to a press release from the Marine Corps on an airstrike on an al Qaeda safehouse in the contested town of Husaybah. The fact that terrorists are operating in Husaybah is no surprise, and neither should the fact that the residents of Husaybah were critical in pointing out the location of the terrorist.

At approximately 4:40 p.m. (local) Coalition Forces conducted multiple air strikes against a known terrorist safe house in the western Al Anbar province border town of Husaybah., Multiple calls from Iraqi citizens in Husaybah alerted Marines to a large number of Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists, associated with Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi gathering in an abandoned building northeast of the city. Iraqi citizens reported that approximately 50 terrorists were in the building at the time of the air strike. The terrorists were using their position to attack the residents of the city with small-arms fire.

Marine F-18D ‘Hornets’ destroyed the building using a combination of precision-guided bombs and rockets.

For the past five months, Marines based at Husaybah have reported an escalation in fighting between AQIZ terrorists and local tribes. Reports indicate that AQIZ terrorists have been attempting to wrestle control of the city from the hands of its citizens. Local leaders and sheikhs in western Al Anbar are resisting AQIZ’s murder and intimidation campaign.

Captain Pool, the author of the press release, states to Mr. Kelly; “I see this as further signs of regular Iraqi citizens getting fed up with the terrorists.” We have seen several examples of this in Qaim and elsewhere along the Euphrates River.

Reuters reports there are active street battles being fought between the tribes that support the government and those who support al Qaeda (note: this further degrades the meme that the majority of Sunnis in Anbar are insurgent/al Qaeda friendly).

Clerics in the town say members of the Karabilah tribe — allied to al Qaeda — attacked homes of the rival Albu-Mehel tribe — many of whom are members of Iraq’s new security forces in their province of Anbar.

Witnesses from the town said the tribes were involved in intense firefights and mortar attacks in the streets. The U.S military confirmed that two tribes were fighting but had no information on casualties.

The Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reports that the air strikes in Qaim are directly related to the tribal fighting; “US warplanes interfered to bomb the gunmen’s locations in Al-Qaem.” Coordinated air strikes require a certain degree of cooperation. If correct, this indicates there are stronger ties forming between US forces and the anti-al Qaeda tribes in region.

The insurgency’s area of operations is already shrinking to the Sunni dominated areas of Iraq. Just as the Taliban has struggled to gain any ground against the combined Afghani and Coalition forces in Afghanistan, the local Iraqi tribes in Anbar coupled with US military might to fight against al Qaeda would prove to be a formidable obstacle for the insurgency to overcome. Add the arriving Iraqi Army units that can allow US troops to operate more freely, and a military victory for the insurgency is highly unlikely. Their only hope is for America to lose its will to fight.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Mixed Humor says:

    Good analysis and breakdown…agree that it is unlikely Zarqawi has any significant popular support even among most Sunni who oppose U.S. presence in Iraq.

  • leaddog2 says:

    Can the stubborn refusal of the Sunni negotiators on the Constitution be a reflection of their desperation? It seems so to me!
    I.E., al-Queda is losing in Anbar province and they know it. Therefore, the “resistance” B.S. is being exposed as a Media Lie. That hurts al-Queda and their Left-wing media supporters (and
    the Sadamite killers).

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “Can the stubborn refusal of the Sunni negotiators on the Constitution be a reflection of their desperation?”
    IMHO The Sunni’s are not the monolithic group the leadership would like them to appear to be. This will become apparent in the next election cycle. Without the mandate that they “represent 20% of Iraqis”, they have a bit of a problem.
    In any case, the Sunni “leadership” has finally put together a written list of their demands. Which should at least end the “changing the issue” problem.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Many of the Sunnis on the Constitutional Committee and elsewhere want to torpedo the Constitution which would force a new election, so that they would have far more power when they try again to write the Constitution.

  • coldoc says:

    The Sunni “leadership” might be trying to pull a Yassar Arrafat… i.e. be a PITA until you get what you want. The only thing they have going for them right now is the threat of continued “insurgency”. I suspect it won’t sell…

  • Scott says:

    The Reuters article linked mentioned the hospital was under insurgent control. Any truth to that?

  • vucommodore says:

    Zarqawi may actually not be hurting the United States in Iraq. He may be helping. With
    Zarqawi around, there is a greater of 2 evils. Without Zarqawi, the Sunnis are just left with their hatred of the United States and no fear of who may come to power if they fight the United States.

  • Quote of the Day

    “The insurgency’s area of operations is already shrinking to the Sunni dominated areas of Iraq. Just as the Taliban has struggled to gain any ground against the combined Afghani and Coalition forces in Afghanistan, the local Iraqi tribes in Anbar coupl…

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “The Reuters article linked mentioned the hospital was under insurgent control. Any truth to that?”
    IMHO –
    The insurgents are as close to invisable as one can get. Unless they are holding a gun and pointing it at someone, they are citizens.
    The US Military, runs a patrol thru a town, for the most part, the locals “see no evil, hear no evil”. The Iraqi people lived under opressive tyranny for most of their lives. Seeing no evil, hearing no evil is how people in that kind of environment survive.
    Parking a whole load of US Soldier’s in a town, is somewhat better, a few people will begin to hear and see evil, the vast majority will sit on the sidelines knowing that eventually the US Soldiers will leave, if not in a year, then 5 years. Insurgents could be living in a house next to the US base, unless they are caught doing bad things, they are still “citizens”.
    Having a functioning Iraqi police or Army presence is best. The locals can see who will be protecting them after the US Soldier’s leave. Once a level of confidence in abilities is demonstrated and a commitment to securing the city long term have been established, the locals start singing like birds.
    So the question of whether the insurgents control a hospital, really becomes a question of whether hospital officials have sufficient confidence in the long term security arrangements to point out insurgents who may be frequenting the hospital. The answer to that question, in many small towns throughout Iraq, is no.
    If the question is whether the insurgents control a hospital/town to the point that would physically prohibit US Forces from entering, that would also be no(to the best of my knowledge)

  • leaddog2 says:

    Thanks, Soldier’s Dad!

  • moradali says:

    The list of 15 or so demands put forth by the Sunnis is actually not that ominous. For example it does not demand that Islam be “the” source for legislation. Neither does it shoot down federalism outright. The main objectionable item was “to declare Iraq an Arab country”, which flies in the face of ethnic realities.

    It makes you wonder why the Sunnis were not able to compromise with the Shiites and Kurds. The Kurds IMO did not object to the Islamization of the Constitution, because they figure if they obtain federalism, the central government will not be able to enforce Shariah and Islamic legislation in their domain. So they chickened out and did not put a fight against Islamization.

    There is a chance that the Sunnis would sincerely accept the Constitution in October. They receive the best real estate, farms and waters and lakes and dams. So the issue revolves around oil. As usual, oil is a curse. It all revolves around how the shakeout among the Sunnis works itself out between now and October. The Zarqawi people will continue on their crusade to disenfranchise the sunnis, whether the Constitution is accepted or rejected.

    I think with assurance of oil money, the Sunni seculars, tribes, and even nationalists can be bought off. The best thing that could be done is to constitute unequivocally that oil gross income would be distributed equally to each and every Iraqi individual (and not to the central or the local governments). That should remove this issue as the source of conflict, as it would be hard to argue against this egalitarian scheme.

  • M says:

    The munitions used on the safe house (which was interestinglly enough a mansion)did not include rockets. The F/A-18s dropped 4 GBU-38’s. These are precsion guided 500lb general purpose bombs.

  • Raids continue near Syrian border

    U.S. forces continued to press terrorists near the Syrian border, conducting raids in Husaybah and Karabilah on Monday, aimed at al Qaeda safehouses harboring senior leadership. Two seperate car bombs were found outside of safehouses in Husaybah and w…


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