Marines entered the town of Sada and conducted house by house searches. Anna Badkhen, embedded with the Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment reports many of the residents fled the town, and the terrorists took the opportunity to rig homes with explosive devices. Ms. Badkhen also states the Marine are receiving inaccurate mortar fire from the east in the direction of the town of Karibalah. Karibalah is the home of the tribe which has supported al Qaeda in and has battled the Karabilah tribe for control in the region.
The media has failed to place Iron Fist into the proper context. Here is an example of a common theme in media reports:
[Iron Fist] is at least the third large-scale offensive U.S. forces have conducted in the area in the past four months. Previous operations appear to have failed, as insurgents have quickly returned to reoccupy the towns and resume guerrilla activities.
Iron Fist is improperly being compared to prior operations in the region, which were operations Matador and Spear. Both of these operations were not designed to take and hold territory, but to keep the enemy off balance until the proper forces – Iraqi troops – were available to occupy the region. The real failure is the media’s inability – or unwillingness – to understand the nature of the operations.
Captain Kerr clearly placed Iron Fist into the context of operations within the region; “The offensive is part of an overall operation called Sayaid (Hunter).” This has been widely ignored.
Sada is a small town of 2,000 which is accessed by a single rural road. The Marines are unlikely to base a significant force in a town of this size. Yet, as we saw in Tal Afar (Operation Restoring Rights), the outlying towns are important when attempting to strangle the insurgency. The keys to securing these small town are installing a police force, conducting patrols and basing rapid reaction forces close by to respond to al Qaeda incursions. If Iron Fist is reported at the micro-level – without placing it into the overall scope of Hunter, just as Matador and Spear were not placed into context of the Anbar Campaign – then the Marines’ “failure” to occupy Sada will be portrayed as that.
The Coalition’s ultimate goal s are securing the border and establishing an environment where the citizens can vote, which requires Qaim and Husaybah to be occupied by Iraqi troops. To effectively secure these cities, the surrounding towns of Karibalah, Sadah, Ubaydi and others in the area will be denied to the enemy. Expect the Marines of Iron Fist to turn their attention toward Karibalah next. Al Jazeera reports operations in Karibalah, and in a town called Rumana, may already be underway.
In Karabila, troops using loudspeakers were warning residents to stay inside for their own safety, and in Rumana, a town on the other side of the Euphrates River, helicopters fired on a few houses, sending plumes of black smoke up into the air, the witnesses said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern for their security.
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