Operation Iron Fist is aimed at the town of Sada (Sa’dah) near Qaim. Via an email from Captain Jeffery Pool (updated with press release):
A force of approximately 1,000 Marines, soldiers and sailors from Regimental Combat Team-2 launched an operation against a known terrorist sanctuary in the western Al Anbar province town of Sa’dah, in the Al Qa’im region approximately 12 km. from the Syrian border.
Operation Kabda Bil Hadid (Iron Fist) began in the early morning hours with the objectives of rooting out Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) terrorists operating within the area and disrupting insurgent support systems in and around the city.
For the past several months, terrorists within Sa’dah have escalated their intimidation and murder campaign against the local populace and city government officials. The resulting effect was an increased ability to move freely within the area and a base for them to launch attacks against innocent civilians, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces.
The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Anna Badkhen is embedded with the Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, and reports on the prelude to the battle. [Remember, embed’s reports are time delayed, this report is likely one to three days old.] In a mortar exchange between Marines of 1st Mobile Assault Platoon, Weapons Company and terrorists within Sada, the patrol was forced to abandon an observation post due to heavy fire. Sgt Lybarger speaks highly of the enemy; “They were as good as our guys were. I wanted to kill them before they teach all the other guys how to do that.” Airstrikes and helicopter attacks were called in to destroy identified targets and as we have seen numerous times, a mosque is used as the terrorist’s base of operations.
If the account of the exchange taken at face value, the Marines may be facing experienced fighters in this region. Preventing their escape should be the highest priority. CNN’s Arwa Damon is also embedded with the Marines, and reports scattered resistance as Marines enter the city and begin to conduct house to house searches.
It is unknown if the operations are to be expanded beyond Sada. The New York Post reports Sada has about 2,000 or so citizens (Qaim is the largest town in the area, at about 30,000), and “the isolated community has one main road and about 200 houses scattered over a rural area.” An assault force of 1,000 Marines would be overkill for the single town of Sada.
According to Captain Pool, “Iraqi soldiers have not been introduced in this phase of the operation.” Operation Iron Fist appears to be an opening feint in a larger operation designed to clear the Qaim region of al Qaeda and the insurgency and move in Iraqi forces to establish security.
Some readers may not like the tone of the reporting from Anna Badkhen’s reports. I will source her articles as she is an embedded reporter, a rarity within Iraq. I am not interested in her or any other reporter’s tone, I am interested in the facts contained within the articles. This goes for any article I cite.
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