Operation Iron Fist Near Qaim

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.

Notes:

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.

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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23 Comments

  • Jamison1 says:

    QAIM, Iraq (AP) — About 1,000 U.S. troops, backed by attack helicopters, swarmed into a tiny Iraqi village near the Syrian border Saturday in an offensive aimed at rooting out fighters from al-Qaida in Iraq, the country’s most feared militant group, the military said.
    The assault, the latest in a series of major operations this year by U.S. forces in the heartland of the Sunni-led insurgency, targeted the village of Sadah, which the military said was a base for al-Qaida militants and foreign fighters entering from Syria.
    //breakingnews.nypost.com/dynamic/stories/I/IRAQ?SITE=NYNYP&SECTION=HOME

  • desert rat says:

    re: Your comment about 1,000 Marines being “Overkill”. While this could be true if only the “native” population was in the town, do we know that?
    The Terrorists/ insurgents “They were as good as our guys…” Doubt if they are all Sadahians.
    Remeber our over riding concern has been Force Protection, we should be bringing Overkill to the party. It’s the Powell Doctrine, writ small.

  • KH says:

    Great post. I donĀ“t have any problems with citing embedded reporters, despite their bias.
    It seems a pattern is to start the operation with a couple of towns outside a city, and then enter the city. Why? Why not the other way around?

  • Jamison1 says:

    Only US forces? They probably don’t intend on holding the town then.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    gilliam1,
    Thanks, I slightly modified the post with the additional information.
    desert rat,
    No word on who exactly is in Sada. I have no trouble with overkill, just pointing out that Sada looks to only be the beginning. I also doubt the terrorists are “as good as our guys”. But I wouldn’t underestimate them either.
    KH,
    Thanks. We have a battalion in Qaim, and I suspect its not as bad there as it is in the outlying areas (Karibalah, Sada, Ubaydi). It would be wise to strike al Qaeda at its strongest points in order to maximize the opportunity to kill as many AQ as possible. Note the single road access to the city. Any jihadis left that want to exit the town will have a difficult time doing so, they’ll have to drive offroad or leave on foot.
    If anyone finds the population totals of these towns I’d love to hear it. I have Qaim at 30,000 and Sada at 2,000 so far.

  • desert rat says:

    I was only quoting your quote of Sgt Lybarger.
    This vilage may not be large enough to warrant the ISF holding it, or they may ride in, afterwards. Trucks could bring a holding force to Sadah within hours, if required. There may not be much left in the town to hold, by the time the Marines are finished.

  • Jamison1 says:

    Looks like we’ve done this before:
    //www.epic-usa.org/Default.aspx?tabid=1000

  • Bill Roggio says:

    gilliam1,
    I covered Matador extensively. If we don’t base Iraqi troops in the region, then this is a search and destroy mission like Matador. They key is what follows Sada.
    desert rat,
    Sada is too small to base forces, but it does need to be cleared and get local police installed. The outlying areas are just as important as the bigger towns and cities. Remember Col McMaster’s briefing on Tal Afar, on how they cleared the outlying areas prior to the assaul, and how this compounded the insurgent’s problems.

  • TallDave says:

    Excellent coverage, Bill. Your blog has become an instant must-read for those who want to know what’s happening in Iraq.

  • Ike says:

    Bill, Here is the latest from Reuters. This story seems to be LOADED with innacuracies. Can you take a look for me? I will put quotes around the questionable portions of the story.
    U.S. forces launch new offensive in western Iraq
    01 Oct 2005 09:23:39 GMT
    Source: Reuters
    (Updates with statement from U.S. military)
    By Ammar al-Alwani
    RAMADI, Iraq, Oct 1 (Reuters) – U.S. forces, backed by helicopters, launched another big offensive in the far west of Iraq near the Syrian border on Saturday to hunt militants linked to al Qaeda, the U.S. military said.
    Around 1,000 marines, soldiers and sailors launched Operation Iron Fist in the early hours against insurgents in the town of Qaim, 12 km (7 miles) from the Syrian border, and nearby settlements including Sedea.
    It is at least the third major offensive U.S. forces have conducted in the area over the past four months.
    “Previous operations appear to have failed as insurgents have quickly returned to reoccupy the towns and resume guerrilla activities.”
    I dont buy this do you??
    Operation Iron Fist began in the early morning hours with the objectives of rooting out al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating within the area and disrupting insurgent support systems,” Marine Captain Jeffrey Pool said in a statement.
    For the past several months, terrorists within Sedea have escalated their intimidation and murder campaign against the local populace and city government officials,” he said.
    Iraqi police in the area said convoys of U.S. military vehicles rolled into Qaim and nearby towns, including Karabila and Sedea, in the early hours, following attacks by helicopters.
    A doctor in the main hospital in Qaim, Amir al-Obedi, said 10 people had been killed and eight wounded in fighting. He said relatives of the wounded told him they had been attacked by U.S. helicopters in Sedea, a town near Qaim.
    FAILED OFFENSIVES
    U.S. forces have previously conducted several large-scale offensives against insurgents in the area. In June, the U.S. military said it had cleared Qaim and Karabila of militants, only for them to return a few weeks later.
    ??????? True?
    U.S. commanders believe Qaim and other towns near the Syrian border are a conduit for weapons and militants entering Iraq and have repeatedly tried to shut the supply lines down, “apparently with little effect as militants continue to enter the country.”
    Little effect????? Failures????
    By interdicting foreign fighters flowing in from the Syrian border, the operation will also serve as a way to provide security for the upcoming referendum,” Pool said of Iron Fist.
    The Euphrates river valley, which runs between the Syrian border and Baghdad, is believed to be the hideout of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, the group that has claimed responsibility for many of the worst attacks in Iraq.
    “Several towns and cities in the Euphrates valley are effectively in the hands of militants, including Haditha, Hit and Ana. U.S. forces have been trying to quell the predominantly Sunni Arab region for more than two years.”
    What happened to people in the mainstream media saying they have so many “filters” in place to confirm story’s and so many fact-checkers when this is a clear example of reporting rumors as fact?
    The latest attempt comes ahead of a referendum on Oct. 15 when Iraqis will vote on a new draft constitution opposed by many in the Sunni Arab minority.

  • TallDave says:

    Big surprise, the press is actively rooting against the military.
    They have “filters” all right. It’s a bunch of Kos diarists and regular DUers who make damn sure to filter out anything positive and spin everything as defeat.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Ike,
    Matador was in May of this year. Matador and the operations in the area of Qaim we’ve discussed recently were not designed as clear and hold operations, but to keep the enemy off balance. The media doesn’t understand this (or doesn’t care to), hence the innaccurate remarks you see in this story and others. There is a lot of argument about who exactly controls this area, and who has controlled it for how long, but I don’t think it is wrong to say that al Qaeda has a presence here.

  • paul danish says:

    Jihadis fighting as well as marines?
    Does this mean al Qaida is finally commiting the varsity — its exerienced fighters — or perhaps that the Syaian Ba’athists are getting concerned enough about insurgent battlefield losses that they have started sending in trained Syrian army personnel? Other possibilities are that a training operation — probably based in Syria or Iran — is finally turning out reasonably competent foreign fighters or that veterans of Saddam’s army are having to enter the fight themselves rather than sacrifice neophytes. Finally, there’s the possibility that the marines are enountering experienced fighters because the river campaign has pushed much of the insurgency up-river. All of these possibilities suggest the enemy is having to commit his best forces, not in order to deliver a knockout blow, but in order to survive. We may be getting somewhere.

  • Jamison1 says:

    POLICE IN QAIM SAID IRAQI TROOPS ALSO WERE PARTICIPATING IN THE OPERATION, BUT THE U.S. MILITARY DID NOT MENTION AN IRAQI ROLE. NO COALITION OR CIVILIAN CASUALTIES FROM THE OFFENSIVE WERE REPORTED BY THE U.S. MILITARY.
    //www.waow.com/news/full_story.php?id=38452

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Paul Danish,
    “Jihadis fighting as well as marines?”
    IMHO The Jihadi’s have always had ONE good mortar team. They cause just enough havoc(2 US fatalaties/month) so that force protection measures have to be taken against mortars, and every mortar attack has to be taken seriously.
    Fortunately, it appears that the mortar team in question is dead as a result of air strikes.

  • Aaron says:

    //news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051001/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_the_last_marine
    Has this reporter found every single Marine who is disgruntled and negative or do we really have a serious morale problem on our hands?
    After reading this, I expect units to be surrendering to Jihadis…what about the comment on intelligence not being “useful?”

  • Merv Benson says:

    I think the reason they are going into the smaller towns first is to prevent the enemy from fleeing to those towns when the main thrust is made against Qaim. Similar tactics were used in Tal Afar. It prevents the operation from turning into a pursuit as the enemy scrambles to get out of the may of US forces. We want him running out of places to run. This should make it easier to destroy his forces. We should know if Zarqawi’s guys start squeeling like they did when they were loosing Tal Afar.

  • Lowell says:

    Lucianne.com is carrying an AP story loaded with detail on this.

  • Robert M says:

    So now it is clear the mbeds are of use. Why aren’t here more?

  • ghoullio says:

    apparently they prefer the room service of the Baghdad Mariotts…
    it is dangeorus going out on patrols and missions with armed soldiers.
    it would also put them in the dangeorus position of having to accurately report our operations in Iraq, something they know their state-side Editors would not approve of.

  • Dan Collins says:

    Hmmmm. San Francisco, where the people consider themselves avant garde, but who are famous around the nation for lots of rear action.

  • Chris says:

    Anyone look at other stories by Anna Badkhen?
    Sheesh – what have we got her going out with our Marines for? I think she’s actually been writing “for” the Jihadis for a long time now.

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