FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

"This is Now the Most Dangerous Place in Iraq"

by KEN SENGUPTA

The Independent

The attack on Yusufiyah began at just after eight in the morning. Round after round of rockets, then mortar shells and machine-gun fire racked the US Marines’ base, in an intense and unrelenting barrage.

A relief patrol ran into a well-prepared ambush. Artillery and air strikes had to be called in, but even after that the battle went on for four more hours. The assault was part of a hidden, and largely unreported, war of attrition taking place in the most dangerous part of Iraq. With Fallujah now, in effect, in American hands, the fighting has moved on to north Babil and the so-called Triangle of Death.

About 120 militants are believed to have taken part in the Yusufiyah operation, and the Americans claim to have killed 40 of them. One marine was killed and seven others injured.

Such attacks have become increasingly common, and the scale of action, as well as the body count, is now among the highest in the country. The shadow of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi hangs over this bitter conflict. The US military and Iraqi sources say the Jordanian militant leader has taken refuge in the area after leaving Fallujah.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is the American force involved in the operation, with the British Black Watch providing a more defensive, blocking role. Two or three times a week raids are carried out in isolated farms in the hunt for Zarqawi and his senior lieutenants, while firefights take place every day.

The two sides are acutely aware of the strategic significance of the towns of Mahmudiyah, Latifiyah and Yusufiyah and their hinterland. This is the home of the Sunni insurgency and also the routes through which its forces move to carry the war to Ramadi, Mosul, and Baghdad. The area was once, in effect, under insurgent control and was well known for kidnappings as well as frequent attacks on US and government forces.

Six weeks ago American forces launched Operation Phantom Fury to clear the area, but attention subsequently moved to Fallujah, and the insurgency is now back with a vengeance.

Some of the largest armament factories in the country were located here during Saddam Hussein’s time. In two raids yesterday, at Haswah and Musayyib, US Marines and Iraqi National Guard found 100 artillery rounds, surface to air mortars, rockets, grenades, and boxes of Kalashnikov rifles.

There is no shortage of supplies for the resistance and the attacks have not only continued but increased. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Smith, the commander of the 2nd Battalion based at Mahmudiyah, said: “We have insurgents returning home from Fallujah and finding us on the way. With Fallujah over, the action has moved here. This is now the most dangerous place in Iraq. Increasingly, we are coming up against Zarqawi’s people; they are better armed and better trained.”

Lt-Col Smith had just returned from an all-night operation, and still had camouflage paint on his face. The raid, on a farm, followed information that Zarqawi was hiding there. They did not find him, but, Lt-Col Smith said, they caught two senior militant leaders.

“We have had lots of engagements and we have killed a lot. We keep on getting reports that Zarqawi is in this area. If he is we shall find him and we shall capture or kill him.”

Lieutenant Michael Loring Mayne, who was involved in the battle at Yusufiyah, said: “What is very noticeable is that we are coming across well-trained fighters. In Yusufiyah they carried out a fighting withdrawal. That is not easy; it needs skill and discipline. We faced some pretty fierce and sustained fire and some of it was at pretty close quarters, some of my guys were pretty badly hurt.

“Pretty vicious things are going on here. We have had beheadings of people they suspect of helping us or the Iraqi government, and there are also murders of families of policemen and soldiers. This is about as nasty as it gets.”

Colonel Ron Johnson, commander of the 24th MEU said: “This is the heart of the insurgency. If we can stop them here, it’ll have a huge effect throughout the rest of Iraq. These are high stakes. If, after Fallujah, the insurgents can hold on to this area, they can rebuild, that is why they are fighting so desperately, and that is why we must destroy them.”

An Iraqi National Guard officer said: “I have moved my family to live with relations in a village further away, and there they do not know what my job is. We had a grenade thrown at our former home, and my friend was among the 12 men who were kidnapped and then killed by the militants.

“I do not want to go alive into their hands. If I think that I am going to be captured, I would prefer to use my gun and kill myself.”

A source with links to the insurgents said in Baghdad: “The Americans tried to control that area once before and failed. Why do they think they will succeed this time?

“The people are against them. They are afraid of Abu Musab [Zarqawi], but he is just one man; in the resistance there are many, and they are prepared to fight and die until the invaders are expelled.”

 

More articles by:
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail