We have lost a lot of people in the last few days along the Euphrates River in western Anbar Province, Iraq. Haditha, all the little towns along the Euphrates near the Syrian border, the Haditha Dam and the Forward Operating Base (FOB) being built northwest of the dam on the Euphrates have all become a major focus of what offensive American military action there is in Iraq at present.
Why? Guerrillas need water. Drinking and cooking are activities that require a surprising amount of water if men are living in the field for extended periods of time. Bedouins, supermen, highly conditioned soldiers— they all need water, every day and in substantial quantities.
Trudging across the North Carolina hills long ago, learning to be or fight guerrillas in Special Forces it became blindingly obvious to my training course that if we couldn’t occupy a place of human habitation where there would be water available, then we would inevitably be tied on a fairly short leash to whatever source of natural water there might be. Usually that meant a stream.
Western and southern Iraq are huge howling deserts The country from the Saudi border to the river system in interior Iraq is some of the hardest desert in the Middle East. The land from the Jordanian border to the west is just as bad. There is only one infiltration route available across these deserts which has ready access to water and that is the route that follows the Euphrates River Valley. If you want a REAL reason why the Jihadis want to infiltrate Iraq from Syria, this is probably it, the river.
The Euphrates Valley points like an arrow at central Iraq from deep inside Syria. Without the river and its water the Jihadis would have a difficult time trying to traverse the wide deserts in significant numbers. it is for that reason that we find Saudi, African, Egyptian and other international Jihadis traveling to Syria before entering Iraq along the river.
Bottom Line: The Jihadis and their Iraqi Islamist and nationalist allies know well that if this infiltration corridor were closed they would have a much more difficult time trying to enter the country. Turkey is not friendly. Iran is playing its own game with the Iraqi Shia Arabs. The insurgents know that they have to keep this route open. For this they will stand and fight risking decisive engagement whenever they do so. At the same time our side has figured this out and for that reason you see substantial forces devoted to the attemot to control movement in the valley. The construction of a patrol and fire support base near the border on the river, is intended to act like a stopper in a bottle in blocking infiltration along the water corridor.
The fight for this valley will go on indefinitly.