The 6-Way War

4-way graphic
The red dotted line shows the operative dynamics in Anbar Province in 2005. Gray arrow depicts the latent conflict between the Coalition and Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia groups.

I’m changing the title again, cause ‘6-Way War’ sounds a little catchier, kind of like the famous ‘6-Day-War’… Don’t know, may change it again…

Anyway, this is a section I’ve been mulling over in my mind for some time, and its time to put it together.  I think this is a good way to encapsulate the multifaceted, diabolically confusing Iraq War.  To boil it down, there were four major ‘factions’, each struggling against the other three.

Hopefully this nifty graphic makes some sense.  While there are four ‘sides’, there are actually 6 separate ‘axes’ of conflict:

  • Coalition vs. Sunni ‘resistance’
  • Coalition vs. AQI / Jihadists
  • Sunni ‘resistance vs. AQI/Jihadists
  • AQI vs. Shia / government / Iran
  • Sunni ‘resistance’ vs. Iranian/Shiite government
  • Coalition vs. Iranian Influence

And yes, I left out the Kurds and the Turkomen, to keep it under control…

Here’s the way I think I’ll approach this, in outline form:

The Marine Corps “strategic corporal” and “three-block-war” ideas.  Background and explanation.  New demands on small unit leaders and individual Marines.

Explain the 6-Way War concept and graphic.

Coalition vs. Sunni resistance – upon arrival in Al-Qaim this was the main conflict for 3/2.  Security and Stability Ops. Conventional force vs. insurgents. As deployment progressed, this began to morph.

Coalition vs. AQI/Jihadists – The main Coalition command responsible for this fight was the JSOC Task Force 714, General McChrystal’s outfit. It was a parallel, but separate war in many respects, with Delta, SEAL Teams, and Rangers hunting for high-value targets (HVTs) across Anbar, including in 3/2’s battlespace.  But as 3/2 got on the ground, it also started engaging AQI as its main enemy. And as local insurgents turned against AQI, 3/2 (especially India Co.) became enmeshed in this dimension of the war.

Sunni resistance vs. AQI – Also known as ‘red on red’.  This was a major theme during 2005 in Al-Qaim. Local insurgents (Albu Mahal tribesmen, then others) rejecting AQI’s tyrannical, terroristic rule. And ultimately calling on 3/2 Marines for help, which was the first part of the Sunni ‘Awakening’ process that changed Anbar so dramatically the following year.

AQI vs. Shiites, the Shiite led government and Iranian influence. – Zarqawi and his followers had a visceral hatred towards the Shia, and targeted them mercilessly. Since there aren’t many Shiites in Anbar, this wasn’t a prominent dynamic in 3/2’s AO, but it played out through AQI’s use of western Anbar and the ratlines to funnel suicide bombers and other so-called “accelerants” east into Bagdhad and areas where the Shia lived and worshipped.

Sunni resistance vs. Shiite & Iranian influence – This was also a secondary factor in 3/2’s AO, but did play a role. Some 3/2 Marines saw the ugliness of this sectarian hatred in various ways.  Chris Ieva’s walk through the angry Sunni crowd, along with Shiite Shawani SOF guys, is a dramatic example.

Coalition vs. Iranian influence. – Didn’t really figure directly into 3/2’s fight in 2005, as there were no Shiite militias in Anbar.  This wouldn’t become a big factor until after AQI’s bombing of the Samarra Mosque in early 2006, when JAM and Shiite death squads would become another enemy the Coalition would have to fight.


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