Al-Qa'im (القائم) is an Iraqi town located nearly 400 km northwest of Baghdad near the Syrian border and situated along the Euphrates River, and located in the Al Anbar Governorate. It has a population of about 250,000 and is the centre of the Al-Qa'im District.
The Al Qaim region has some of the richest soil in the Middle East. Beyond that, the river water at this point carries less salt and mineral, so that it takes significantly less water to sustainably produce crops here than farther downstream, where more gallon of water must be used to avoid salinity.
Al-Qa'im was reportedly the site of Iraq's refined Uranium ore production from 1984 through 1990. The "Chemical Fertilizer Complex," as this was called, was originally built by Belgian contractors in January 1976, and by 1982 it was processing Phosphate from the nearby Akashat mine. That year, Iraq decided to build a Uranium extraction facility on the same site, and hired Belgian contractors Mebshem to build the structure, completed in 1984. Unused Uranium from al-Qa'im was stored in nearby Tuwaitha.
The production facility was completely destroyed during a 1991 US bombing campaign during the Gulf War.
In the most recent war in Iraq, Qa'im was a center of attacks by the Iraqi insurgency against US military personnel at the nearby military base of Camp Gannon. The U.S. military regarded Qa'im as the entry point for foreign fighters into Iraq and regarded it as a strategically important point.
It was reported by Newsweek in 2003 that American soldiers stationed in the border city entered Syria. During the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment's control, a photojournalist embedded to the unit documented the city's events, and his photos were used in Time and Newsweek. A more candid article titled "Iraq's a Wild West" appeared in the September 2003 issue of Maxim. In November 2003, the 3d Cavarly conducted the highly successful and largely peaceful Operation Rifles Blitz. During the operation the city was sectioned into three portions and searched house-to-house over a two-week period. Large numbers of weapons and suspected insurgents were captured during the operation, but some ill will was earned during the operation since it prevented Ramadan celebrations from taking place that year. Most notably, during the operation the sons of Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush were captured. Later the general turned himself in to Forward Operating Base Tiger in hopes of allowing his sons to be released, but was taken into custody himself - and tortured to death by four American servicemen at the al-Qaim detention facility.
In March 2004, the 3rd ACR conducted a turnover with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines (3/7) of the 1st Marine Division. 3/7 served in Al Qa'im from March until September 2004. Shortly after the turnover was complete, the enemy launched a sustained offensive throughout the country, attempting to take advantage of the relative inexperience of the new force. This would become a common tactic as the war continued, but caught many units by surprise that spring.
In Al Qa'im, the activity heated up during April 2004 until the day of the battalion's pivotal battle on April 17. Although reports of enemy casualties are always difficult to quantify, the Marines likely killed 80 insurgents in the town of Husaybah that day, including foreign fighters. Five Marines from 3/7 were also killed in the battle. Units from every company in the battalion were engaged in Husaybah before the day was over.
On April 7, 2005, Iraqi insurgents captured the city, forcing the local police and US-supported Iraqi Soldiers to abandon the city. U.S. Marines launched several offensives in order to root out the insurgents and retake the city. In a recent effort to flush insurgents out of Qa'im, Marines launched the week-long Operation Matador, in which they faced stiff resistance from both local Iraqi fighters and foreign fighters.
According to local residents, Qa'im remained largely under the control of the insurgents. Along with towns like Haditha, they imposed a Taliban-like law, in which Western music, clothing, and hairstyles are banned. In early September 2005, it was reported that a sign posted outside the town stated "Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Qa'im".
As of 2006 Qa'im, like many cities in the Anbar province, was believed to still be under insurgent dominance. The primary economic activity of Qa'im was smuggling. Damage from previous battles has somewhat depressed the local economy.
Along with the fertilizer plant, Al-Qaim was also the site of a cement plant, which was run under a lease by Associated Cement Companies of India for a few years till the Gulf War forced evacuation in 1990. Before ACC Ltd, the plant was being run by a Romanian group. As a result, for a short period before the 1st US-Gulf War, Al-Qaim was a curious melting pot of Romanians, Indians and Iraqis. In fact, the Indian employees of the plant had also taken their families to Iraq, who had to be rushed back to India, via Jordan, after the War became imminent. ACC Ltd was also running a plant at Kubaisa, mid-way between Al-Qaim and Baghdad, at the time.