It dates from early last September. The facts are pretty straightforward:
5-73 Cav was conducting a joint border patrol of the Iraq/Iran border with soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division east of Balad Ruz. During the conduct of the patrol, the patrol observed two Iranian soldiers run from Iraq back across the Iranian border as they approached. Later, the patrol came upon a single Iranian soldier on the Iraqi side of the border who did not flee.
As the patrol was speaking to the Iranian soldier, they were approached by a platoon-size element of Iranian soldiers. An Iranian border captain informed the joint Iraqi and Coalition force patrol that if they tried to leave their location the Iranians would fire upon them. While talking to the Iranian border captain, the patrol was engaged by Iranian forces with smallarms and RPG fire. The CF Soldiers returned fire to break contact and left the area to report the incident. The Iranian forces continued to fire indirect fire well into Iraq as CF Soldiers withdrew; for reasons unknown at this time, the Iraqi Army forces remained behind.
In other words, Iranian troops lured a joint US/Iraqi border patrol unit into a trap, ordered them to remain where they were, and opened fire on them with pistols and grenade launchers. The Americans fought back and got away. The Iraqis, for reasons unknown, stayed there.
It’s hard to say whether the Iranians were trying to kidnap or “just kill” the Americans of 5-73 Cavalry.
For me, there are two fascinating questions.
–First, was this the first time for such an event? Was it unusual to find Iranian soldiers–presumably in uniform, otherwise how could we tell they were “soldiers”?–running back and forth across the border? And, to followup, why didn’t we attempt to arrest the one guy, instead of chatting him up?
Apparently, our policy changed after this, leading to the arrests of several Iranian military officers later in the year.
–Second, were the Iraqis in the “joint patrol” in cahoots with the Iranians? It does sound that way, doesn’t it? Or were they paralyzed by fear and unable to move?
A great story. I’m trying to get answers, but kudos to U.S. News.