Al-Qa'im (town)

Al-Qa'im (Arabic: 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 74,100 and it’s the center of the Al-Qa'im District.


Coordinates: 34°22′7.66″N 41°5′40.10″E
Country Iraq
175 m (574 ft)
Time zoneUTC+3 (GMT+3)
Postal code

The river water at Al-Qa'im carries less salt and mineral, so that it takes significantly less water to sustainably produce crops here than farther downstream, where more gallons of water must be used to avoid salinity.

The Al-Qa'im border crossing connects Al-Qaim to close city Abu Kamal in Syria.

Pre-war history

In the early 20th century, there was a khan (caravanserai) and police station in Al-Qa'im, but no village.[1] The khan was built in 1907 and was the residence of a local administrator.[1] The surrounding area was inhabited by Arabs from the Karablah and Jara'if tribes.[1]

Al-Qa'im was reportedly the site of Iraq's refined uranium ore production from 1984 through 1990. The officially named "Chemical Fertilizer Complex" 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.

Iraq War

In the Iraq War, 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 viewed 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 3rd 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 3rd Cavalry 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.

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. On May 8, 2005, Marines launched the week-long Operation Matador to flush insurgents out of Qa'im. They faced stiff resistance from both local Iraqi fighters and foreign fighters, but succeeded.

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".[2]

In 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.

Post-Iraq War

Qa'im was under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant from August 2014 to November 2017.[3] In November 2014, unconfirmed reports indicated ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was travelling there and a coalition airstrike left him critically injured.[4]

On 7 December 2016, an Iraqi Air Force airstrike at the town left 100 people dead including ISIS militants and civilians. It also injured another 100 people. [5]

By November 2017, Al-Qa'im was one of the last towns still under control of ISIL. In the 2017 Western Iraq campaign, the Iraqi government advanced south of the city and by the end of October had reached its outskirts. They entered Al-Qa'im on 3 November 2017.

The Iraqi news agency reported Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi plans to open the border to Syria in the fall of 2019.[6]


Al-Qa'im has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh).

Climate data for Al-Qa'im
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 13.9
Average low °C (°F) 2.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 24


  1. A Handbook of Mesopotamia, Volume III: Central Mesopotamia with Southern Kurdistan and the Syrian Desert. Admiralty and War Office, Division of Intelligence. January 1917. p. 118.
  2. "Insurgents Assert Control Over Town Near Syrian Border". The Washington Post. 6 September 2005. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  3. Habib, Mustafa (28 July 2016). "Baghdadi's new home: The Iraqi city of Al Qaem may be the new extremist capital". Niqash. MiCT. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  4. "ISIS chief 'critically wounded' in US airstrike on extremist leaders' convoy – reports". RT. 8 November 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  5. "UPDATED: 230 civilian casualties from Anbar airstrike". Iraqi News. 8 December 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  6. "IRAQ TO OPEN AL-QAIM BORDER-CROSSING WITH SYRIA ON MONDAY". Jerusalem Post. 28 September 2019. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
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