Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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IRAQ: Troubled bridge over (algae-clogged) waters

September 26, 2008 |  1:31 pm

BridgexnewWhen the Marines and Navy Seabees erected a floating bridge over the Euphrates River near the farming community of Baghdadi in May, it was hailed as a leap forward for the U.S. and the Iraqis.

And a thumb in the eye to the insurgents who want to keep communities in Anbar province isolated from each other.

With the Walid Bridge open, commerce could flourish and Iraqi security forces could respond to problems on either side of the river. Otherwise, the closest bridge was 40 miles away.

But heavy algae in the Euphrates soon caused the new bridge's supports to sink. The bridge developed a wobble and a curve. It could still be used but not as it was planned.

So Marines from the Camp Pendleton-based Regional Combat Team 5, along with Iraqi army engineers, were back at the bridge this week, using an excavator and a backhoe to dig holes to provide additional anchors.

While the algae was the enemy of the day, thoughts of insurgents were not far away. Marines with M-16s provided security for the flak-vest-wearing Marines and Iraqis working on both sides of the river.

-- Tony Perry, San Diego

Photo: Marines at the repair job on the Walid Bridge. Credit: Lance Cpl. Paul Torres