Will Zarquai's possible death help end Iraq's sectarian violence?
2000 American soldiers have died and tens of thousands wounded
"The death of terrorist Abu Marsab al-Zarqawi is unquestionably good news. But there is little evidence that his absence will create a vacuum in the foreign fighter leadership in Iraq. Two points:1. Zarqawi was replaced as the Al Qaeda leader in Iraq months ago. Recall the news from earlier this spring that Zarqawi had been replaced as the leader in Iraq by Abdullah bin Rashed Al-Baghdadi (a nom de guerre). Al Qaeda’s Iraq cells had already reorganized before this happened and will readjust again.
2. Al Qaeda’s global leadership was getting sick of their partner in Zarqawi. Last year, Osama bin Laden’s chief deputy Ayman Zawahiri sent a letter to Zarqawi that contained a 'striking critique' of Zarqawi’s insurgency strategy. 'He comes down like a ton of bricks on what has happened tactically,' one U.S. analyst said describing the letter. Even Iraqis sympathetic with the goals of the insurgency have grown to disapprove of al Qaeda’s actions. Over the last year, there were several instances in which the local population turned on Zarqawi’s followers and attacked them.In other words, Zarqawi’s star had fallen over the last six months, and there is reason to believe that his falling from favor was a key ingredient in this operation. Someone gave up details on him because they wanted him out.
Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that we should rejoice in today’s news. But we should also be clear in our analysis about what it means for the next steps. There is little evidence of a leadership vacuum in the foreign fighter leadership and cause for serious concern that the current violence in Iraq will not abate.
[ThinkProgress | June 08, 2006]
1. Zarqawi was replaced as the Al Qaeda leader in Iraq months ago. Recall the news from earlier this spring that Zarqawi had been replaced as the leader in Iraq by Abdullah bin Rashed Al-Baghdadi (a nom de guerre). Al Qaeda’s Iraq cells had already reorganized before this happened and will readjust again.
2. Al Qaeda’s global leadership was getting sick of their partner in Zarqawi. Last year, Osama bin Laden’s chief deputy Ayman Zawahiri sent a letter to Zarqawi that contained a 'striking critique' of Zarqawi’s insurgency strategy. 'He comes down like a ton of bricks on what has happened tactically,' one U.S. analyst said describing the letter. Even Iraqis sympathetic with the goals of the insurgency have grown to disapprove of al Qaeda’s actions. Over the last year, there were several instances in which the local population turned on Zarqawi’s followers and attacked them.
Instead, it reminds me of the shallowness and myopia of the conservative cause, a cause that interchanges mountains and mole hills when it suits their fancy, a cause that has slowly but surely been ruining my country since January of 2001.
As news that United States forces had killed the most wanted terrorist in Iraq began to spread through the American security apparatus late Wednesday afternoon, President Bush and his top advisers were meeting in the White House with congressional leaders, who were nervous about continued trouble in Iraq.
"What you really need to do," Representative Ray LaHood of Illinois told the president, "is go get Zarqawi," according to an account by the White House press secretary, Tony Snow, who was at the meeting.
"I said 'Yeah, we'll just order that up right now,' " Mr. Snow recalled in an interview this morning.
Minutes after that exchange, at 3:45 p.m., the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, left the room in response to a Blackberry message to call the American ambassador to Iraq in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad.
"We think we have Zarqawi," Mr. Khalilzad told him.
"...by 2005, al Qaeda's leaders were worried that al-Zarqawi's beheadings of civilians were turning off popular support for their jihad in Iraq. Al Qaeda's leaders were also deeply concerned about al-Zarqawi's efforts to provoke a Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq.
While bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, both of whom are Sunni fundamentalists, may privately consider Shias to be heretics, they have never said this publicly. Al-Zarqawi by contrast has referred to the Shia as 'scorpions' and has organized suicide operations against some of the holiest Shia sites.
The concerns of al Qaeda's leaders about al-Zarqawí's use of beheadings and his campaign against the Shias were underscored in a letter sent from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi that U.S. military forces discovered in Iraq last year. In the letter, al Qaeda's number two gently suggested that it was time to end the beheadings and to start acting as more of a political leader in anticipation of the eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
In recent months, al-Zarqawi has stopped beheading his victims, but he has not let up in his campaign against the Shia. Upon hearing the news of al-Zarqawi's death, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri likely will release audiotapes indicating their joy that al-Zarqawi has finally received what he has always wanted -- martyrdom at the hand of the infidels.
But privately, they may hope that al-Zarqawi's successor in Iraq is more amenable to taking directions from al Qaeda central, which is located somewhere on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Viewed this way, al-Zarqawi's death could bring bin Laden some relief."
[CNN | June 08, 2006]
So the White House was just making up how dangerous Zarqawi was, and scapegoating him for things he didn't really do?
OK, who has announced a corner-turning victory here?
Zarqawi's death is a severe blow to al Qaeda. It's a victory in the global war on terror, and it is an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide of this struggle.
It started in 2003, not 1999, or whenever PNAC set its sights on toppling Saddam.
"The death of al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq came as more Americans than ever thought the war in Iraq was a mistake, according to AP-Ipsos polling.
The poll, taken Monday through Wednesday before news broke that U.S. forces had killed al-Zarqawi, found that 59 percent of adults say the United States made a mistake in going to war in Iraq - the highest level yet in AP-Ipsos polling.
Approval of President Bush's handling of Iraq dipped to 33 percent, a new low. His overall job approval was 35 percent, statistically within range of his low of 33 percent last month. The poll of 1,003 adults has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
...More than half, 54 percent, said it's unlikely that a stable, democratic government will be established in Iraq, a new high in AP-Ipsos polling."
[Associated Press | June 08, 2006]
"The Vietnam War experience can’t tell us anything about the war in Iraq – or so it is said. If you believe that, trying looking through this lens, and you may change your mind.
...Only by getting out of Iraq can the United States possibly gain sufficient international support to design a new strategy for limiting the burgeoning growth of anti-Western forces it has unleashed in the Middle East and Southwest Asia."
[Nieman Watchdog | March 08, 2008]
"Former Nixon adviser Alexander Haig said Saturday military leaders in Iraq are repeating a mistake made in Vietnam by not applying the full force of the military to win the war.
'Every asset of the nation must be applied to the conflict to bring about a quick and successful outcome, or don't do it,' Haig said. 'We're in the midst of another struggle where it appears to me we haven't learned very much.
[Associated Press | March 11, 2006]
"Intelligence officials identified al-Iraqi with the help of an insider in Zarqawi's network and began tracking his movements, watching when the two would meet.
Earlier, the US State Department said the United States had not identified anyone eligible to receive the bounty.
No US government agency has nominated anybody for the reward, which is the largest the United States offers, along with the same amount for al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
'I've seen a lot of news reports that either a Jordanian individual or group provided information or perhaps a neighbour provided information which led to the strike being carried out successfully. I can't confirm those reports,' McCormack said.
...In the case of Zarqawi, a State Department official said authorities were still sorting out the information.
'No one has been nominated to receive the money so far - and maybe no one ever will be,' said the official.'"
[AP/Reuters | June 09, 2006]
"...Representative John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and former marine who has become a fierce critic of the Iraq war, said now that a 'real thorn' in the side of the Americans has been removed, Iraqi forces were trained and a government was in place, the Bush administration should compose a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.
'We cannot win this,' he said in an interview on CNN. 'It is a civil war they are involved in. Al Qaeda is a small part of this.'
He added, 'We have Sunnis fighting Shiites and the Americans are caught in between.'
The insurgency and violence in Iraq is fueled by a complicated fabric of foreign fighters, Saddam Hussein loyalists and other groups, while most recently, militias have been blamed for sectarian strife.
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., in an interview on CNN, noted that the various groups that have contributed to the violence in Iraq were not all linked to Mr. Zarqawi.
'He did not control any of those people,' he said in the interview."
[New York Times | June 08, 2006]
"‘Even then—and even more so now—Zarqawi was not the main force in the insurgency,’ the former Jordanian intelligence official, who has studied al-Zarqawi for a decade, told me. ‘To establish himself, he carried out the Muhammad Hakim operation, and the attack against the UN. Both of them gained a lot of support for him—with the tribes, with Saddam’s army and other remnants of his regime. They made Zarqawi the symbol of the resistance in Iraq, but not the leader. And he never has been.’
He continued, ‘The Americans have been patently stupid in all of this. They’ve blown Zarqawi so out of proportion that, of course, his prestige has grown. And as a result, sleeper cells from all over Europe are coming to join him now.’ He paused for a moment, then said, ‘Your government is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.’
Western and Israeli diplomats to whom I spoke shared this view—and this past April, The Washington Post reported on Pentagon documents that detailed a U.S. military propaganda campaign to inflate al-Zarqawi’s importance. Then, the following month, the military appeared to attempt to reverse field and portray al-Zarqawi as an incompetent who could not even handle a gun. But by then his image in the Muslim world was set.
Of course, no one did more to cultivate that image than al-Zarqawi himself. He committed some of the deadliest attacks in Iraq, though they still represent only some 10 percent of the country’s total number of attacks. In May 2004, he inaugurated his notorious wave of hostage beheadings; he also specialized in suicide and truck bombings of Shiite shrines and mosques, largely in Shiite neighborhoods. His primary aim was to provoke a civil war. ‘If we succeed in dragging [the Shia] into a sectarian war,’ he purportedly wrote in a letter intercepted by U.S. forces and released in February 2004, ‘this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis who are fearful of destruction and death at the hands of the Shia.’
[Atlantic Monthly | June 08, 2006]
"Analysts and military spokesmen said Thursday that the death of insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed Wednesday when two 500-pound bombs obliterated his hideout north of Baghdad, will not extinguish the sectarian conflict that he helped foment and that is now claiming many more lives in Iraq than his campaign of beheadings and bombings.
...crucial questions, analysts say, are thrown completely up into the air: whether other foreign fighters will show themselves equally eager to slaughter civilians, whether the Sunni insurgency will split into fragments or broaden its base and, above all, whether the Shiite-Sunni killing that Zarqawi's attacks helped unleash can be reined in."
[Washington Post | June 08, 2006]
No sooner was Saddam captured than the US spokesmen began to mention Zarqawi's name in every sentence. "If the weather is bad they will blame it on Zarqawi," an Iraqi journalist once said to me. It emerged earlier this year that the US emphasis on Zarqawi as the prime leader of the Iraqi resistance was part of a carefully calculated propaganda programme. A dubious letter from Zarqawi was conveniently discovered. One internal briefing document quoted by The Washington Post records Brigadier General Kimmitt, the chief US military spokesman at the time, as saying: "The Zarqawi psy-op programme is the most successful information campaign to date." The US campaign was largely geared towards the American public and above all the American voter. It was geared to proving that the invasion of Iraq was a reasonable response to the 9/11 attacks. This meant it was necessary to show al-Qa'ida was strong in Iraq and play down the fact that this had only happened after the invasion.
A mortally wounded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, still alive after a U.S. airstrike on his hideout, mumbled briefly and attempted to "turn away off the stretcher" he had been placed on by Iraqi police, the U.S. military said Friday.
U.S. officials had said Thursday in announcing the attack that Zarqawi was dead when U.S. troops arrived on the scene.
Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon from his post in Baghdad, said he learned after getting briefings Friday that Zarqawi was alive when Iraqi police first arrived on the scene, but he died a short time later.
"We did in fact see him alive," Caldwell said. "He mumbled a little something but it was indistinguishable and it was very short."
[Associated Press | June 09, 2006]
NewsFlash 1942: America invades Morocco, which had nothing to do with the Pearl Harbor attack.
Hitler : Osama
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