NEWS

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June 8, 2006

Is Zarqawi's death reason to celebrate?

George might have beaten me to this, but here is what I wrote anyways:Iraq's most famous insurgent/terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed earlier today by an American air strike in Baghdad. It certainly is heartening to see positive news coming out of Iraq (well it might not be positive news, but its not negative news, which is a first), but does taking Zarqawi out really matter?Well, no. First, Zarqawi claimed to be the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, but his actual connections to al-Qaeda are sketchy:

There is no evidence of operational links between his Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance. Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don't expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon.
Second, even if you assume Zarqawi did represent Al Qaeda, he is one of many such groups in Iraq:
The Al Qaeda organization that Mr. Zarqawi leaves behind in Iraq is a far-flung and decentralized collection of semi-autonomous terrorist groups, each operating more or less independently. To date, at least 60 different groups have carried out attacks against Iraqi and American targets under Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia's name. Experts say these groups can probably continue to carry out attacks, if perhaps not with the same audacity as Mr. Zarqawi.
Third, Zarqawi had no personality cult like bin Laden, in fact, he profited mainly from channeling bin Laden-ism in Iraq:
"Zarqawi had the ambition to become what he has, but whatever happens, even if he becomes the most popular figure in Iraq, he can never go against the symbolism that bin Laden represents. If Zarqawi is captured or killed tomorrow, the Iraqi insurgency will go on. There is no such thing as 'Zarqawism.' What Zarqawi is will die with him."
Fourth, Zarqawi might have been responsible for enraging Iraq's sectarian tension:
It was Mr. Zarqawi, in letter obtained by American forces in 2004, who first called on that Sunni insurgents to turn their sights on Shiites, saying that a "sectarian war" was the only way they could win in Iraq.
But his death doesn't mean that the tensions will subside. His death may only enrage them by leaving a radicalized group of Sunnis who will lament his loss and Shias who will celebrate his death, somehow I don't see that uniting Iraqis. Essentially, it seems like the achievement here is that the most creative insurgent/terrorist in Iraq has been taken out. There are plenty of insurgents/terrorists to take his place and his death is unlikely to discourage present and future insurgents/terrorists from doing what they do, but it is unlikely that they will have nearly the same audacity that Zarqawi had.Sorry to dampen the good news (or not bad news), but it will definately be in order when Bush and Rumsfeld spin this way out of control later today.