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Zarqawi killed: A good day for Iraq


If we can believe the news, it is for once a very good day for Iraq. The head of the al-Qaeda organization, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in an air attack on his safe house, based on intelligence supplied by the Iraqi army. Iraqi PM Nouri Al Maliki also got parliament to -- at long last -- approve a defense minister, a minister of national security and a minster of the interior. Jawad Bulani is the new interior minister, Abdul Qadir Obeidi the defence minister and Shirwan Waili has been approved as minister of national security.

If the government can continue to supply successes and hope, it may succeed against the odds in winning the support of the people and uniting Iraq. However, we should not exaggerate the importance of this dramatic and symbolic victory. Zarqawi was one of those people whose main virtue is that they are mortal, and he has exercised that potentiality. However, experience indicates that will not be the end of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and certainly not the end of terror activity.

Prof. Amatzia Baram of the University of Haifa, described as "one of the world's leading experts on Iraq" in a press release, is quoted as saying:

The death of Zarqawi signals the beginning of the end of the al-Qaida organization and of Sunni rebellion in Iraq.

...we are talking about a very import symbol who had great influence on the insurgents' morale. They received their inspiration from him..

Organizationally, too, Zarqawi was the most efficient executor of mass terror attacks, especially against the Shiites, with car bombs and suicide bombers.

I am not an expert on Iraq, and certainly not one of the world's leading experts. Considering the record of some of these 'experts,' being an expert on Iraq is not necessarily something to boast about.

It seems to me that Professor Baram is grossly exaggerating. The insurgency in Iraq existed before Zarqawi was really active there, and it doesn't depend only on Al-Qaeda. Al Qaeda itself is not a tight organization, but independent cells that will not be disrupted by the death of Zarqawi. As Baram himself notes:

"Most actions under al-Qaida's inspiration are carried out by independent cells...

But Baram does not realize, perhaps, the implications of the fact that these cells are independent. He continues:

that will now, in the wake of Zarqawi's death, need to think very carefully about the chances of their success. On the one hand, his personal example will continue to be a source of inspiration. On the other hand, his elimination will constitute a warning sign for potential terrorists.

Experts should not indulge in wishful thinking, especially if their prognostications fly in the face of what we know. It might be a warning sign, but experience indicates that Al-Qaeda is not impressed or disturbed by such signs. More likely that Zarqawi's death will be an inspirational martyrdom, or it won't have any effect. One of those possibilities is surely correct, but the odds are that the 'expert' is wrong. In Israel, the elimination of Sheikh Yassin and Sheikh Ahmed Rantissi as heads of the Hamas didn't really break up that organization, which is much tighter than al-Qaeda. The arrest of Saddam Hussein in Iraq did not put a stop to the Sunni insurgency, so it is unlikely that the death of Zarqawi will have much effect.

The important question is whether or not the Iraqi government can gain overall, systematic control and restore order and confidence. If it does that, then it doesn't matter if one or two rebel leaders are alive and in hiding or dead or arrested. If the Iraqi government cannot govern however, the bombings will continue. Zaraqawi will be replaced by a different fellow, and if Al-Qaeda in Iraq beaks up, the Saddamite Sunnis will pick up the pieces. Don't forget too, that Moqtada Sadr and his Shi'a Mehdi army are waiting in the wings to play their part.

It is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. It is just one very good day in the life of Iraq. In itself, that is a pretty rare achievement too. If they can make it to midnight without a car bombing or beheading, it will be an even better day.

Ami Isseroff

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by Moderator @ 03:17 PM CST [Link]


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Replies: 3 comments

today zarkavi dead,tomorrow bin laden will die for sure.
will those deaths bring peace in world.i dont think so
as many others ,i believe if there is no justice,there will be no peace
rich countries(western)must share wealth with poor countries.they should stop
vacuming weak countries wealth.they must stop colonizing them.
they should stop state terorizm.

Posted by mehmet @ 06/10/2006 04:02 PM CST

The world has never been at peace, but usually manages to keep the mayhem in manageable proportions.

Surely the death of Hulagu or Hitler were necessary, and the end of Zarqawi and OBL are necessary - not to bring eternal peace of the end of days, but only to preserve a decent and livable level of violence.

Ami Isseroff

Posted by Moderator @ 06/10/2006 04:33 PM CST

I don't think any of these deaths are "necessary" although I am not about to mourn for Zarqawi. The issue is not whether there are malign individuals but whether there are others who will follow them, and if so the reasons for that. Put it down to my Marxist training, but I always look for underlying historical forces rather than the, ahem, "great men" who ride the wave.

Indcidentally, my understanding is that Zarqawi headed a rival organisation to Al Qaeda - called something like "Monotheism and Holy War" and only changed the name to "Al Qaeda in Iraq" a couple of years back, basically as a PR move. Zawahiri sternly criticised Zarqawi recently by all acccounts - Al Qaeda proper does not support mass slaughter of Shi'ites for example and Zarqawi considered Bin Laden a softy.

Posted by Chris @ 06/12/2006 06:01 PM CST

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