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June 08, 2006

Al-Zarqawi Not Just Merely, But Quite Severely Dead

"Al Qaeda is the biggest threat to the world. Al Zarqawi's death is a huge victory in the war … This is good news for all Muslims and people of all religions. He was killing people of all faiths. I hope the situation in Iraq will improve now."

--Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi

zarqawi.jpg Via Mark in Mexico (may a thousand blessings be upon him), it appears that Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi has gone to meet his 72 white raisins of crystal clarity. And even better, a Cotillion gal was first on the scene. You go, grrrrrrl! Details:

...al-Zarqawi and a key lieutenant, spiritual adviser Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, were at an isolated safe house at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday.

"Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led forces to al-Zarqawi and some of his associates who were conducting a meeting approximately eight kilometers north of Baquba when the airstrike was launched.

Baquba is a volatile area northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province, a mixed Shiite-Sunni jurisdiction. There have been many roadside bombings and shootings throughout the province and within the week, severed heads were found in fruit boxes there.

"Iraqi police were first on the scene after the air strike, and elements of Multi-National Division North, arrived shortly thereafter," Casey said. "We have been able to identify al-Zarqawi by fingerprint verification, facial recognition and known scars."

The WSJ elaborates, with reactions from world leaders:

"Today, al-Zarqawi was eliminated," Mr. Maliki told a news conference, drawing loud applause from reporters in the hall where he made the announcement, flanked by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. "Those who disrupt the course of life, like al-Zarqawi, will have a tragic end," Mr. Khalilzad said.

Mr. Khalilzad added "the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a huge success for Iraq and the international war on terror."

Mr. Maliki said the air strike was the result of intelligence reports provided to Iraqi security forces by residents in the area, and U.S. forces acted on the information. He said the hunt for Mr. Zarqawi was "an Iraqi intelligence operation," dismissing reports of a Jordian role. Earlier, a Jordanian official with knowledge of the operation said Jordan provided the U.S. military with information from its own sources in Iraq that helped pinpoint Mr. Zarqawi's location near Baqouba. Mr. Maliki said the Jordanian information wasn't about Mr. Zarqawi but about "someone else."

The announcement came six days after the terror leader appeared in a videotape, railing against Shiites in Iraq and saying militias are raping women and killing Sunnis and the community must fight back.

The WaPo provides a slightly different account.

An Interior Ministry inspector general, who refused to be identified, said an aide of Zarqawi was arrested last night in a raid by U.S. and Iraqi special-operations forces. The aide led U.S. and Iraqi officials to a site outside Baghdad, the Interior Ministry official said. After a fierce firefight, authorities entered the site and found the bodies of 13 people. The captured aide identified one as Zarqawi.

Apparently, a video recently released by Al-Zarqawi proved to be his undoing:

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi… was the apparent victim of his own hubris after Iraqi leaders said a video he put on the web helped lead them to him.

In April, he released a videotape showing his face for the first time in an apparent attempt to reinforce his image as the leader of Iraq's insurgents and a hero to Sunni extremists across the region.

The Jordanian-born militant is believed to have personally beheaded at least two American hostages, Nicholas Berg in April 2004 and Eugene Armstrong in September 2004. The United States put a $25 million bounty on his head, the same amount as Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden.

In the past year, he moved his campaign beyond Iraq's borders, carrying out a Nov. 9, 2005 triple bombing against hotels in Amman that killed 60 people, as well as other attacks in Jordan and even a rocket attack from Lebanon into northern Israel.

He also sought to expand his attempts to spark civil war between Sunni Muslims and Shiites across the Middle East. He lectured Sunnis to stand up against Shiites in an audiotape posted on the Web last week in which he railed against Shiites for four hours, calling them enemies of Islam.

But that strategy may have backfired:

… Zarqawi's increasingly bloody attacks on the Shias are alienating many in the insurgency, including some Sunni Muslims who are its strongest backers.

A letter released by US forces in 2005 - allegedly authored by Bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and addressed to Zarqawi - appears to support this.

In the letter, whose authenticity remains in doubt, Zawahiri purportedly cautions Zarqawi that indiscriminate attacks on the Shia are eroding support for al-Qaeda.

Some think Zarqawi may even have been “scheduled for martyrdom” by elements of the insurgency:

The relationship between terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi and and the mainline al Qaeda leadership continues to deteriorate. Zarqawi's recent audio messages have not only attacked the U.S. and the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, but also Iran. He's even claiming that the U.S., Iran, and Shia in general, are in cahoots to destroy Islam. He has also called for continued attacks against Shia.

Given that Zarqawi has become a loose cannon and that his actions are handicapping Al Qaeda's efforts, it seems reasonable to expect that an accident may befall him at some point in the near future. If handled right it can be made to look like he went out in a blaze of glory fighting American troops or that he was foully murdered. Either way, al Qaeda gets rid of a problem and gains another "martyr."

Though authorities differ on how much influence Al-Zarqawi actually exercised over events in Iraq, his bid to divide Iraq along sectarian lines appears to have failed:

[Iraqi Prime Minister] Maliki said intelligence from Iraqi people had helped track down Zarqawi, who had a $25m price on his head - the same bounty as that offered by the US for al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

What happened today is a result of co-operation for which we have been asking from our masses and the citizens of our country," he said.

The prime minister urged Iraqis to join political dialogue rather than violence, vowing to "carry on on the same path... by killing all the terrorists".

Shortly after the Zarqawi announcement, the Iraqi parliament approved Mr Maliki's nominees for the key government posts of defence and interior ministers. The two crucial roles had remained unfilled despite the formation of a coalition government.

Pajamas Media has a great interview from Wretchard with Omar of Iraq the Model on the reaction to Zarqawi's death. Omar says, [and please excuse my slow typing fingers if I get a word or two wrong here] "This is the happiest news we get for a long time...It came really as a surprise... There is a general feeling of happiness in Baghdad right now, but...there is also...concern about ...revenge attacks."

"...I hope the Iraqi government and US forces will use the momentum of today's achievement, of today's victory to push forward the attack to eliminate what's left of al-Qaeda and the allied insurgent groups..."

Omar said the attack has rid Iraq of:

"...a very dangerous, bloody, murderous man who has killed thousands of people for no reason...the region has got to be safer...these are all criminals and they must be punished, they must be stopped..."

More Iraq the Model reax here:

In the first official confirmation, PM al-Maliki said that Jordan has provided intelligence that was used in the raid on Zaraqwi's hiding place but he also stressed that tips from locals were the primary lead to Zarqawi's exact location and these were the information according to which the missiles were guided.

Al-Maliki said that among the 7 killed with Zarqawi were two women who were responsible for collecting intelligence for the al-Qaeda HQ cell.

Betsy Newmark sees the attack as another nail in al-Qaeda's coffin:

Two months ago we captured documents in Iraq from an Al Qaeda leader bemoaning how difficult things had gotten for them in Iraq. The author acknowledged that Al Qaeda could do no more than be a "daily annoyance."

The author fretted about the difficulties Al Qaeda had in organizing and leading attacks in Iraq. Well, that leadership is going to be in a tougher place now. When they realize that someone they know rolled over on Zarqawi, they're going to all start suspecting each other and have a harder time organizing themselves. And other Iraqis are going to be more willing to turn in the insurgents as they gain more confidence in the Iraq government.

The one really strong weapon that Al Qaeda has in Iraq is the ability to kill a bunch of civilians and then use the media to spread terror...I thought the self-acknowledged weakness of Al Qaeda in Iraq needed to be revisited in light of Zarqawi's death. You'll see a lot of people on the media and politicians talking today about how this doesn't mean the end of the terror in Iraq, and that is true. But it is one more sign of how weakened they are.

But not everyone thinks Zarqawi's death is good news, which leads the half-vast editorial staff to ponder snidely that, were we to bag bin Laden tomorrow, that would suddenly prove not to have been a big deal, either:

The only good news about this is: 1) Bush gets to spin it as more 'progress' and 2) our troops get a morale boost since Zarqawi was a primary target in Iraq, and God knows, they needed some some good news.

But, other than this, it changes nothing. Al-Queda is not set up like a snake; cut off the head and the body dies. Not like that at all. And besides, al-Queda is only a very, very small part of the violence taking place in Iraq today. The sectarian violence has a life of its own and the civil war is wosening by the month, whether al-Queda is there or not. They are not interdependent. So, the civil unrest and sectarian violence and al-Queda presence continues on without, the now martyred, Zarqawi.

Meanwhile, over at the Daily Kos, there is dancing in the streets:

Tomorrow morning the president will deliver his few lines and a smirk. And somehow he will manage to convince the talking heads that this is a turning point (along with Mission Accomplished, Saddam's capture, Falujah, and voting). And all those people who had never heard of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi before FOX interrupted their news about a shark attack will let out a giant "yee haw."

Some guy on ABC is saying this is a "nail in the coffin of Al Queda." Bull shit. This guy was a face, a name, a few menacing lines about impending doom to us. The victory doesn't lie in removing this man, nor any other true terrorists in Iraq. Instead victory is in making a peaceful nation in a land fractured by ethnicity and then war.

Where is Osama? Where are the batillions [sic] of trained Iraqis? Doesn't matter, we got this guy, right? We wrote a 25 million check as a reward, and get a new headline to bump off Haditha.

If you're looking for more news, Topix.net and Memeorandum are providing one-stop shopping for all your Al-Zarqawi needs. James Joyner also has a superb roundup.

The Weekly Standard offerssome great background info on Al-Zarqawi's activities before his unfortunate demise. See also the WaPo bio of Zarqawi.

Posted by Cassandra at June 8, 2006 05:11 AM


I am off on a good note. We at the Institute predict this to be the beginning of the end of the insurgency. And things should get better in Iraq too.

Posted by: Pile On® at June 8, 2006 07:42 AM

Great headline and even better news.

Posted by: Matt at June 8, 2006 07:44 AM

Meanwhile, I'm just happy Moveable Type has stopped acting up. Why does this always happen when something major is going on?

Posted by: Cassandra at June 8, 2006 07:46 AM

Speaking of nails, coffins, and dead people, I feel like quoting Charles Dickens:

[He] was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade...
(from the opening paragraph of A Christmas Carol).

Zarqawi: dead as a doornail (or coffin-nail). Whichever way, he is as dead as can be.

And Al-Qaeda in Iraq has lost its superstar.

Posted by: karrde at June 8, 2006 08:34 AM

What a great way to start the day! :)

Posted by: FbL at June 8, 2006 08:38 AM

I am off to play Martha Reeves' 'Dancin' In The Streets.'

Posted by: Cricket at June 8, 2006 09:33 AM

He got blowed up real good!!

A bad man came to a bad end. Justice was brought to him!

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 8, 2006 10:26 AM

So, not "mostly dead?"

Took me an hour to remember where that line came from.

Posted by: William Teach at June 8, 2006 06:16 PM

Cassandra. I am amazed you wrote such a comprehensive and well written overview of reaction to Zarqawi's demise. However, to characterize comments that factually state what the good news is, as written by someone whom you view as NOT thinking Zarqawi's death is good news, is a blatant lapse of logic on your part.

You state in the link above: "not everyone thinks Zarqawi's death is good news," and then quote the person's comments which start out with the words: "The only good news about this is:". As you can see, the factual good news is what was discussed by that person, which by the way was me. Those who see Zarqawi's death as some great victory in Iraq is engaging in wishful thinking. Time will tell IF Zarqawi's death changes anything in Iraq. As of this time, there is no evidence one way or another that Zarqawi's death will enhance progress in Iraq.

Try sticking to facts, and your very good writing will improve all the more.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 8, 2006 07:39 PM

Factual good news, Mr. Remer?

Your opinions were rampant amongst those facts, Mr. Remer.

You say this, in your comment above:

"Time will tell IF Zarqawi's death changes anything in Iraq. As of this time, there is no evidence one way or another that Zarqawi's death will enhance progress in Iraq."

Yet you say this, in your comments section of your blog entry:

"Like I said, Zarqawi, in the big scheme of the civil war in Iraq, is just a bit player. His demise changes little to nothing. Of course it is as your link points out, good fodder for the propaganda machine in the CIA conducting pscyops (sic) on the American people. Not having much effect on the Iraqi's (sic) though."

Make up your mind, Mr. Remer. Is the jury still out?...or does this, "change little to nothing?" You seem to greatly contradict yourself? Or did you change your mind? In either case, I wouldn't be advising someone else how to blog.

Posted by: JannyMae at June 9, 2006 01:32 AM

JannyMae, I made the distinction between al_Queda and the sectarian blood feud violence between Shiites and Sunnis. You apparently did not understand what was written, Zarqawi's death will have no effect on the sectarian blood feud violence which constitutes the bulk of the violence today.

You and many others fail to recognize that the major source of conflict in Iraq is NOT coming from al-Queda. That is why Zarqawi's death is likely to have little to no impact on stemming the violence.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 10, 2006 01:25 PM

"Zarqawi's death will have no effect on the sectarian blood feud violence which constitutes the bulk of the violence today"

I suggest you think about this statement again Mr. Remer. In the real world on the ground Zarqawi was the lead for the Sunni faction of sectarian violence and 100% of his targets were Shia. Funding, bomb making expertise, materiel, etc. etc. etc. The "bulk" of the violence targets Shia IP, IA, ING, and Shia civilians through suicide bombers. Both VBIEDs and PBIEDs. That Mr. Remer is NOT the work of "feuding sectarian violence". Remove those numbers from your scenario and what does that leave you with?

"You and many others fail to recognize that the major source of conflict in Iraq is NOT coming from al-Queda."

Where is the source of the conflict coming from then Mr. Remer? Who's providing all the money? Iran? Syria? Who's providing the bomb makers and expertise? Who's supplying the recruits that will blow themselves to hell? Iran? Syria? The Sunnis? The Shia? Of course there is sectarian violence. It is a tribal culture but you seem to want to think that it is all funded and carried out on it's own. Tribal feuds are carried out mostly in the realm of small arms warfare Mr. Remer. Not in suicide bombers, remote controlled IEDs, and torture chambers. Just exactly how do we dumbasses fail to recognize the major source of the conflict that wrecks havoc and destruction? Do we sit idly by waiting for our next set of marching orders from the BushReich and disengage our brains? "You and many others fail to recognize" - Now that is just about a pretty damn arrogant thing to say. Especially here. They might buy that tripe at Kos or DU but you're going to have come with a much better game than that if you want us to even take the time to listen to your point of view!

Please rethink your position or are you purposefully trying to distort facts as with the rest of the hate Bush crowd? Anything for the good of the Party? The first place I suggest you start looking for the answers you either ignore or are clueless of would be the Grunts on the ground. We will be waiting with breathless anticipation your findings!

Now you may well argue that there will be an asshat that will step in and replace Zarqawi soon enough and that would be a justifiable argument. Just be careful when you come on sites that have a large readership of involved military and their families of making false accusations and statements. We don't have to look it up Mr. Remer. Nay, we KNOW what's going on without any input from any type of distorted reporting or "opinions". Facts on the ground are easily verified if you care to take the time to check them out. But then I honestly believe that is not really your true agenda. Easy enough to prove me wrong eh?

*sigh* Oh well, why even bother?

Posted by: JarheadDad at June 11, 2006 12:15 AM

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