One can now understand why even Iran stated publicly that it was pleased with the death of Zarqawi.
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the Iraqi Security Advisor had this to say about it all:
"We believe that this is the beginning of the end of al-Qaeda in Iraq," Mr Rubaie said.
"They did not anticipate how powerful the Iraqi security forces are and how the government is on the attack now."
I certainly hope both statements are true. We've heard the "final throes" bit before. But I can't help but wonder if, in this case, there may not be some truth to the first statement about this being the "beginning of the end of al-Qaeda in Iraq".
Clearly things weren't going as planned for AQ there. They had failed in everything to they had attempted: stop the vote, assasinate top leaders, start a civil war, etc. It was also well known that international AQ honchos weren't particularly pleased with how Zarqawi was running his operation in Iraq. Captured letters from Zawahiri and others pointedly suggested that Zarqawi was using the wrong methods within Iraq and alienating Iraqis, not gathering their support. It had gotten so bad that Sunni Iraqis, who should have been natural allies for Zarqawi, were hunting down and killing members of this network.
When Zarqawi bombed the hotels in Jordan, he made another powerful enemy, the King of Jordan. In their aftermath a special Jordanian intelligence unit was established who's job it was to find and eliminate Zarqawi. Reviewing the timeline and events leading up to his eventual demise, it is clear that Jordanian intelligence had a very big hand in the eventual outcome.
So it has me wondering if, in fact, AQ will quietly fold its tent and leave Iraq in the next few months. That really wasn't an option while Zarqawi lived. Because of his iconic status in the Arab and muslim world, AQ really had little control over him. And although there has been conjecture that he was purposely set up by AQ because of its leadership's disagreement with Zarqawi's Iraq tactics, that is a serious and dangerous game in terms of recruting and loyalty which I don't think they'd risk playing. But with him gone, all of that changes.
AQ has been badly battered in Iraq and its reputation tarnished. It's one thing to go after government and military targets. It is another to explode massive car bombs in markets crowded with ordinary civilians. As mentioned, AQ's leadership understood the damage this was doing.
Therefore I look for the operation there to slowly wind down and, for the most part cease. I look for AQ to go quiet for some time, in relative terms, and spend that time relocating, recruting, training, and planning. I look for it to reorient its operations after discovering the real limits of its abilities. It became overconfident, in fact arrogant, in Iraq and it has paid the price for that both in personnel and reputation. I look for it to again become a much more sub-rosa organization which concentrates on making big strikes on governmental entites in the future.
If al-Rubaie is correct and AQ is all but finished in Iraq, that leaves two other branches of the insurgency to deal with: Sunnis and dead-enders.
Dead-enders make up a small but violent faction of the insurgency. I believe most would agree that they're not going to end their portion regardless of developments in Iraq. They have no where to go and unless they can reimpose Ba'athist rule, they're as good as dead anyway.
But the Sunni insurgency, for the most part, is a different story. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has stated his willingness to talk with these insurgents as a part of a national reconciliation iniative to further involve the nation's Sunni population in the new Iraq. If successful, this could finally take the heart out of that portion of the insurgency, leaving only the dead-enders to deal with.
A lot of "ifs" involved, obviously, but certainly a possible outcome of Zarqawi's death. I've said recently that I didn't think his death was any sort of "tipping point". But, if what I talk about above comes to pass, I may have to revise my assessment of the event.
Even given all of that, one huge problem which remains are the private militias. These must be delt with at some time in the not to distant future. But one problem at a time. If the Iraqi government can eventually quell the insurgency, it will then be able to turn its attention to the militias.
UPDATE: Paul Bremer's opinion on the subject in the WSJ
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — American and Iraqi forces have carried out 452 raids since last week’s killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the raids were carried out nationwide and led to the discovery of 28 significant arms caches.
He said 255 of the raids were joint operations, while 143 were carried out by Iraqi forces alone. The raids also resulted in the captures of 759 "anti-Iraqi elements."
Former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose wife was at the center of a CIA leak case that led to the indictment of Vice President Cheney’s top aide, argued Wednesday that the U.S. needs to bring Iraqi insurgents and their "foreign patrons" to the conference table for negotiations.
During a panel discussion at the liberal Take Back America conference in Washington, D.C., Wilson said diplomatic efforts to establish Iraq as a democratic power in the region should also include "the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Iranians ... the Turks, probably some leading powers from Europe and Russia, all of whom have interests at stake."
"Make no mistake about it, if you still support the [war] policies of this president and this administration, you don’t deserve the vote of Democrats, independents or, shall I say, even Republicans," Wilson said, echoing a larger theme of the three-day conference.
Several organizations passed around informal pledges asking conference attendees to promise not to vote for a candidate in the 2006 election who does not support an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
But Wilson implied that for political reasons, he does not support an immediate withdrawal. "Talk of a strategic withdrawal is the wrong discussion to have at this time," he said. "We’re in there; people are dying."
Republicans, he said, are trying to score political points by baiting Democrats into calling for an immediate withdrawal. "What they want to do with this debate, by sucking us into this debate, is ensure that for the next 40 years, just like for the past 35 years, we the Democrats will be accused of cutting and running. We don’t want to give them the moral high ground on that."
I think the USAF needs to re-axmine it’s 500 pound bombs... after two of them impact a site, the principal target SURVIVES, as does a treasure trove of documents AND a hard drive?! These things are not as lethal as they could be...
"Instead of engaging in a real debate about the war in Iraq, Republicans would prefer to engage in partisan attacks for political gain," DNC Chairman Howard Dean said in a press release.
"The GOP’s strategy of divide and distract won’t help Congress with their oversight of the White House’s inept Iraq policies, help formulate benchmarks for success or help bring our troops home once their mission is complete — and the American people know it. The troops deserve more than a partisan political production."
"I do not think it is a smart strategy either for the president to continue with his open-ended commitment, which I think does not put enough pressure on the new Iraqi government, nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain," she told the "Take Back America" conference.
But Sen. John Kerry went in the other direction, telling liberal activists that the war a mistake and saying he was wrong to vote for a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.
Kerry now backs a "hard and fast deadline" for withdrawing U.S. troops, and he plans to introduce a resolution calling for most troops to be withdrawn by the end of this year.
Did Dean even bother reading the progress report on Iraq, which lays out the strategy, and benchmarks?
Are they reading the reports of success against the terrorists since al Zarqawis death??
Will the Democrats stand on the wrong side of history, yet again???
With leaders like this, is it any wonder they aren’t winning.
But while Zarqawi’s death is an important milestone, it is not victory. There will certainly be more violence and terrorism.
The key to success in Iraq is providing security; and the key to security is defeating the Sunni insurgency. This will deny al Qaeda important support and remove the excuse Shiite militia have for taking action into their own hands. It will give the government the opportunity to rebuild the economy and to continue on the path to full democracy.
What is needed is a military campaign to defeat the insurgents. The campaign plan should determine subsidiary questions of the number, type and deployment of coalition forces. The prime minister’s announcement Wednesday of a major operation to secure Baghdad may be the first step in such a plan. We should seize the opportunity now to provide all possible support to the Iraqi government. President Bush said at his press conference that ultimate success depends on the Iraqis, and that is true. But he was also right to stress that we will do what is necessary to enable that success.
Some in America instead speak of setting timetables for the withdrawal of our forces. This would be an historic mistake. Withdrawing our troops before Iraqis can defend themselves would endanger American security by encouraging more terrorism. It would betray the democratic government of Iraq and dishonor the sacrifices of American service men and women.
All the audiences to the ongoing drama in Iraq—the Iraqi people, the American people and terrorists everywhere—must understand that our objective in Iraq is victory and that we will do whatever is necessary to prevail.