Thursday, June 8, 2006
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Open Zarqawi thread
Accoding to both U.S. and Iraqi officials, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in an airstrike today.
Question to readers: what effect, if any, will this have on the security situation in Iraq?
UPDATE: I do like this AP headline: "Around the world, al-Zarqawi death praised"
ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg Djerejian has some instant analysis that is worh reading.posted by Dan on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM
If well managed, it could prove a boon for the U.S. and slow the inercia of the bad guys. Note how Bush et al are marketing the hell outta this win, and they should: this could give him the much-needed turnaround in his poll numbers.
And they better make a big show of handing out the $25 mil to the people who grabbed him, thus fueling Iraqi dreams of instant riches if more scores like this come through.posted by: St. James the Lesser on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
Little to none. Zarqawi had poor relations with ex-Baathist insurgents and his death will not hurt their insurgency. It may even help the insurgency as many in Iraq dislike Zarqawi's tactics. Zarqawi did push for violence against Shias, but it seems are so far gone now that his death will not stop the sectarian violence either.
Zarqawi's group was one of the groups really trying to fuel the Sunni/Shiite civil war (as opposed to the Kurds vs Others civil war and the Lots of people vs the US "war of occupation" )
It might be too late, but there still might be a chance to diffuse some of the Sunni vs Shiite civil war?
posted by: Nicholas Weaver on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
Regardless of Iraq-internal reaction, I tend to wonder if this might be the rallying point the administration needs to declare a win and start drawing down troops?posted by: N K on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
none. Look where he was hit - outside his safe zone. Why? Because his safe zone was no longer his safe zone, he was being pushed to the side and was no doubt given up as part of that process. Only desperate Bush ideologues will try and paint this
I think this is a rare bright spot for the Bush Admin in Iraq and they are right to play it to the hilt. Will it have a long-term impact? With 1400 dead bodies turning up in Baghdad's morgue last month, I am not terribly optimistic. The fissures are already too deep and much of the violence appears home grown at this point. However, if it can help increase the legitimacy of the new PM, maybe it might help.posted by: SteveinVT on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
This is the best news out of Iraq since the first election back in early 2005. Maliki has the best inaugration present he could ask for.
Now, he must move quickly. A mix of carrot and stick could bring the other insurgent groups to put down their arms. In 1 year or so, the insugency could die down.
The operative word is "could" -- its hard to tell how much of a role Z played in the insurgency. But a nasty murdering scumbag has been killed and that by itself is reason for celebrating.posted by: erg on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
The death of Zarqawi gives the men and women who are in this mess a much needed boost. They are getting the job done, their government is not.posted by: greg wirth on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
This is intrinsicly a good thing. The mass body-count attacks come from things like car bombs that AQ masterminds. If those are cut down or eliminated it certainly wont bring Iraq to order and justice, but many less people will be murdered. From a purely humanitarian standpoint this is a victory.
Strategically it is an opportunity, nothing more. If the momentum and morale boost is used by the Iraqi government to forge ahead and establish order, it will be seen as a turning point. If not, not.posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
There may well be continued fighting related to the sectarian battle for control of Iraq featuring all the chaos, death and intimidation that has been on display for the last couple of years. However, Zarqari's death will surely help on the larger media-driven playing field on which the al-Queida v. Western meta-conflict is being played out. And it is at this level that governments around the world can celebrate. For Zarqari was not only an insurgent leader in Iraqi, he was an inspiration to those cells in many countries which would seek to take their vengance out against their own nations far afield from Iraq.
I think how they got him is almost more significant. Whoever steps up to take Zarquawi's place does so with the understanding that any Iraqi he passes on the street could pass intel to the government or the coalition. There will always be a couple of 500 lb. bombs hanging over his head.posted by: Stephen Macklin on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
Mark's got it: "Strategically it is an opportunity, nothing more."
Stephen does too: "There will always be a couple of 500 lb. bombs hanging over his head."
Morale will obviously be boosted as well. Here's hoping that Maliki can use this to fill the remaining posts in his government, win greater support from the people, and begin pulling Iraq together.posted by: Connor Wilson on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
Time magazine has an article by Chris Albritton speculating that this may be linked to the release of 2500 prisoners yesterday and to todays appointmen t of a Sunni and a non pro-Iranian Shiite as defense and Interior Ministry -- the quid pro quo for working with the new government. I personally think that the timing doesn't exactly work for a precise link, but the general idea is probably accurate.
Maliki also used this opportunity to get his nominees approved. There was controversy over them earlier because of possible Baathist background, but today they passed easily. Hopefully these groups can crack down on some of the militias, and a slow drawdown in violence can begin. Not over days, weeks, or even the next 2 months, but over the next 6 months to 1 year.posted by: erg on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
I don't know. Do you join an insurgency movement because your fondest hope is to die in your bed at 80? I don't think a lot of insurgents woke up in Iraq today and said, "Damn, this is dangerous! What the hell am I doing?" I'm assuming everyone kind of already knew that.posted by: Gabe on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
Here's the real question:
a) The killing of Al-Zarqawi in Iraq and the changes to the Iraqi insurgency.
b) Jason Grimsley naming names to federal investigators of MLB players who took steriods and those names leaking to the public.
c) Branjalina's new Namibian baby.posted by: peter howard on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
I think how they got him is almost more significant. Whoever steps up to take Zarquawi's place does so with the understanding that any Iraqi he passes on the street could pass intel to the government or the coalition. There will always be a couple of 500 lb. bombs hanging over his head.
Who gave the crucial info, genuine Iraqi "regular folks", or a rival, who got the U.S. to do the dirty work? Does anyone here really know? Sure, "how they got him" is more significant -- but I'm not sure quite what to believe.
Other than that, Iraq's slide into anarchy goes way beyond Zarqawi's mesmeric powers. I won't be holding my breath for any big turnaround there.posted by: sglover on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
All the "dead enders" are gone now, time for the parades, flowers and candy. I can't wait.posted by: dilbert dogbert on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
I think it's pretty remarkable that strategypage.com ran this item yesterday (June 7), under the title "Zarqawi Scheduled for Martyrdom":
June 7, 2006: 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.
Except for his verbal attacks on the U.S. and the Iraqi government, he is almost totally distanced himself from the central leadership. Other al Qaeda leaders have been trying to down play anti-Iranian and anti-Shia rhetoric, and have been strongly discouraging attacks on civilians.
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."
Still, he got what he had coming, and there's no way that's a bad thing.posted by: Marc on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
I'm slightly dubious of what strategypage.com says. They had a terrible prognostication record much of last year, when I stopped reading them.
If AQ wanted to get rid of Z, they would have tried to kill him silently and floated a rumor about his having retired.posted by: erg on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
If AQ wanted to get rid of Z, they would have tried to kill him silently and floated a rumor about his having retired.
Ummmmm.... If we were any good at divining al Qaeda's intentions and methods, I think there'd be a couple more tall buildings on the Manhattan skyline.posted by: sglover on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
This person's demise presents a rare opportunity to the new Iraqi government, and to Sunni Arabs sympathetic to the insurgency.
If the government can sell to its mostly Shiite constituency on the idea that it is following up Zarqawi's killing with effective efforts against the rest of his organization, it may be able to restrain the flow of support to Shiite militias intent on revenge. If the Sunni Arab leadership now distances itself from Zarqawi's legacy by cooperating with the government to hunt down and kill his remaining followers, it may be able to push back against the Shiite feeling that Sunni Arabs must be the enemy.
A lot of things could happen to close this window of opportunity with a bang. But at least it is there, and there is one terrorist who won't be murdering any more people. Congratulations to the American intelligence and military personnel who made this happen.posted by: Zathras on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
Following on with what Marc said above, it seems Al Qaeda recognized that killing Muslim civilians wasn't winning them any friends across the broader Middle East. Zarqawi didn't pay attention to suggestions from above that he stop the killing of civilians, and was summarily sold out by Al Qaeda leadership as a result.
One can suppose that attacks by foreign fighters in Iraq will drop somewhat, although it is not clear that Zarqawi's death will have any impact on indiginous sectarian violence. One can only hope that the raids that are going on in Baghdad tonight will help break up some of the home grown cells that have caused so much damage.posted by: jake on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
According to the NYT's article this morning, Zarqawi's body was taken by the Americans in order to make a positive identification. My question is, what do they do with his body now? Do they bury it in some undisclosed location? Will Jordan allow his family to bury it in Jordan? It may become a hot-potato for all involved.posted by: Pitman on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
AND why the overkill? they had the guy cornered in a secluded area, perfect conditions for a special forces operation which may allowed you to capture him. So why overkill with 500lb bombs? At least one woman and a child were killed in the operation - and sure many women and children have died in HVT bombings which most Americans remain blissfully ignorant of - but it seems this situation could have been handled differently - so why wasn't it?
Also: there have been many HVT bombings which have no doubt killed scores of civilians while failing to get the intended target: does anyone know if this is the first successful HVT bombing of the war? That's good shootin', Tex.posted by: oldgoat on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
"AND why the overkill? they had the guy cornered in a secluded area, perfect conditions for a special forces operation which may allowed you to capture him. So why overkill with 500lb bombs?"
Because Zarqawi has escaped US traps on several occasions, up to and including jumping out of a moving vehicle minutes away from being captured while a predator roamed overhead. Had we killed him with that predator over a year ago imagine the lives that would have been saved. We were so close we got his laptop he had to abandon. Bottom line, this was like the gopher from Caddy Shack. If you have a clear shot at him you take it. Imagine the reaction if we tried to take him alive and he got away again! I suspect many of the same people complaining we didnt capture him would be complaining we didnt kill him when we had the chance.
Doesnt sound like overkill to me. Sounds like just the right amount of kill.
First of all initial reports indicate the women in the house were AQ spies and operatives. Regardless (and obviously the child was innocent under any circumstance), when terrorists shield themselves behind civilians bad things happen. The only one responsible for the deaths of those people died in the attack as well. War is a messy, ugly thing. The need to eliminate that rabid homicidal sociopath with 100% certainty hugely outweighed the lives of those sheltering him. Sad but true, the man killed people on a daily basis. This was the lesser of two evils and I for one am glad the military didnt try to get to fancy and risk losing this guy again. Everything sounds simple on paper but this clown had a 6th sense for being cornered and chances are any attempt to apprehend him would give him a chance to escape. Furthermore those same people could easily have been killed in the capture attempt (guy wasnt likely to surrender), should we have not attempted to capture him at all to avoid the bloodshed? Doesnt that follow your logic to its conclusion?posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
your reply doesn't answer the question and amounts at best to rationalization based on assumptions. Would it not have been better to capture the guy? If not, why drop bombs on him when he by the military's own accounting he was cornered? And lastly, HVT bombings from above have a VERY bad track record in this war: why rely on one again? - especically when considering reports make clear the target survived the blast?posted by: oldgoat on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
" Would it not have been better to capture the guy?"
Sure. In fact it would have been better to convert him into a peaceful advocate for world brotherhood and justice. But what is ideal isnt always what is practical.
"If not, why drop bombs on him when he by the military's own accounting he was cornered?"
Because, as I said, the man has escaped when we thought we had him cornered in the past. Thats the long and the short of it.
"And lastly, HVT bombings from above have a VERY bad track record in this war: why rely on one again? - especically when considering reports make clear the target survived the blast?"
Im not a military expert and I don't expect you are either. I assume our special forces know their business especially considering _it did work_. This is the worst kind of second guessing imaginable. I deeply suspect had they attempted to take him alive and he escaped you would have some pointed words for our military as well. In that case you would have a point. You and I have no idea what the situation on the ground was, how possible it would have been to create a complete cordon of the unfriendly area without alerting this master of evasion. They apparently found him, targetted him, and killed him in quick succession. Thats good enough for me.posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
Oldgoaqt, consider this possibility -- Suppose that we got info about him from al qaeda. How much do we trust that info?
What if we send in a big team of special forces and then the building blows up from ten tons of explosives, and the three best helicopter landing sites nearby turn out also to be mined, etc.
We wanted Zarqawi. We thought al qaeda wanted us to get Zarqawi. But that's not a good reason to trust them. We didn't have much to lose by bombing the place. If we bomb it and there's nothing there, we don't tell the media -- or maybe we pretend we didn'dt bomb it and tell the media it was an IED factory that blew itself up, etc. No american lives lost. And if it kills Zarqawi, fine.
My preference would have been to hang the body upside down in Baghdad so passerbys could spit on it. Or stick his head on a pike in Baghdad.
That might be impolitic, so maybe giving it back to his family might be the solution. Didn't we send Uday and Qusay to Saddam's wife to bury ?
One implication is in the area of reputation. The U.S. led a true multinational intelligence effort leading to the strike on the Zarqawi safe house. People on the ground, as well as various international actors, may gain confidence that the U.S. is getting a bit more of the upper hand on the insurgency, notwithstanding the continued scale of violence elsewhere in the country. Also, U.S. forces will likely benefit from some positive momentum, though the administration is right to tamp down public expecations.posted by: Donald Douglas on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
Prediction: Some short-term impact, as in a month or two. No long term impact. Civil conflict will resume with fatalities at or surpassing present levels within three months.
The Shi'a and the Sunni have been going at it 1400 years. Killing one man is not going to make much of a difference.posted by: Mitchell Young on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
"Fewer than half a dozen members of a U.S. reconnaissance and surveillance team from Delta Force hid in a grove of date and palm trees, watching the building. After years of hunting, they finally had the prey in their sights.
But almost as soon as they took up position, the commandos feared they were about to lose him. A special-operations source tells TIME that the surveillance team was worried that there wasn't enough time to assemble a ground assault force to raid the house and capture al-Zarqawi; the commandos at the site lacked sufficient manpower and weaponry to attack on their own. As dusk neared, the team fretted al-Zarqawi might slip away if they waited too long"
Ah, but what do the guys on the ground know anyway?posted by: Mark Buehner on 06.08.06 at 08:01 AM [permalink]
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