June 08, 2006

Zarqawi dead in US air strike.

The Iraqi government and US military officials report that Sunni insurgent and al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed.

"Today we have eliminated Zarqawi," Mr Maliki said, sparking sustained applause....

The head of US-led forces in Iraq, General George Casey, said Zarqawi was killed at 1815 on Wednesday, in an air strike against an "isolated safe house... approximately 8km (five miles) north of Baquba".

"Iraqi police were first on the scene after the air strike," he said, followed shortly afterwards by coalition forces.

Zarqawi was said to have been in a meeting with associates at the time. Several other people were reported to have been killed in the raid.

General George Casey said Zarqawi's body was identified through fingerprints and facial recognition.

US officials and journalists on the ground in Iraq are warning that Zarqawi's death may mean little in terms of the strength of the insurgency and the level of day-to-day violence in Iraq. Given how little difference the much-ballyhooed capture of Saddam Hussein made, I'm inclined to agree.

In addition, there are interesting questions about how Zarqawi was found by US forces. From CNN:

[General] Casey provided details about the strike that killed al-Zarqawi.

He said 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.

Got that? Zarqawi was turned in by his own people.

Now here's where it gets really interesting. Check out this post at Strategy Page, which predicted Zarqawi's imminent death about a day before the air strike that killed him:

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."

I can't vouch for the accuracy record of Strategy Page, but it sure looks like they called this one. And they certainly aren't the only one to report apparent tensions between Zarqawi and Iran.

What this magpie has to wonder is:

  1. Did Iran have a role in Zarqawi's death? Perhaps information on his whereabouts was offered up by the Iranians as a pro quid pro for US 'understandings' about its nuclear program?
  2. Was the airstrike that killed Zarqawi essentially an intervention on the side of the Shia in the Iraqi civil war? In an attempt to salvage something from Dubya's Iraq adventure, has the US become a bit player in the ongoing drama of Iraqi sectarian politics?

Those are just my immediate questions about Zarqawi's death. I'm sure there are more to be asked. And that answers will, as they say, be revealed in the fullness of time.

Via BBC, CNN, Aljazeera.

Posted by Magpie at June 8, 2006 04:18 AM | Iraq | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

He must be a cat with 9 lives, because they keep killing him and he somehow returns to be killed again when the time is appropriate. It's all a grand theater.Nothing they feed us is true.

Posted by: CG at June 8, 2006 07:35 AM

You must be joking. You saw the body right? You saw the bombing video, right? You saw the children picking through the rubble right? Do you think that many people in Iraq could be bamboozled? Not everyone who has a brain is a fool. You seem to be an exception. Zarqawi is dead. Period. Any discussion beyond that is mental masturbation.

Posted by: Monitoring Lurk at June 8, 2006 06:10 PM

hi kids, skippy the bush kangaroo here, blogging from yearlykos, just wanted to stop by and say i was harassing tom tomorrow at his book signing and along comes mary!

great to meet mary! and she tells me natasha's coming tomorrow, i'm looking forward to that!

keep up the good work!

Posted by: skippy at June 8, 2006 10:03 PM