Friday, June 09, 2006

AN ARAB PERSPECTIVE ON ALL THE ZARQAWI KILLING HYPE

Copyright 2006 Alef Publishing Ltd.
All Rights Reserved
Mideast Mirror

June 9, 2006 Friday

SECTION: THE ARAB WORLD

LENGTH: 3325 words

HEADLINE: After Zarqawi

BODY:

The [Arab] environment which gave birth to
Zarqawi...can still give birth to others of his ilk.
From a broader perspective, it becomes possible to say
with confidence that closing the doors to democratic
change in Egypt, Syria, and many Gulf states, the
political anarchy in Lebanon, and the spread of
poverty and unemployment in the Maghreb countries are
among the factors that will encourage the appearance
of other Zarqawi-like phenomena in the future - Hussam
Itani in as-Safir

After Zarqawi's death, al-Qa'ida may turn a new leaf
in its military action in Iraq in which it will focus
on military attacks that target the Americans and
their allied forces ... [it] may distance itself from
sending car-bombs to kill Iraqi Shiites because its
leadership does not wish to begin a battle
particularly with Iran which provided shelter for many
al-Qa'ida members and their families after the U.S.
invasion of Afghanistan - Abdelbari Atwan in al-Quds
al-Arabi

What if Abu Mus'ab az-Zarqawi's killing was merely the
beginning of the Iranian-American preparations for
dialogue? More precisely, what if this killing was a
down payment to show good Iranian intentions as a
prelude to the major deal? - Sahar Ba'asiri in
an-Nahar

'Al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia' leader Abu Mus'ab
az-Zarqawi's death yesterday (Thursday) dominates
today's Arab press. A Lebanese commentator blames the
Zarqawi phenomenon on the fact that the path to
democratic reform in the Arab world has been closed,
arguing that similar phenomena will emerge in the
future should the situation remain unchanged. The
editor-in-chief of a pan-Arab daily believes that
Zarqawi's death will make the situation in Iraq even
worse. Another commentator suggests that that
Zarqawi's death may have been an Iranian 'down
payment' to the U.S. as a foretaste of what
negotiations between the two countries could yield.

[AP reports Iraqi and U.S. forces zeroed in Abu Mus'ab
az-Zarqawi several times over three years only to see
him narrowly escape. In the end, his own terrorist
network betrayed him. The chase ended Wednesday
evening when two 500-pound bombs from U.S. F-16's
flattened a modest two-story house surrounded by palm
groves and orange orchards outside Ba'quba, northeast
of Baghdad. Zarqawi died with five others, including a
woman, a child and the man who unwittingly led the
Americans to him -- his deputy and spiritual adviser,
Abu Abderrahman al-Iraqi, according to U.S. officials.
Al-Iraqi was the key to pinpointing the fugitive, U.S.
military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said.
Intelligence officials identified him with the help of
the insider and began tracking his movements, waiting
for him to meet with his boss, Caldwell said. On
Thursday, al-Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq group issued a
Web statement confirming his death. It was signed by
Abu Abderrahman al-Iraqi, perhaps to spread confusion
over whether he was really killed. But Caldwell and
the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey,
told reporters that al-Iraqi was among the dead. North
said a DNA test would confirm the identity in days.]

ASSESSING THE NEXT PHASE: "Abu Mus'ab az-Zarqawi has
been killed", writes Hussam Itani in Friday's Lebanese
daily as-Safir.

Assessments regarding the next phase in Iraq have
begun. President George Bush announced the good news
to the Americans and the Iraqis, saying that an
opportunity has arisen to 'change the war's course'.
Meanwhile, the more pessimistic analysts have
suggested that Zarqawi set up a network capable of
continuing the war he has been waging against Iraqi
civilians and U.S. soldiers alike before his death.

The car-bomb in Kazimiyyah yesterday afternoon may not
be decisive proof of 'Al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia's'
ability to retain its capacities for action as before.
But it does suggest that things will not be as easy as
the optimists who talk of 'a change in the war's
course' hope.

But whatever the future of one particular terrorist
organization or another may be, we can claim that what
is happening in Iraq is not only likely to continue
for a long time to come, but to spread to other places
and move to other Arab locales as well.

What is occurring in Iraq is no less than an Arab
civil war.

The collapse of the central Iraqi state in the
aftermath of the U.S. invasion has permitted the
emergence of a zone in which all Arab contradictions
come together to ignite. In Zarqawi's biography, there
are elements that ought to attract the attention of
circles much wider than the various security agencies
and so-called 'experts' in fighting terrorism.

Let us set aside the man's travels in Muslim lands,
and consider the powers he fought and the aims he
sought to achieve. First, he was in a state of
permanent conflict with the Jordanian authorities. The
Amman hotel bombings last November, and the series of
death sentences issued by the Jordanian courts against
him, are indications of this conflict.

After Jordan, he took part in the war against the
Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (despite a clear
exaggeration of his role at the time when his real
contribution is believed to have been very marginal,
and where he seems not to have been involved in any
serious battles). He then contributed to the
resistance against the U.S. occupation and igniting
the fire of civil war in Iraq by bombing churches and
Shiite religious retreats and attacking Iraqis of all
sects.

Looking deeper into his biography, one could say that
Zarqawi - who came to terrorist activity as one branch
of political action - emerged from the margins of Arab
cities and Arab societies. He represented an ideal
model of those who cannot be absorbed into any of the
social or political contexts available in the Arab
world today.

The above only points to the fact that what the Arab
authorities are offering their youth, especially those
who have been less than fortunate in acquiring an
education or having social status, is a choice between
being crushed in Arab societies' lowest ranks, or
taking part in futile bloody terrorist rebellion.

Zarqawi's attempts to carry out attacks in his country
Jordan - some of which succeeded and some of which
failed - were merely attempts to destroy a society and
a state that failed to grant him any position from
which he could achieve any of his ambitions.

Zarqawi was no exceptional case. The 'Terrorism
International' currently in place in Iraq, which
includes hundreds of Arab youths from the Gulf states
and the Arab Mashriq and Maghreb in its ranks - youths
who have no qualms about bombing schools and children
as well as U.S. vehicles, and who accuse anyone who
disagrees with them of apostasy - is yet another
expression of the dead-end which the democratic
development process in the Arab states has reached.

These Arab states preceded the jihadists in spreading
the notion of apostasy when referring to anyone who
opposes even a minor aspect of their domestic or
foreign policies, accusing them of treason, 'colluding
with the enemy', and so on.

Accusations of apostasy and treason therefore arise
from the same source: Arab stagnation and immobilism.
Anyone wishing to look for the sources of takfiri
thinking need not delve deep into the works of Ibn
Taymiyyah and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah [medieval Muslim
jurists who have inspired the salafi school]. All they
need do is to attend to current phenomena of decay and
dilapidation plain for all to see.

A glance at the list of Zarqawi's enemies reveals
'moderate' Arab governments, world empires, and
differing religions and sects. It seems possible to
say that the man could not tolerate even the slightest
degree of divergence, whether political or
confessional in nature.

The environment which gave birth to Zarqawi - an
environment that is closed to the level of suffocation
- can still give birth to others of his ilk. From a
broader perspective, it becomes possible to say with
confidence that closing the doors to democratic change
in Egypt, Syria, and many Gulf states, the political
anarchy in Lebanon, and the spread of poverty and
unemployment in the Maghreb countries are among the
factors that will encourage the appearance of other
Zarqawi-like phenomena in the future.

"These results will ultimately sow the seeds for a new
Arab civil war whose price will be paid first and
foremost by those who are supposed to be promoting the
project for progress and change in the Arab world",
concludes Itani.

BUSH'S MISTAKE: "U.S. President George Bush would be
committing a mistake if he believes that the
assassination of Abu Mus'ab az-Zarqawi, the leader of
'al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia', will reduce the attacks on
his forces and the militias allied with them in Iraq",
writes Abdelbari 'Atwan in Friday's London-based
pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi.

In fact, the assassination may produce results
contrary to all his expectations in this regard.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's arrest led to the
escalation of the Iraqi resistance, improving the
quality of its attacks. Similarly, the carpet bombing
of al-Qa'ida bases in Tora Bora transformed that
organization from a small local faction demanding the
removal of U.S. forces from the Arabian Peninsula to a
global Islamic front that strikes in Madrid, London,
Istanbul, and Bali, regroups its forces in
Afghanistan, wages bloody attacks in Saudi Arabia, and
creates an effective presence for itself in Iraq.

Abu Mus'ab az-Zarqawi's assassination will not weaken
al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia. On the contrary, it will
strengthen it further because, given his rash and
impulsive nature, the man was in fact a bit of a
problem for this organization. According to some
figures close to al-Qa'ida, he shook the
organization's image in the Islamic world. This is why
[Osama bin Laden's deputy] Dr. Ayman az-Zawahiri did
not refrain from directing his famous letter to him,
criticizing the savage execution of foreign hostages
before TV cameras and sending car-bombs to Shiite
religious retreats, gatherings and markets in Baghdad,
Najaf, and Karbala.

In his letter, Zawahiri asked Abu Mus'ab not to place
himself in the forefront of jihadist action in Iraq,
and to leave the leadership to an Iraqi in order to
avoid stirring local sensitivities. The recent removal
of Zarqawi from the leadership of the Mujahideen Shura
Council, restricting his role to military operations,
seems to have been a direct implementation of these
directives.

It is worth noting that neither Sheikh Osama bin Laden
nor Dr. Zawahiri has ever spoken in a hostile spirit
of the Shiite sect in any of their tapes. They have
never demanded a sectarian war in Iraq. This does not
mean that they are not against the Shiite sect;
rather, it is the result of their concern to place the
fight against U.S. forces in Iraq at the top of
al-Qa'ida's list of priorities, at least at for the
moment.

Zarqawi imposed himself as a leader of 'al-Qa'ida in
Mesopotamia' thanks to his courage, daring, and his
ability to recruit hundreds of Arab fighters. When he
was in Afghanistan, he set up his own camp in Herat
where he established his own special 'emirate',
refusing to pledge allegiance to Sheikh Osama bin
Laden as his emir.

He preferred to pledge allegiance to Taliban leader
Mullah Mohammad Omar instead. In fact, he only pledged
allegiance to al-Qa'ida's leader two years after
Iraq's occupation after Dr. Zawahiri threatened to
appoint Abderrahman al-Iraqi as leader of 'al-Qa'ida
in Mesopotamia' unless Zarqawi pledged his allegiance
immediately.

After Zarqawi's death, al-Qa'ida may turn a new leaf
in its military action in Iraq in which it will focus
on military attacks that target the Americans and
their allied forces, as well as elements in the Iraqi
Security Forces and National Guard. The organization
may distance itself from sending car-bombs to kill
Iraqi Shiites because its leadership does not wish to
begin a battle particularly with Iran which provided
shelter for many al-Qa'ida members and their families
after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

The U.S. administration will try to exaggerate
Zarqawi's assassination and to present this as a major
victory. This is because this administration has been
witnessing a series of catastrophic defeats ever since
its invasion and occupation of Iraq. In addition, it
will try to uses this small victory to divert
attention away from the massacres its forces have
committed in Haditha and Ishaqi, and give the
impression that conditions are improving in Iraq as
far as anti- terrorism is concerned.

It may be no exaggeration to say that as part of its
attempt to employ this assassination to achieve the
greatest political and moral gains, this
administration postponed its announcement of Zarqawi's
death for two days or more to ensure that it coincides
with Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki's announcement that the
problem of appointing new ministers of defense and the
interior has been solved.

This may explain the haste with which these
appointments have been made, and their announcement on
the same day in which Zarqawi's assassination was
announced.

The U.S. forces could have arrested Abu Mus'ab
az-Zarqawi after besieging him for days. However, it
seems to be pursuing a new strategy; killing wanted
elements in an attempt to avoid having a new series of
court trials similar to that of President Saddam and
his companions. The latter's results have been exactly
the opposite of what these forces had hoped for. They
have contributed to exposing the occupation and the
political forces allied with it. Given this, it would
be no surprise if the U.S. were to resort to the same
policy were it to succeed in reaching the hideouts of
Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri in Afghanistan or
Pakistan.

Regardless of whether one agreed with him or not, Abu
Mus'ab az-Zarqawi was a unique phenomenon in extremist
Islamist jihadi action. He emerged from the heart of
suffering and repression in the Jordanian city of
Zarqa, and turned into a symbol of courage and heroism
in the minds of many of his people.

Had it not been for the bombings of the hotels in
Amman which killed tens of innocent civilians, and had
it not been for the Jordanian government's intense
exploitation of them, using them to incite against him
and al-Qa'ida, Zarqawi would have turned into a hero
in the eyes of thousands, perhaps millions, of people
furious at the U.S. administration who feel humiliated
because of its wars against the Muslims in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and Palestine.

Zarqawi and all his companions expected this end. In
fact, they have always welcomed martyrdom in
accordance with their beliefs, and wished it would
come sooner rather than later. Zarqawi may have sensed
that his days were numbered. This may explain why he
issued an audio and video tape in which he appeared as
an Arab Rambo wielding his machine gun. This was the
first and last official tape in which he appeared.

Based on a careful and serious reading of its history,
it seems that al-Qa'ida has only become stronger after
successive strikes directed against it. It is like the
mythological hydra which grows three heads to replace
any head that is severed. It was hardly strange to
note that Zarqawi's death was announced by Abu
Abderrahman al-Iraqi, the preferred choice for leading
the organization by its two leaders hiding somewhere
in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The leadership of al-Qa'ida has returned to the Iraqis
and the slaughter of hostages before TV cameras have
stopped. There is no doubt about the new leader's
allegiance to al-Qa'ida's spiritual guide. Abu
Abderrahman al-Iraqi was by his sheikh's side in
Afghanistan and fought with him against the Soviets
and against the Americans.

"Therefore we are facing a new phase, including
perhaps the rebirth of al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia - that
may be much more dangerous than the previous phase,
that of Abu Mus'ab az-Zarqawi", concludes 'Atwan.

DOWN PAYMENT: "Just a supposition: What if Abu Mus'ab
az-Zarqawi's killing was merely the beginning of the
Iranian-American preparations for dialogue?" writes
Sahar Ba'asiri in Friday's Lebanese daily an-Nahar.

More precisely, what if this killing was a down
payment to show good Iranian intentions as a prelude
to the major deal?

Of course, there is nothing to point to this
possibility so far. But it is difficult for any
observer to drop this from their calculations - not to
place it at the top of their list in fact. This is not
only because this 'U.S-Iraqi achievement' occurred at
a moment of U.S.-Iranian flirtation, but also because
Iranian intelligence is absolutely the strongest of
all intelligence networks currently working in Iraq.
This is something the Americans fully understand, even
if they refrain from admitting it.

If this supposition proves correct, this would mean
that the region is on the verge of dramatic changes.
After all, Zarqawi is no ordinary catch. And the deal
whose prelude may be Zarqawi's head will not be an
ordinary deal.

Meanwhile, it remains the case that Zarqawi's death is
a major event by all the criteria of the war on and in
Iraq, and all that branches out from it. It was no
surprise that Iraqi civilians and military danced for
joy at the news of his death. In fact, it would have
come as no surprise had President George Bush himself
danced for joy.

The mode of attacks adopted by Zarqawi targeted Iraqi
civilians and police recruitment centers. Their aim
was to ignite the fire of sedition between the Sunnis
and the Shiites.

For the Americans, Zarqawi was effectively terrorism's
only face in Iraq. His killing was not merely an act
of revenge against someone who has killed American
soldiers; it was a victory in a battle in the war on
terrorism, and in the war to decapitate an
organization that has worked on sabotaging the
political process in Iraq. It is material rich in
content that can be sold to the American public.

The removal of this man will have effects; but it is
important not to exaggerate them. The more fundamental
effects will be psychological and not material. The
are many reasons for this, most important is the fact
that Zarqawi, as well as the 'al-Qa'ida in
Mesopotamia' which he has established, is just one of
the factors affecting the Iraqi situation. It is not
the prime mover behind either the attacks in the field
or the political process.

Given this, neither the various forms of resistance to
the occupation nor what Washington refers to as an
insurgency or as terrorism can be reduced to Zarqawi.
For that matter, even the sectarian violence whose
flames Zarqawi helped to fan has its own Iraqi
sponsors who will not be affected by his death.

What can be affected is PM Nuri al-Maliki's government
activity. After all, the political situation and the
situation in the field in Iraq are more complicated
than to be relieved by Zarqawi's death or for the
violence - which has become a pattern for settling
past scores and for determining Iraq's future - to be
stopped.

But the new government has gained much momentum from
what has happened. This was doubled by Maliki's
announcement of the names of the three main ministers
for the posts of interior, defense, and national
security.

Unless the government builds on this opportunity and
uses it to launch a new political dynamic by taking
decisions and by dealing with the problem posed by the
militias, the situation is most likely to remain as is
- that is to say that it will continue to deteriorate.

While everyone admits Iran's influence in Iraq, the
ability or inability of Maliki's government to act to
fulfill its promises will be a major indicator of the
whether the hypothesis that Zarqawi's death was an
Iranian 'down payment' is true or not.

It will serve as a signal of the launch of a secret or
public dialogue between Iran and the U.S., and of
whether this dialogue is taking a convoluted or a
direct route. But it will not cancel out other
possible signs regarding the Iranian nuclear issue,
and other issues where Iran is in control and that
have Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian dimensions.

"There is a long road ahead", concludes Ba'asiri.

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