Lettuce & Pickles

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes


The GOP in Mesopotamia

The NY Times this morning runs with the news that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi died in an American air raid, adding the Zarqawi/American spin that Zarqawi was "Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq..."


Juan Cole begs to differ.

Zarqawi had been a significant leader of the Salafi Jihadi radical strain of Islamist volunteers in Iraq, and had succeeded in spreading his ideas to local Iraqis in places like Ramadi. He engaged in grandstanding when he renamed his group "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia," even though he had early been critical of al-Qaeda and had a long rivalry with it. For background, see the Zarqawi file.

There is no evidence of operational links between his Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance. Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups.

None of this is to say what happened here was a bad thing... I'm just sayin'; bin Laden anyone?


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