Updated and bumped from early this morning, to accommodate some roundups and updates at the bottom.
Just when Polimom felt things were looking irredeemably hopeless in Iraq (CNN):
Terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the coalition’s most wanted man in Iraq, was killed in an airstrike near Baquba, jubilant U.S. and Iraqi authorities announced Thursday.
Al-Zarqawi’s death gives Iraq a chance to “turn the tide” in the fight against the nation’s insurgency, President Bush said at the White House.
Bush is right. This is one heck of a chance, and Iraqi Prime Minister al Maliki evidently isn’t wasting any time:
The Iraqi parliament has approved the prime minister’s nominations for the three key security posts in the new Cabinet, ending a stalemate among politicians over the filling of these positions.
Lawmakers Tuesday approved Jawad Bolani, a Shiite, for interior minister; Gen. Abdel Qader Jassim, a Sunni who has been Iraq’s ground forces commander, for defense minister; and Shirwan al-Waili, a Shiite, for minister of state for national security,
Slick timing, eh? Polimom finds it fascinating that the Iraqi government had these names ready to roll; good for them!
My interpretation of what this means in terms of the sectarian violence, though, is contrary to what the news is breathlessly reporting. ABCNews, for instance, says that al Zarqawi “led a bloody insurgency of suicide bombings and kidnappings” — yet the insurgency and al Qaeda had different agendas and goals.
What this more probably indicates (imho) is that the Sunni leadership (both governmental and informal) has turned on al Qaeda, rejecting their now-counter-productive support. They had an alignment of convenience from which the Sunnis must now distance themselves, and Polimom is cautiously hopeful today.
The removal of al Zarqawi from the equation will create, for at least a bit of time, a leadership vacuum in his organization, and thus an opportunity for the Sunnis to achieve some control over the insurgents. For this to work, though, the Shi’ites will also have to put major controls on their end of things.
Yes, it’s still incredibly volatile, and there are an awful lot of “ifs”. However, given how grim it all looked to me Tuesday, I can’t help feeling a reciprocal euphoria this morning. If al Maliki and his government — completed, now, by those crucial ministry appointments — can consolidate their authority during this anticipated lull from a disorganized al Qaeda in Iraq, all may not be lost there after all.
This is very good news.
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Update: I posted a distinct version of this at Polimom, Too, and that’s where the dialogue is taking place.
There’s enormous reaction in the blogosphere, of course. Media Blog (National Review) has a media round-up, The Glittering Eye has an Iraqi blogger round-up, and below is a broad sample of more reactions:
This is good news – no, wait, great news – but depending on your blog ‘diet’, you might not even know it…
Thank God these fools are speaking to a small, disaffected group of ‘progressives’; the vast majority of Democrats and liberals no doubt realize how important this is.
The major problem in Iraq is not Al-Zarqawi or even al-Qaeda but violence between various internal Iraqi factions. That combined with the possibility that al-Qaeda may have wanted him out of the way would indicate that his death won’t really change things very much. It looks like a win-win for al-Qaeda, they got rid of a lose canon and gained a martyr.
But now that the government is complete, we’ll see about the leadership skills of al Maliki as well as the willingness of the Sunnis to start to participate fully in the national life of the country and marginalize their militias and gunmen who make up the bulk of the insurgency.
Now we’ll get to see the truth about Murtha’s case regarding insurgents vs. al Qaeda types in Iraq. The reality is that it’s going to take a lot more than killing al-Zarqawi to change reality on the ground in Iraq.
This is good news. Not only Zarqawi, but a number of his aides eliminated should cause a major disruption in al Qaeda operations. There may actually be somewhat of an increase in violence while they try to prove they are still a power, but if Zarqawi was one of the prime coordinators, the overall effectiveness of the attacks may very well diminish – rapidly.
Will it change Iraq? I hope so, but highly doubt it. Zarqawi was something of an outsider to an insurgency that’s sectarian-based and homegrown — he overstated his own importance, we bought into the myth because we needed an enemy, but the insurgency itself never was his creation or accepted his authority. From all I understood, he was being ever more rejected by the movement he’d helped found