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(photo credit: (AP / via IntelCenter))
The United States, adopting Israel's oft-condemned policy of targeted assassinations, dropped 226-kg. bombs Thursday on a safe house outside of Iraq and killed the CEO of the world's largest and most deadly terrorist organization.
No more; no less. The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will not destroy al-Qaida, but it probably - at least in the long term - will slow it down. Zarqawi was a charismatic leader who had an uncanny ability to recruit hundreds of loyal fellow jihadists around the world to carry out the most heinous of attacks. His organization's scope was worldwide, and he pulled the strings.
Zarqawi controlled a whole system. Sooner or later someone else may step into his shoes, but there is no guarantee that his successor will be able to match Zarqawi's organizational skills or his ability to recruit hundreds of "talented terrorists" around the world.
Amatzia Baram, an expert on Iraq at Haifa University, said, "The death of Zarqawi signals the beginning of the end of the al-Qaida organization and of Sunni rebellion in Iraq." According to Baram, who has advised the White House on Iraq, the end of the rebellion and victory in the war on terror is still a number of years down the road, and there will still be heavy casualties. But, he said, the end was in sight.
"The blow that al-Qaida took today is a heavy one, but not mortal," Baram said. "We are talking about a very important symbol who had great influence on the insurgents' morale. They received their inspiration from him."
Baram said that the Jordanian-born Zarqawi's elimination was also a blow to the quiet but extensive support that the terrorists have in the Sunni Muslim world. "I hope that this will lead to some realism in the Muslim world about the chances of success that terror will have as a political instrument," he said, adding, however, that he was not sure this would be the case.
Nevertheless, the hit on Zarqawi was obviously a demoralizing blow that will bring home to the terrorist heads that they are not immune. And as demoralizing this type of blow will be for al-Qaida, it is likely to equally pump up the Americans and Iraqis fighting terrorists in Iraq; giving them an important shot in the arm and the feeling that progress can be made. Nothing, as the saying goes, breeds success like success.
Regarding the ripple effect of his death on the terrorism Israel faces, one diplomatic source in Jerusalem said this will set back al-Qaida's efforts to make inroads here. The organization's energy will now have to be spent to a large degree on bouncing back from this blow, on finding a successor, on protecting the organization, rather than on setting up branches here.
Remember, too, that Zarqawi was responsible for the recent attacks in Jordan and Sinai, and in attempts to fire missiles from Lebanon. Obviously there were those in Israel who heaved a sigh of relief Thursday when news of Zarqawi's death was reported. But it is doubtful that this sigh could match the feeling of relief that was obviously felt in the corridors of power in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.
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