Who's sad about Zarqawi?

The question now asked is whether decapitating a terrorist organization makes any difference.

zarqawi dead 298.88 (photo credit: CNN)
zarqawi dead 298.88
(photo credit: CNN)
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man most associated with suicide bombings - including of UN headquarters - and videotaped beheadings in Iraq; and with a terrorist attack in Jordan that killed over 60 people, is dead. This is very good news for Iraq and for the world. Zarqawi and seven other terrorists were killed by a US air strike yesterday north of Baghdad. Locally, we refer to this sort of action as a "targeted killing," but it could be called more simply: fighting terrorism. Now a debate will ensue over whether decapitating a terrorist organization makes any difference, as happened after Israel killed Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin and his successor Abdul Aziz Rantisi. Israel found that it did, in that shortly after these operations Hamas agreed to a "cease-fire" and the number of terror attacks against Israel dropped significantly. Israel has learned that terrorism is not an inexorable plague that cannot be fought militarily. But we have also learned that no single operation is sufficient, and that the military pressure on the terrorists must be relentless. Accordingly, the fact that terrorist attacks will likely continue in Iraq is argument for redoubling the military response, not that fighting is futile and victory is impossible. Some might think that making connections between Hamas and al-Qaida is farfetched. Indeed, Palestinian groups of all stripes have hitherto been somewhat embarrassed by al-Qaida's intermittent embrace of their cause, and have been at pains to term their goals as nationalist, rather than as a branch of the global jihad. In this context, the reaction of PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar to Zarqawi's death is striking. "We are dead sure that the assassination of any of the people [like al-Zarqawi] who are resisting will not ... end the resistance," Zahar said at a press conference in Pakistan. By calling Zarqawi's death an "assassination" and his activities "resistance," Zahar was clearly lamenting Zarqawi's demise and siding with al-Qaida's actions - at least in Iraq and presumably elsewhere. Perhaps this is what Zahar meant when he said in the same statement reported by the Associated Press, Palestinians are "blessing every effort to eliminate the existence of occupation." Zahar, far from distancing the Palestinian cause from al-Qaida, is rather frankly linking the two. In similar vein, a Hamas statement later mourned Zarqawi as a "brother fighter... who was martyred at the hands of the savage crusade campaign which targets the Arab homeland, starting in Iraq." This is a new development, one that may relate to reports of an increasing al-Qaida presence in Egypt's Sinai and in the Gaza Strip. It is also fits with the efforts of Hizbullah, which is heavily influenced by Iran, to piggyback on Palestinian attacks against Israel. We are, in other words, witnessing the seamlessness of jihad. Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran and al-Qaida come from different sides of the Sunni-Shi'ite divide, but they agree on the need to wage jihad against the West, particularly Israel and the US. The death of Zarqawi saddens all of them, just as it is cause for encouragement for free peoples everywhere. To people like Mahmoud Zahar, Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and al-Qaida's Osama bin Laden, it is obvious that all the branches of jihad are connected, and that the successes of one are cause for celebration for the others. None of this is surprising. What is strange is that the West often seems to lack both recognition of the connections among its enemies and of the need to show similar solidarity itself. The jihadis know they are at war; the West is not united as befits a civilization under attack. Zarqawi is gone, and we can only wish Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki success in fulfilling his pledge to take the same action against any terrorist successor. Ultimately, however, it is hard to see how Iraq can win its war for democracy if its radical neighbor Iran obtains a nuclear umbrella that would allow it to increase support for terrorism throughout the region. The bravery of the American, British and other coalition soldiers fighting with Iraqis for democracy has yet to be matched by the determination of Western leaders to employ the ample economic and diplomatic, let alone military, means at their disposal to face down Iran. The epicenter of the terror network is Teheran. Eliminating individual terrorist kingpins is an important part of the fight, but victory will only come when the handful of remaining governments that support terror are either driven out of power or forced out of the terror and WMD business.