The One that Got Away
CNN is reporting that Iraqi authorities had arrested Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist, in Ramadi, but mistakenly released him. Nic Roberts reported that Zarqawi had put on weight, grown a beard, removed a tattoo, and was using a Kurdish passport, making him unrecognizable to Iraqi security forces.
What I take away from this report is that if the Iraqis cannot recognize a Jordanian master terrorist, the American military has zero chance of fighting the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement in Iraq, because most of them don’t even know enough Arabic to distinguish an Iraqi from a Jordanian accent. And if all it takes is putting on weight and growing a beard to disguise oneself, then we’re in deep trouble.
Zarqawi dropped out of high school and went off to Afghanistan in 1989. He is not educated, though he has learned terror tactics and maybe at one point got some training in chemicals. I can’t see that he is irreplaceable if he were killed or captured. Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, his organization, is a social movement among Jordanian and Iraqi Salafi (revivalist) Sunnis, and can recruit other leaders. Zarqawi is a shadowy figure, and some maintain that he was killed in Afghanistan and is no more than a symbol, used to refer collectively to the Salafi Jihadi leadership. Many bombings and other operations attributed to Zarqawi cannot possibly have been his work, since his organization is small, and it seems likely that when the Neo-Baath does something particularly heinous, they attribute it to him on the internet.
Zarqawi had organized earlier in Jordan and Germany. Apparently his group has now spread to France, where authorities have found explosives and broken up a ring affiliated with Zarqawi.
This incident is further evidence that the Iraq War of the Bush administration is having a destabilizing effect in the Greater Mediterranean, with Iraq-related violence spreading to Jordan and Europe.