Friday, June 09, 2006

Even the UK papers see a victory in Zarqawi's death..

The death of an evil man brings hope to Iraq- UK Guardian (Filed: 09/06/2006) His star may have been waning before his death, but the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the most spectacularly good bit of news to come out of Iraq since the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Combined with the appointment of interior and defence ministers to Nuri al-Maliki's cabinet, it gives Iraq and the coalition forces a window of opportunity to halt the slide towards civil war. The establishment of a Sunni theocracy was al-Zarqawi's goal and the method he used was terror, whether to scare away foreigners, as in the beheading of the British hostage Ken Bigley in 2004, or to incite sectarian violence, as in the bombing of the Shia Golden Mosque in Samarra last February. There were signs that he had over-reached himself with the triple bombing of hotels in his native Jordan seven months ago: the killing of 60 civilians was criticised by other Islamic terrorists. Shortly after, al-Zarqawi announced the merger of his group, which consists mainly of foreign fighters, with an umbrella organisation of Iraqi rebels. Nevertheless, the reluctance of the outside world to become involved in Iraq, and the current mayhem in Baghdad and the province of Diyala, where al-Zarqawi was killed, are telling evidence of his malign influence.The announcement of the death of this evil man coincided with the final assignation of portfolios in the Iraqi government. Controversy within the coalition of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds over the key posts of defence and the interior had delayed completion of this task for nearly three weeks after the new administration had taken office. They have been filled, respectively, by General Abdel Qader Jassim, a Sunni who was the army commander, and Jawad al-Bolani, a Shia whose predecessor, Bayan Jabr, was disastrously sectarian. With the prime minister, they have the daunting task not only of crushing the Sunni rebellion, but also of bringing the Shia militias under central control. In this struggle, the allies have two essential supporting roles. The first is military: to continue taking the fight to the rebels in the western province of Anbar, while acting as mentor to Iraqi forces elsewhere. The second is diplomatic: to persuade neighbouring countries of the benefits of preserving the territorial integrity of Iraq. In this respect, the willingness of Washington to deal directly with Iran for the first time since 1979 could provide a vital conduit. If they take place, the talks will in the first place be about nuclear weapons but, as Condoleezza Rice, the American Secretary of State, has indicated, they could lead to wider co-operation. The Americans and British will be hoping that yesterday's good news will open the way to troop withdrawals later this year. Such hopes are premature. The Iraqi government has only just been formed; it is not yet clear, for instance, whether it has the authority to bring the militias in Basra to heel. The foreign jihadis have lost their leader but they will re-form. In the meantime, Mr al-Maliki and his allied backers have a brief chance to seize the initiative.

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