- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

The past 48 hours have brought very good news for the American war effort and very bad news news for the Islamofascist forces that have plagued Iraq during the past three years: First, the airstrike that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi; second, the announcement that Iraq has three new ministers.

Zarqawi’s death is a crushing blow to his al Qaeda in Iraq and a victory for the Iraqi people — Sunni and Shi’ite alike — who Zarqawi targeted for mass murder.

The operation that eliminated Zarqawi undermines the vociferous critics of President Bush who complain about American “unilateralism” and maintain that the war effort simply turns Arabs and Muslims against the United States. This goes beyond the pictures of Iraqi policemen dancing in the streets in celebration of Zarqawi’s death. For one thing, the mission could not have been carried out were it not for the increasing amount of actionable intelligence being provided by the Iraqi people to coalition forces and Iraqi security forces. Moreover, the government of Jordan, Zarqawi’s native country, apparently played a major role in aiding the search for the archterrorist.

Among the people most delighted by Zarqawi’s demise are Iraqi Shi’ites, for whom Zarqawi openly professed his hatred. He spoke openly of his determination to foment civil war between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq. The Feb. 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra (and the hundreds of deaths in internecine warfare that followed) were part of his effort to destabilize Iraq and kill as many Iraqi Muslims as possible. It is no exaggeration to say that, over the last two-and-a-half years, no terrorist killed more people in Iraq (or for that matter anywhere else in the world) than Zarqawi.

At the same time, however, Zarqawi’s demise was not completely unexpected. On April 16, as we reported on this page, coalition forces captured documents written by a senior member of al Qaeda, who complained that Zarqawi’s organization was declining in strength and lamented its inability to capture territory, stating that the only power they had was to attack unarmed civilians. After visiting Iraq in mid-April, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, in the past a sharp critic of the Bush administration’s conduct in the war, said the Iraqi security forces were making remarkable progress in their ability to fight the jihadists.

It is important, though, not to delude ourselves into thinking that Zarqawi’s death should lead to a massive reduction of American troops in Iraq. While his demise is a huge blow to terror, it will not necessarily lead to an immediate dramatic dimunition of terrorist crimes.

The death of Zarqawi combined with the approval of three new Iraqi ministers — Jawad Bulani, a Shia, at Interior; Abdul Qadir Obeidi, a Sunni, at Defense; and Shirwan Waili at National Security — gives the new government the best chance for a successful launch.

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