Al-Zarqawi, Terrorism and the Iraq Insurgency

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Thursday, June 8, 2006; 7:20 AM

Al-Zarqawi's Biography | Attacks Timeline | Post Archive: A Grisly Path to Power | World Reaction | Full Coverage

U.S. and Iraqi officials announced on Thursday, June 8 that terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in Iraq. Zarqawi and his followers were a bulwark of the anti-coalition insurgency in Iraq and were responsible for numerous attacks on civilians and military targets.

The Rise to Power

Below are highlights from Washington Post and reporting on Zarqawi:

A Grisly Path to Power In Iraq's Insurgency: "Zarqawi and his group, Monotheism and Jihad, have become best known for helping to fuel the insurgency in Iraq. But according to European and Arab intelligence officials and counterterrorism specialists, he has never abandoned his primary goals: to topple the monarchy in his native Jordan and attack Jewish targets in Israel and around the world. As Zarqawi has become more prominent in recent years, he has expanded his original sphere of influence in the Middle East by forming cells in Europe.

"Skeptics say that the U.S. government has transformed Zarqawi into a larger-than-life figure by exaggerating his capabilities and using him to personify the Iraqi resistance, which has many factions and appears to rely mainly on Iraqi fighters, not foreigners. But Zarqawi has also helped to enhance his own legend by embracing tactics that have generated enormous publicity." (The Washington Post, Sept. 27, 2004)

Zarqawi Is Said to Swear Allegiance to Bin Laden: The U.S. intelligence community considers authentic a message on an Islamic Web site in which Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who has asserted responsibility for bombings and assassinations in Iraq, was announced to have sworn his network's allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, a senior administration official said yesterday. ...

"The new message, posted in the name of the spokesman of Zarqawi's group, said that he and the 'soldiers' of his organization, Tawhid and Jihad, announce to the Islamic nation their 'allegiance ... to the sheik of the mujaheddin, Osama bin Laden.' It adds, 'When you give us orders, we will obey. If you forbid aught, it will be forbidden,' according to the Search for International Terrorist Entities Institute.

"In what one nongovernment analyst said could be considered a change in Zarqawi's approach to operate solely within the Middle East and Europe, the message said, 'We swear to God that should you want us to cruise the sea with you, God Willing we will.'" (The Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2004)

Zarqawi 'Hijacked' Insurgency: "The top U.S. military intelligence officer in Iraq said Abu Musab Zarqawi and his foreign and Iraqi associates have essentially commandeered the insurgency, becoming the dominant opposition force and the greatest immediate threat to U.S. objectives in the country. ...

"The remarks underscored a shift in view among senior members of the U.S. military command here since the spring, as violence, especially against civilians, has spiked and as Zarqawi, a radical Sunni Muslim from Jordan, has aggressively promoted himself and his anti-U.S., anti-Shiite campaign. U.S. military leaders say they now see Zarqawi's group of foreign fighters and Iraqi supporters, known as al Qaeda in Iraq, as having supplanted Iraqis loyal to ousted president Saddam Hussein as the insurgency's driving element. ...

Regional Threat

"Even with Zarqawi's growing significance, Zahner and other officers stressed that Iraq's insurgency remains a complex mix of elements. It includes a variety of factions, often with differing political, religious or tribal aims and sometimes with simply criminal intentions." (The Washington Post, September 28, 2005)

Amman Bombings Reflect Zarqawi's Growing Reach: "Triple suicide bombings in Jordan this week marked a breakthrough for Islamic guerrilla leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in his efforts to expand the Iraqi insurgency into a regional conflict and demonstrated his growing independence from the founders of al Qaeda, according to Arab and European intelligence officials. ...

Sophisticated Recruiter and Propagandizer

"Some terrorism analysts and officials say Zarqawi has already eclipsed al Qaeda's founder, Osama bin Laden, in terms of prominence and appeal to Islamic radicals worldwide. Both want to establish a new Islamic caliphate in the Middle East but have clashed over tactics, such as whether it is advisable to avoid targeting Muslims.

The Web as Weapon: Zarqawi Intertwines Acts on Ground in Iraq With Propaganda Campaign on the Internet: "Never before has a guerrilla organization so successfully intertwined its real-time war on the ground with its electronic jihad, making Zarqawi's group practitioners of what experts say will be the future of insurgent warfare, where no act goes unrecorded and atrocities seem to be committed in order to be filmed and distributed nearly instantaneously online.

"Zarqawi has deployed a whole inventory of Internet operations beyond the shock video. He immortalizes his suicide bombers online, with video clips of the destruction they wreak and Web biographies that attest to their religious zeal. He taunts the U.S. military with an online news service of his exploits, releasing tactical details of operations multiple times a day. He publishes a monthly Internet magazine, Thurwat al-Sinam (literally "The Camel's Hump"), that offers religious justifications for jihad and military advice on how to conduct it." (The Washington Post, Aug. 9, 2005)

Zarqawi Video

Now Playing in Iraq: Zarqawi Outtakes: "[A May 3 military] briefing also focused on the larger issue of what U.S. strategists believe is Zarqawi's long-term goal: to overthrow the new Iraqi government by touching off a war between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs and establish an Islamic theocracy.

"'He is clearly trying to drive a wedge between the sectarian populations in Iraq,' Lynch said of Zarqawi, a Sunni Arab from Jordan. 'He knows that democracy equals failure -- he knows that the government is about to form.'

"To accomplish this, Lynch said, Zarqawi was funneling his resources -- men, money and weapons -- into Baghdad, in an effort to kill as many Shiites as possible. But U.S. forces are tracking him down, Lynch said." (The Washington Post, May 4, 2006)

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