I woke up this morning to the breaking news that Coalition forces had killed public enemy number one in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, in an airstrike. This is certainly good news. The United States has one less excuse to linger in Iraq and should re-focus its attention on the real al Qaeda threat: bin Laden and what remains of the al Qaeda leadership thought to be hiding in Pakistan — we need to remind ourselves that it was bin Laden not al Zarqawi who attacked the United States — and the al Qaeda terrorist network operating in 60 countries around the world.
But (there’s always a but), we should not believe that killing Zarqawi means an end to the insurgency in Iraq. In all likelihood, his successor (and his successor’s succuessor) has already stepped into Zarqawi’s shoes. And we must remember that the insurgency is not just about Zarqawi, but is multi-faceted (comprised of at least three different elements (in varying proportions over time): Ba’athists and other Sunnis who perceive they have the most to lose as a result of regime change; other Iraqis — including Shi’ites — opposed to the U.S. military occupation; and foreign terrorists seeking to sow the seeds of jihad (made easy by porous borders and an inviting target in their own neighborhood). So the violence in Iraq is likely to continue.
Charles (Chuck) Pena is a senior fellow with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, MSNBC analyst, and author of “Winning the Un-War.”