November 22, 2005
Zarqawi's Bad Week

By Jack Kelly

Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the al Qaida chieftain in Iraq, has had a bad week. If it turns out Zarqawi was among seven al Qaida leaders killed in Mosul Saturday, it'll have been a really bad week. But even if Zarqawi got away again, it's been a rotten week for him.
It's also been a bad week for antiwar Democrats, who had their bluff called in the House of Representatives.

Zarqawi's bad week is a product of the suicide bombings he orchestrated November 9th against three hotels in Amman, Jordan. The bombings resulted in 62 deaths, mostly of Arabs attending a wedding. Because of its large Palestinian population, Jordan had been the country most supportive of al Qaida.

No longer. Last Friday, more than 200,000 Jordanians took to the streets to demonstrate against al Qaida. Zarqawi is Jordanian, but his tribe has disowned him.

This is a big deal, said Jim Robbins, who teaches at the National Defense University: "One of the reasons I thought the report of Zarqawi's death was credible at first was that his tribe had forsaken him," Robbins wrote.

"Extended tribal ties among groups in al Anbar province in Iraq may be what has kept him safe thus far." It could have been a tip from a disgruntled relative that led U.S. and Iraqi troops to surround the house in Mosul where seven men and a woman died, several by blowing themselves up. More likely, they were ratted out by Iraqis who had once been friendly to al Qaida, but are turning against it.

There has been a surge in tips from Iraqis over the last month, a U.S. intelligence officer told the Washington Post. "These tend to be traditional Iraqi leaders -- sheiks and imams -- upset with the organization, especially its recent execution of Sunni Arabs in Ramadi," the official said.

Ramadi, the capital of al Anbar province, is a smuggling center that long has been as lawless as Dodge City before Wyatt Earp became marshal. There have been running gun battles betweenlocal insurgents tied to the former regime of Saddam Hussein and al Qaida. There also have been gun battles between al Qaida and U.S. troops in Ramadi, which have gone badly for al Qaida.

Nearly 200 "insurgents," most of them al Qaida members, have been killed or captured in Operation Steel Curtain, now in its second week, a joint Marine-Iraqi operation which has been cleaning out hideouts along the Syrian border.

Zarqawi has lost a number of key lieutenants in recent weeks, thanks to the increasing number and timeliness of tips. The most recent were Abu Ahmed, the "Emir" of Sadah, nabbed on day three of Steel Curtain, and Abu Ibrahim, a technology expert who manufactured triggering devices for roadside bombs, taken in Baghdad Oct. 31st. More of Zarqawi's command network was lost in the house in Mosul, even if he himself got away.

With the walls falling in on al Qaida in Iraq, it would seem a curious time for congressional Democrats to go into preemptive surrender mode. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., introduced a resolution last week calling for "immediate redeployment" of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Murtha, a retired Marine reserve colonel and a decorated Vietnam veteran, is a substantive man. The news media described his resolution as a blow to the Bush administration. "When President Bush decided to wage war on Saddam Hussein, perhaps no Democrat was a firmer ally," wrote Maura Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. This was untrue. Murtha had expressed doubt about going to war in 2002, and had declared Iraq "unwinnable" in May of last year.

Showing more backbone and more brains than they customarily do, House Republicans called for a vote on immediate withdrawal from Iraq. It failed, 404-3. Democrats who'd applauded the introduction of Murtha's resolution whined it was dirty pool for Republicans to make them vote on his bottom line.

"It's a trap," a Democratic strategist told Newsweek's Eleanor Clift. "If the party comes out for a unilateral six month withdrawal, that would become the issue for 06, and they (Republicans) would kill us again." Democrats like to make antiwar noises for their moonbat base, but were unwilling to cast a vote that could hurt them with swing voters. They were too cowardly to be forthright cowards.

Jack Kelly is national security columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Blade of Toledo, Ohio.

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