First some good news :
"Dozens" of people have been raided and arrested in Iraq today following the bombing of al-Zarqawi's not-so-safe house.
Apparently there was good intelligence in amongst that mass of rubble. The US Military is claiming they have detained more than two dozen suspects and uncovered "cache of weaponry" and, more interesting, Iraqi Army uniforms.
Some 17 raids were conducted within hours of the death of al-Zarqawi. Images of a suicide belt, passports and ID cards, license plates for cars, night-vision devices, flak vests and rifles were shown to media in Baghdad briefings by the US Military.Apparently all the items were found in one location, hidden under floorboards.
Ehsan Erari in the Asia Times thinks this could be a good time to really put an end the insurgency, all of it, and fast, but not just through ceaseless slaughter :
The factor that will be most potent in terms of helping Iraq fight its insurgency is if the national-unity government becomes an effective entity by reducing food, electricity and gasoline shortages, and by bringing back "normalcy" to Iraq.
Given the concentration on Zarqawi's death, some important news did not receive much publicity.
On Thursday, the Iraqi parliament approved Jawad al-Bulani, a Shi'ite and a former army colonel under Saddam, as interior minister. General Abd al-Qadir Jasim, a Sunni, was approved as defense minister. Jasim was until now commander of Iraq's ground forces. Agreement has also been reached for Shirwan al-Waili to become the new minister for national security. These influential positions had been unfilled for some time because of political wrangling.
Now the national-unity government is complete and it must start the serious and tedious business of governance. The fact that Sunnis are now part of the government is a major development.
However, their participation has to result in an improvement of living conditions for all Iraqis. Otherwise, the insurgency cannot be broken.
Interesting story here. With an estimated 40% of worldwide, hardcore jihadists killed, or locked away or on the run, will we see a new rising of Al Qaeda activity in the months ahead, or is al-Zarqawi's death really the beginning of an end?
"There are more people popping up than are being put away," said Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College. "But the question is whether the new ones have the fortitude to take up the mantle and carry the struggle forward. I don't see that they have."
Now they've had a day a bit to think it over, a number of intelligence experts are musing that a significant side effect of the death of al-Zarqawi may be a reunification of insurgent groups in Iraq, into a more cohesive whole.
And that would be good news and bad news.
Because, these experts are now debating behind subscription-only walls, that would mean less attacks on civilians (good news), but a refocusing of attacks against allied forces in Iraq (bad news).
We'll soak up their thoughts and give you a round up tomorrow night.
AN IMPORTANT POINT RARELY MENTIONED : Usama Bin Laden, and apparently many of his hangers-on, love their international football.
So with the World Cup on, might they be too busy catching the games via satelite to launch new attacks?
Might they be so exhausted watching six or seven hours per day, and so bummed out by Zarqawi's death, that they decide to just fuck right off forever? You can only hope...
Interesting. Why did the Bush White House allegedly kill of plans to take out al-Zarqawi back in 2002, when he was known to be in Iraq developing chemical weapons?
The weird thing is, the White House didn't kill off a Pentagon planned air strike just the once.
They did it twice.
Read this and see if you can work out a good reason why the plans were killed, instead of al-Zarqawi.
Patrick Cockburn, In The Independent, Argues That The US Need For A Famous Bad Guy Helped Create The Monster That Was Al-Zarqawi
Zarqawi owed his rise to the US in two ways. His name was unknown until he was denounced on 5 February 2003 by Colin Powell, who was the US Secretary of State, before the UN Security Council as the link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida.
There turned out to be no evidence for this connection and Zarqawi did not at this time belong to al-Qa'ida. But Mr Powell's denunciation made him a symbol of resistance to the US across the Muslim world. It also fitted with Washington's political agenda that attacking Iraq was part of the war on terror.
The invasion gave Zarqawi a further boost.
Within months of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein the whole five-million-strong Sunni Arab community in Iraq appeared united in opposition to the occupation.
Cheering crowds gathered every time a US soldier was shot or an American vehicle blown up. Armed resistance was popular and for the first time Sunni militants known as the Salafi, religious fundamentalists demonstrating their faith by religious war or jihad, had a bedrock of support in Iraq.
Osama bin Laden and his fighters never had this degree of acceptance in Afghanistan and were forced to hire local tribesmen to take part in their propaganda videos.
The next critical moment in Zarqawi's career was the capture of Saddam Hussein on 15 December 2003. Previously US military and civilian spokesmen had blamed everything on the former Iraqi leader.
No sooner was Saddam captured than the US spokesmen began to mention Zarqawi's name in every sentence.
"If the weather is bad they will blame it on Zarqawi," an Iraqi journalist once said to me.
It emerged earlier this year that the US emphasis on Zarqawi as the prime leader of the Iraqi resistance was part of a carefully calculated propaganda programme. A dubious letter from Zarqawi was conveniently discovered.
One internal briefing document quoted by The Washington Post records Brigadier General Kimmitt, the chief US military spokesman at the time, as saying: "The Zarqawi psy-op programme is the most successful information campaign to date."
The US campaign was largely geared towards the American public and above all the American voter. It was geared to proving that the invasion of Iraq was a reasonable response to the 9/11 attacks. This meant it was necessary to show al-Qa'ida was strong in Iraq and play down the fact that this had only happened after the invasion.
Jason Burke argued, back in June, 2004, that al-Zarqawi first made contact with Usama Bin Laden in the very late 1990s.
....in 1999, Zarqawi went to Europe, where he organised a fundraising and terror network stretching from Germany to the UK, then moved on to the one place where militants could plot in relative security - Taliban-run Afghanistan.
Inevitably he came into contact with bin Laden. Washington has consistently claimed that he is 'linked' to the al-Qaeda chief, but the relationship is more complex. German police intelligence reports say that Zarqawi's al-Tauhid group was set up, not as a branch of al-Qaeda, but in competition.
In fact, Zarqawi tried to get help from bin Laden to enhance his own career. He received logistical support from the Saudi-born militant leader, but never swore loyalty to him, instead working to build his own reputation - crucial to drawing in recruits and funds from wealthy donors in the Middle East.