The killing by
U.S. forces of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader of
al-Qaeda in Iraq, is a major turning point in the war on terrorism.
The course of history is shaped by major events, and this is one of
them. The elimination of one of the world's most brutal, barbaric
terrorists will be a huge blow to al-Qaeda and its murderous
cohorts who have been operating a vicious campaign of intimidation
and destruction across large swathes of central Iraq for the past
There are and will
be many more international terrorists to hunt down and eliminate in
Iraq in the coming months and years, and al-Qaeda and its allies
will remain a major threat to the new Iraqi government and the
Iraqi people. However, the seeming aura of invincibility that had
previously surrounded the leadership of the jihadist elements of
the Iraqi insurgency has been shattered. Zarqawi was one of the
most potent public faces of international terrorism, and his death
is bodes well not only for winning the war in Iraq, but also the
long-term global war on terrorism.
Zarqawi's Record of
Terror and Murder
responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi men, women, and
children, as well as several Western hostages. His campaign of
suicide attacks, bombings, and beheadings was a display of sheer
savagery and barbarism that reportedly even shocked other al-Qaeda
commanders. His death will undoubtedly save hundreds, and possibly
thousands, of lives.
atrocities in Iraq included the attacks on the Shia shrines in
Karbala and Baghdad in March 2004, which killed over 180 people,
and the car bomb attacks in Najaf and Karbala in December 2004,
which claimed over 60 lives. He was also responsible for the August
2003 truck bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad,
which killed 23 UN employees. Zarqawi beheaded American engineer
Nicholas Berg in May 2004, as well as Americans Jack Hensley and
Eugene Armstrong and Briton Kenneth Bigley in September 2004.
The death of
Zarqawi is an important reminder of why the United States, Great
Britain, and other key allies are still fighting in Iraq, and why
the West cannot withdraw its forces from the country until the war
against al-Qaeda forces is won.
The killing of
Zarqawi will be a huge morale boost to Allied forces in Iraq and
should reinforce the determination of Coalition members to continue
their presence in the country. In addition to the more than 130,000
American troops stationed in Iraq, there are roughly 20,000
non-U.S. international forces based in the country, including 8,000
from Britain, 3,200 from South Korea, 900 from Poland, 900 from
Australia, 600 from Japan, and over 500 from Denmark.
The goal of
Zarqawi and his allies was to turn Iraq into a crucible of terror,
a safe haven, training ground, and launch pad for al-Qaeda
operations across the Middle East, Europe, and the rest of the
world. Zarqawi's death has set this goal back, but there can be no
room for complacency.
The Coalition must
now be even more determined to destroy the al-Qaeda network in Iraq
and see the mission through. Washington and London should call upon
the new Italian government in Rome to reverse its decision to
withdraw its 2,900 troops from Iraq later this year. As well, they
should urge other European powers to do more to assist in
international efforts to defeat the insurgency and establish a
stable, long-term democracy for the Iraqi people.
The battle between
the free world and the forces of militant Islamic terrorism is
fought on a daily basis on the streets of Iraqi cities, and this
conflict will play a major role in shaping the future of the war on
terrorism. A crushing defeat for al-Qaeda in Iraq will be a major
strategic victory that will greatly reduce the long-term threat to
the United States and its allies.
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is the
Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow at the Margaret Thatcher Center
for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies at The Heritage