Al Qaeda in Iraq’s number two operative, Hamed Juma Faris al-Suaidi, has been captured. This is a good time to offer a comment I’ve been meaning to make for a while.
The “insurgency” in Iraq has always been composed of several elements, most notably local Sunni die-hards, many left over from Saddam’s regime, and al Qaeda terrorists, many imported from other countries. These two groups have sometimes fought and sometimes collaborated, but both have bedeviled our efforts to bring stability to Iraq.
When Zarqawi, then the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in an air strike in early June, several other raids on al Qaeda safe houses were carried out simultaneously. From the Zarqawi strike and these other raids, a “treasure trove” of information about al Qaeda was recovered that resulted, as we noted here, in hundreds of follow-up raids. Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, said at that time that “We believe that this is the beginning of the end of al-Qaida in Iraq.”
Al-Rubaie said after yesterday’s arrest that al Qaeda in Iraq is “severely wounded.”
It’s often hard to tell from news accounts what group is responsible for an attack (and often the authorities may not know), but my impression is that violence instigated by al Qaeda has declined significantly since Zarqawi’s death and the follow-up raids. This has been obscured by the upsurge in home-grown, sectarian violence that has occurred at the same time. Nevertheless, if al Qaeda in Iraq has been severely weakened–as I believe it has–that represents an important victory in its own right.