Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Dagger to al-Qaeda

Hat tip
The Washington Post Company Editorial
A Dagger to al-Qaeda
Good news in Iraq triggers a bleat from a terrorist -- and a hasty cheer by the Bush administration.
Thursday, April 27, 2006

THE APPEARANCE of an al-Qaeda video on the Internet more often than not is a sign of good news in the war on terrorism. Tuesday's posting by Iraqi commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the latest example: The 34-minute show by the newly unhooded extremist is in part a bid for advantage in factional feuding that has curtailed al-Qaeda's visibility and effectiveness. More important, the terrorist acknowledges that the agreement of Iraq's leading Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties on the country's first permanent postwar government last week was, as he bluntly put it, "a dagger in the heart." The Zarqawi movement has spent the past several years trying to ignite a sectarian war between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites; the new "unity" government, if it takes hold, could be the turning point toward defeating that strategy.

Iraq's insurgents and terrorists are a long way from beaten, as the daily toll of killings tragically demonstrates. But the nominee for prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has made an encouraging start. Although he has yet to form a cabinet
-- that may take another month -- Mr. Maliki was on Iraqi television Tuesday night appealing for national unity. Though he has been thought of as a relatively uncompromising Shiite partisan, Mr. Maliki promised to appoint nonsectarian ministers and said he believed the participation of "our Sunni brothers" in the government would "dry up the sources" of the insurgency. He appears focused on pragmatic results, saying his top priority after fostering national accord is increasing electricity supplies.

Another sign that this is good news was the appearance in Baghdad yesterday of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
President Bush was said to have ordered them to Iraq to boost the emerging new government and demonstrate the administration's intent "to correct our mistakes and do our part to make Iraq work," as one of Ms. Rice's aides put it. That's a good aim, and Mr. Maliki certainly deserves high-profile support. Still, a lingering question is whether Mr. Rumsfeld and Ms. Rice were in Iraq to revitalize the U.S. mission or to seize on a rare positive moment to inaugurate its retreat.

The administration and U.S. commanders are clearly eager to find reasons to draw down troops from the current total of 132,500 by the fall. Both Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. George W. Casey Jr. seized on the government breakthrough: "I'm still on my general timeline," Gen. Casey told reporters yesterday. Of course, if U.S.
forces can be drawn down without damaging the new government or undermining its ability to fight the insurgency, that will be welcomed by both Americans and Iraqis. But so far Iraq's slow political progress has had no impact on the violence, which has been growing steadily worse. Before welcoming Iraq's new government by pulling out tens of thousands of soldiers, President Bush ought to carefully consider whether that is the best way to achieve the victory he says he seeks.


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