The death of the Al Qaeda leader is likely to downgrade sectarianism in the medium term, an expert on terrorism tells the Washington Post. “But,” he added, “the dynamic of sectarian violence is probably past the point of no return.”
BAGHDAD, June 8—Analysts and military spokesmen said Thursday that the death of insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed Wednesday when two 500-pound bombs obliterated his hideout north of Baghdad, will not extinguish the sectarian conflict that he helped foment and that is now claiming many more lives in Iraq than his campaign of beheadings and bombings.
The slaying of the Jordanian-born guerrilla leader eliminated the biggest advocate of the extreme violence against civilians that has made the Iraq war so grisly. Zarqawi and his radical Sunni Arab group, al-Qaeda in Iraq, carried out suicide attacks that could kill 100 or more passersby in a flash of light and videotaped the last gasps of foreign hostages being decapitated.
But other crucial questions, analysts say, are thrown completely up into the air: whether other foreign fighters will show themselves equally eager to slaughter civilians, whether the Sunni insurgency will split into fragments or broaden its base and, above all, whether the Shiite-Sunni killing that Zarqawi’s attacks helped unleash can be reined in.