Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Uncivil War

There are conflicting reports over whether the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has been killed or not. The US and Iraqis can't confirm stories saying he died while fighting against a group of Sunni Arab insurgents.

Whether he's dead or not isn't particularly significant. If he is, there'll be someone ready to take his place in a job that doesn't exactly have great prospects for a long and successful career. What is important is the manner of his reported death. The US and Iraqis have long claimed that Al Qaeda isn't welcome in Iraq, and its operations are mostly carried out by terrorists who have gone to Iraq from other countries. The apparent fact that groups of Sunni insurgents are actually fighting against Al Qaeda, presumably because of anger at their random attacks on civilians, proves the Americans and Iraqis are largely right about that.

Not that who's killing who makes much difference to the Iraqi civilians who are dying in the civil war. Twenty percent fewer Iraqis were killed last month than in March. But that's still 1,506 people. If Al Qaeda is on the wane in Iraq, its battle with the US in the 'war on terror' will doubtless continue elsewhere. However, the war between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Iraq will outlast the withdrawal of US and British forces, and there'll be many more months ahead when fifteen hundred innocent civilians are killed. The death of one Al Qaeda terrorist won't change that.

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