In his radio address today, President Bush warned that Zarqawi’s death may lead to a sustained period of increased violence in Iraq:
Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues. In the weeks ahead, violence in Iraq may escalate. The terrorists and insurgents will seek to prove that they can carry on without Zarqawi…The work ahead will require more sacrifice and the continued patience of the American people.
This is part of a continual effort by the White House to spin increases in violence in Iraq as a sign of progress.
The truth is — while Zarqawi’s death is good news — violence is unlikely to decrease in Iraq because Zarqawi and his associates aren’t responsible for the bulk of the violence in Iraq. American Progress’ Joe Cirincione explains:
Foreign terrorists represent only from 6 percent to 8 percent of those committing violence in Iraq, said Joseph Cirincione, senior vice president of the Center for American Progress. “By far, most attacks are being carried out by Sunni insurgents and by the growing Shiite and Sunni sectarian groups battling each other,” he said.
Jim Carafano of the conservative Heritage Foundation agrees: “This isn’t really going to materially affect the level of violence in Iraq. Even if al-Zarqawi’s group has been seriously disrupted, there are many other groups there that are interested in killing.”
So President Bush may be right, but the reason isn’t because his strategy in Iraq is succeeding. It’s because Zarqawi is only a small part of a much larger problem.