The Fog of War on Zarqawi
Dan Darling, WindsOfChange.Net:
After settling down in DC I just figured I'd let everyone know what the latest is on Zarqawi. The distinct impression I've gotten is that we have reports but they are of dubious reliability and largely based on a combination of disputed claims on the internet, camp rumors from captured al-Qaeda fighters, etc. So we're watching this very closely and if at some point Zarqawi's body turns up in Aleppo or Ramadi or wherever I will be the first to cheer. READ MORE
One point that was made crystal-clear to me, however, was that much of what is now being said about Zarqawi was also said at one point or another about his master Osama bin Laden. There is a huge set of reports big enough to fill a small office on similar rumors concerning bin Laden's fate that have cropped up over the last several years. Claims about bin Laden having some kind of a kidney disease, which have proliferated for years, have similarly not panned out and now appear to be the fruits of a major campaign by the al-Qaeda leader to make his enemies think that he was less mobile, so we need to keep this in mind when evaluating information about Zarqawi.
Ultimately, as Bill notes, there is one consistent thread traveling through all of these rumors, that being that Zarqawi is suffering from some kind of injury and is now on the run.
One thing I was told that I don't think the source would mind being repeated in an open forum is that when Zarqawi is confirmed as being dead there isn't going to be any ambiguity about it. As when Mohammed Atef died, there will be satellite calls going out to other al-Qaeda figures throughout the Middle East and assuming al-Qaeda is unable to return Zarqawi's body to his family in Zarqa (which is under heavy surveillance by the Jordanian GID), Zarqawi's grave is likely to be a major pilgrimage site for aspirant jihadis en route to fight the US in Iraq. There is also likely to be a major jostling for control amongst the Iraqi al-Qaeda, which thus far does not seem to have occurred except in an online fashion. These are the telltale signs to watch for if we want confirmation that Zarqawi has indeed assumed room temperature.