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Al Qaeda No. 2 mourns al-Zarqawi

In his second video released in one week, Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared to eulogize Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, celebrating his contributions to the Iraqi Jihad and encouraging fighters in Iraq to be inspired, not discouraged, by Zarqawi’s “martyrdom.” “They have planted your remains in the sands like a flag. To motivate the people morning and night?they have raised a beacon of blood. To inspire tomorrow’s generation,” Zawahiri recites in the video. While Zawahiri lavishes praise on the Jordanian terrorist for his leadership in the Iraqi theater, there may be more information in what he neglects to say. First, his eulogizing of Zarqawi’s contributions to the Jihad only mentions Iraq. He does not praise, or even mention, the Amman hotel bombings , although this is arguably as great a part of Zarqawi’s legacy as his Iraqi campaign. This omission speaks volumes about the al-Qaeda leader’s disapproval of the terrorist operation in the Jordanian capital. Similarly, Zawahiri also neglects to praise Zarqawi for other activities that made him infamous: like beheadings and his war against Iraqi Shia. Instead of mentioning the Shia, he characterizes Zarqawi’s fight as being against “the Crusaders.” Also, the introductory screen of the video refers to Zarqawi as “Sheikh of the Martyrdom Seekers,” rather than his more common moniker “Sheikh of the Slaughterers,” which refers to Zarqawi’s network’s executions, often by beheading. This affirms areas of disagreement between the two that were identified in an intercepted letter allegedly penned by Zawahiri to Zarqawi . Given Zawahiri’s disapproval of Zarqawi’s methods and leadership, Zawahiri may see Zarqawi’s death as more timely than unfortunate, as it provides Osama bin Laden and him the opportunity to influence the appointment of a more agreeable leadership for al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq . If the two leaders get their way on this, there may be a shift in tactics seen by al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers, with an abatement of indiscriminate targeting of Shia and other Iraqis, as well as a correction of other methods with which Zawahiri disagreed. However, the recent beheading of kidnapped Russian diplomats by the Mujahideen Shura Council (the umbrella group created to re-brand al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers) indicates that such changes may be slow in coming. Neither can Iraqi Shia count upon a cessation in the violence against them, as the instability brought about by Shia-Sunni fighting, whose initial provocation may be at least in part attributed to Zarqawi’s network, may turn out to be the greatest of Zarqawi’s legacies in terms of the obstacles it presents to Coalition and Iraqi government efforts. There is one group of people, however, who may drop on the targeting priority list thanks to Zarqawi’s demise. Jordan was a high-priority target not only for the government’s cooperation with the Coalition, but also because of Zarqawi’s personal vendetta against the Jordanian government. Now that the emotional, personal desire for revenge against Jordan has been removed from the leadership of al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers, Jordan may drop to the same priority level of other Arab countries and individuals who aid the Coalition and support the new Iraqi government. The lack of enthusiasm exhibited by Zawahiri and Bin Laden for the nearly indiscriminate killing in the attack on Amman hotels may also mean that future attacks against Jordan will employ more precision targeting of persons associated with the Jordanian government or westerners in the kingdom. Also telling in this video is what Ayman al-Zawahiri does not say about the alleged new leader of al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir . Zawahiri speaks

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