Middle East watcher Juan Cole observes the troubling development that the Jordanian-born terrorist's militant group Tawhid al-Jihad appears to have now officially joined forces with the al-Qaida movement. There is still much debate over Zarqawi's previous loyalties and strategic goals -- and any propaganda put out by Islamic militants requires a wary assessment -- but Cole notes that, if true, the news proves a substantial "setback" for the war on terror:
"On the internet site of Monotheism and Holy War (al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad), the group allegedly declared, 'We announce that the Tawhid and Jihad Group, its prince and soldiers, have pledged allegiance to the sheikh of the mujahideen Osama bin Laden.' This pledge is a new development. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his group are said to have been bitter rivals of al-Qaeda during the Afghan resistance days... If the statement is true, it is a worrying sign that even the divided small radical guerrilla groups are being 'picked up' by al-Qaeda. This consolidation is obviously a result of Bush's aggressive invasion of Iraq and of the botching of the aftermath. It is a setback for the war on terror.
"Another worrisome sign is that local Iraqi Sunni fundamentalists opposed to the US presence in Iraq have begun joining [Zarqawi's] Monotheism and Holy War [movement], and wearing its distinctive orange and black insignia. These have been sighted among Iraqi crowds on Haifa Street in Baghdad and in Samarra. So now there are hundreds of al-Qaeda members in Iraq where there had been none before."