Another missed shot at Zarqawi?

By Tim Grieve
January 30, 2005 11:28PM (UTC)
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Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for a string of suicide bombings and rocket attacks aimed at disrupting the Iraqi elections.

The violence might have been inevitable, but it's becoming increasingly clear that Zarqawi's role in it wasn't. We already knew that the White House had three chances to take out Zarqawi before the war began, and that it turned down each one. As military officials told NBC last March, White House officials rejected a Pentagon plan to take out Zarqawi just before the war began because eliminating a terrorist camp in Iraq might undercut one of the administration's rationales for starting the war in the first place.


Now a new report from Newsweek reveals what appears to be yet another missed chance to lock up Zarqawi. According to the magazine, a young Saudi who participated in a bombing attack against the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad says Iraqi police actually had Zarqawi in custody in Fallujah in October. Iraq's deputy minister for intelligence affairs tells Newsweek that Iraqi security officials believe that the story may well be true.

If it is, it means that Iraqi police had in their hands the most wanted man in Iraq -- a man with a $25 million price on his head -- and that they simply let him go. Even before the Newsweek story broke, there were serious doubts about the training that the United States is providing to Iraqi security personnel. Another fumble in the hunt for Zarqawi won't exactly put those doubts to rest.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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