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Zarqawi: the man, the image, the video star

His message for the insurgents is clear: With my robust build and white teeth, I'm your inspiration.

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Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the elusive leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, made his screen debut this week. In a 35-minute video, the man responsible for the car-bomb deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians and the beheadings of numerous foreigners, dismissed the new Iraqi government as an American "stooge" and a "poisoned dagger" in the heart of the Muslim community. He promised more attacks.

The Zarqawi video comes, perhaps not coincidentally, days after another call by Osama bin Laden that Muslims support Al Qaeda in its war with the West. In addition, there was a triple bombing at an Egyptian resort that killed two dozen and injured many more, and double suicide bombings at a multinational peacekeepers' base in the Sinai peninsula. In the midst of the carnage and the threats, what to make of Mr. Zarqawi's message? Here are five points to consider:

1. Zarqawi's video is designed for Iraqi fighters as much as it is for Arab and Western eyes. He is trying to rally Sunni Iraqis and foreign militants to continue the fight. With the selection of a new Iraqi prime minister and president, allowing the country's Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders to start assembling a government, Zarqawi can't let the Sunni-led resistance lose steam. Iraqi and American officials have touted political progress, however painful, as a setback to the insurgency. Any government, Zarqawi warns, "whether made up of the hated Shiites or the secular Zionist Kurds or the collaborators imposed on the Sunnis, will be stooges of the crusaders and will be a poisoned dagger in the heart of the Ummah." Zarqawi tells his fellow Sunni Arabs, "God almighty has chosen you to conduct holy war in your lands and has opened the doors of paradise to you...."


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