Picture of a weakened Iraqi insurgency
Document released Thursday by Iraq's government appears to show that Al Qaeda in Iraq feels vulnerable.
An Al Qaeda document linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi purports to show that Iraq's insurgents believe they face a "current bleak situation" that may require fomenting a war between the US and Iran to "get out of this crisis."
The document, released Thursday, could not be independently authenticated. But senior Iraqi officials were ebullient about its message, as well as the magnitude of intelligence "treasure" that has emerged surrounding Mr. Zarqawi's death.
This is "the beginning of the end of Al Qaeda in Iraq," Mowafaq al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, declared Thursday, adding that the data include network names and locations gleaned from Al Qaeda computers captured before Zarqawi's death. "The government is on the attack now ... to destroy Al Qaeda and to finish this terrorist organization in Iraq."
"The documents and all the arrests mean there has been a depletion of talent" among Zarqawi's group, says Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.
"They will have to lick their wounds and reconfigure their security, to protect whatever assets they have left," says Mr. Ranstorp, who heads the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies. The document indicates that Al Qaeda needs to recalibrate "not just psychological warfare, but must shape its actions to get some traction in the population."
"If I were the US, I would continue to drill a hole, and continue to undermine [Qaeda's] legitimacy," adds Ranstorp. "With the killing of Zarqawi, the Americans momentarily have the upper hand."
Since American jets struck Zarqawi's hideout last Wednesday, the US military and Iraqi forces have conducted 452 raids, killing 104 insurgents and capturing 759 "anti-Iraqi elements," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said in Baghdad Thursday.
The news came as the Pentagon confirmed that US military deaths in Iraq have now reached 2,500.
The release of the document coincides with a security clampdown in Baghdad, meant to prevent Zarqawi followers from fulfilling promises to launch revenge attacks.