Abu Musab Al Zarqawi
The Obama administration has signaled in word and deed that a policy change is in the offing, a change that would accommodate the Syrian regime and normalize relations with it. The notion of autocracy as a guarantor of stability is back in vogue after the Bush years, and so the policy is being bolstered by a chorus of analysts and academics. The Syrian regime, the thinking goes, is as good as it gets for helping to keep simmering regional tensions under a tight lid. But this change would be a bit of a gamble.
The reported drone-strike death of the Pakistani Taliban leader (although Robert Gibbs cautions that it's still unconfirmed) is a tremendous short-term score for the U.S. The issue is whether this will be a substantive setback for the Taliban, or whether some new killer will simply take his place and continue business as usual. Peter Bergen examined this very issue in his great TNR piece a few months ago: Daniel Byman, who runs the Security Studies program at Georgetown, has studied the effects that targeted assassinations have on terrorist groups.
In the early hours of September 13, 1997, the Israeli army killed one 45- year-old woman, two Hezbollah fighters, and six Lebanese soldiers in the mountains of southern Lebanon. Later that day, Hezbollah officials viewed video footage of the bodies and confirmed that one of the slain was a precious kill indeed: 18-year-old Hadi Nasrallah, son of Hezbollah's leader, Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. That evening, Nasrallah was scheduled to give a speech in Haret Hreik, the southern Beirut suburb where Hezbollah's offices are located.
The moment one lands at Baghdad Airport, all the political arguments, all the philosophical certainties, all the things that Iraq has come to represent in the American imagination simply melt away. What's left is a place--a not very nice place. From the backseat of a beat-up sedan steered by a gun-toting Iraqi driver, the streets of Baghdad look no different than they did during my last trip here six months ago—except for the large number of Iraqi police, who seem to be everywhere. The smell of burning trash is ubiquitous, as is the sound of gunfire.