Al Zarqawi and Al-Qaida's Next Generation
LIANE HANSEN, host:
The attacks this past week in Jordan and the claim of responsibility by al-Qaeda in Iraq have brought renewed attention to that group's Jordanian-born leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The bombings touched off a series of protests by Jordanians. Their chants called for the support of their king and denouncement of Zarqawi. Loretta Napoleoni is the author of a new book, "Insurgent Iraq: Al-Zarqawi and the New Generation." In her book, she writes that Zarqawi has attempted to carry out attacks in Jordan in the past, but has failed. She joins us from London. Thank you so much for your time.
Ms. LORETTA NAPOLEONI (Author, "Insurgent Iraq: Al-Zarqawi and the New Generation"): Thank you so much for inviting me.
HANSEN: Tell us a little bit more about him. We know he was born in Jordan, but then what?
Ms. NAPOLEONI: He was born in Jordan. He's from a bedouin background, but he was raised in a working-class environment. He was right from the beginning a very angry man, and the jihad gave him the possibility to express this anger. His final objective is actually to overthrow the Jordanian government.
HANSEN: The Jordanian government. Now you talk about how he came to be associated with al-Qaeda and there was resistance on his part to be associated with bin Laden and his al-Qaeda. Why did he not want to form a partnership with bin Laden?
Ms. NAPOLEONI: Because he did not share bin Laden's view of the jihad, which is basically to destroy America, the faraway enemy. It was very focused right from the beginning with the near enemy, which is basically Jordanian government, the existing oligarchy elite, which ruled the Arab countries.
HANSEN: You put forth a theory that it was the United States that used him to create this link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and it's a link that never truly existed. How do you support your theory?
Ms. NAPOLEONI: Well, you know, for a start, he was welcomed into al-Qaeda only November 2004 by Osama bin Laden, but also, the way I support this theory is that the United States were alerted about al-Zarqawi role by the Kurdish secret service and the Jordanian authorities in early 2002. In reality, al-Zarqawi at that time was a novelty, was a very small fish in a large jihadist pond.
HANSEN: But now you consider him to be a bigger fish?
Ms. NAPOLEONI: Oh, absolutely. Now he's an icon. He's almost as important as Osama bin Laden, because he's fighting on the ground. He's the guy who's confronting the American coalition forces every day. He's a sort of jihadist Zorro.
HANSEN: A jihadist Zorro. Do you think he's eclipsing Osama bin Laden?
Ms. NAPOLEONI: Yes, I think he is eclipsing Osama bin Laden. Absolutely. In the mind of the young Muslim, not only in the Arab world, but also in the Western world, he is slowly, but surely becoming more famous than Osama bin Laden.
HANSEN: Among Islamic radicals.
Ms. NAPOLEONI: Yes, among the Islamic radicals. And this role is linked to his role in Iraq, to the fact that it is projected by international media, by the politicians, as a sort of super-terrorist, international super-terrorist.
HANSEN: So the United States government says that al-Qaeda is structured, and you say that it's not. On what do you base your argument?
Ms. NAPOLEONI: Well, al-Qaeda in Iraq, it is an organization which is led by al-Zarqawi but is not at all the organization that controls the insurgency, is not at all a sort of pyramidal organization, a sort of multinational of the jihadist movement, which controls an entire resistance. It's just a part of the resistance, and in reality is not the largest part of the resistance, either.
HANSEN: So what is the largest part of the resistance? And what possibility does the removal of Zarqawi actually hold for stopping the insurgency?
Ms. NAPOLEONI: Well, within the insurgency, within the three ethnicities, we have groups which are active. So among the Shia, for example, we still have the Badr Brigades, which are very active. We have the terror gangs who are committing, targeting assassination; for example, the assassination of the two lawyers of Saddam Hussein. And then we have in the Sunni resistance similar varieties of groups. The removal of al-Zarqawi is not going to have a tremendous impact upon the jihadist resistance, nor on, you know, the other groups. He will become an even bigger icon in death than life, so from that point of view, I think, you know, killing al-Zarqawi or bringing al-Zarqawi to justice is not going to make the fight easier.
HANSEN: Loretta Napoleoni is the author of "Insurgent Iraq: Al-Zarqawi and the New Generation." She joined us from London.
Thank you for your time.
Ms. NAPOLEONI: Thank you very much.
HANSEN: It's 18 minutes past the hour.