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August 23, 2005
Zarqawi Network Claims Jordanian Attack

The spokesman for the Zarqawi/al-Qaeda network in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack last week on two American Navy amphibious craft, rocket attacks that missed their targets and killed a Jordanian military officer instead:

The Internet statement was signed Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, the spokesman for Al-Qaida in Iraq. That group is headed by the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, blamed for a rash of kidnappings, killings and attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq.

Jordan said Monday it had arrested a Syrian, one of four men allegedly involved in the attack. The captured man's two sons and the Iraqi leader of the group were believed to have escaped to Iraq, officials in the Jordanian capital said.

The Jordanian statement said the four were part of an Iraqi-based terrorist organization, which the government did not identify. The government has received several warnings in recent months, however, that Aqaba had become a primary target of the al-Qaida terror network, a security official has said.

Al-Zarqawi's terror group was the second to claim responsibility for the rocket attack, but the authenticity of the statement, signed by group spokesman Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, could not be verified.

Both groups claiming responsibility have AQ links, and so far no other groups have competed for the dubious glory of missing two fairly large, stationary targets sitting in a harbor. As I posited earlier on this topic, the circumstances surrounding this attack suggest that AQ's ability to recruit, arm, and train its terrorists may have seriously degraded outside of Iraq, and perhaps even inside.

This attack came from an Iraqi-based cell that infiltrated Jordan for this specific assignment. That has confirmation not only from Zarqawi but also from Jordanian investigators who made key arrests in the case yesterday. Instead of martyring themselves for the glorious cause, they set timers on the rockets so they could make their escape. Not just that, but they used the notoriously inaccurate and unreliable Katyusha rockets as their weapons, which have the accuracy of a Hail Mary pass at the end of a football game.

So now instead of attacks set up with accuracy and care, involving volunteers so dedicated that they willingly commit suicide to attack Americans, we now see hit-and-run terrorist attacks with known low probabilities of success. In this case, it didn't even allow for the AQ operatives to get away cleanly, as their apparent ringleader got caught by the Jordanians. Zarqawi's spokesman openly talks about covering the "retreat" of their fighters after the botched attack.

All of this adds up to some serious strain on suicide-attack recruiting. It looks like Zarqawi has burned through a major portion of his lunatics in Iraq and now has to use tactics that make him much less likely to stage successful attacks on American assets. It also suggests that the Coalition efforts to interdict arms and other communications to his network has succeeded in forcing him to use less reliable weapons as well as less reliable tactics.

That sounds like success -- not a spectacular battlefield victory, but the attrition of a weaker enemy slowly losing battle capabilities as his base realizes the war has been lost. I'm surprised they even took credit for this failure.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 23, 2005 7:55 AM

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