THE MOST EFFECTIVE...

THE MOST EFFECTIVE DEMOTED TERRORIST. Following up on Matt's item below, it's worth noting this Eli Lake report yesterday that a move was afoot to lower the price on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's head before he was killed because of a somewhat different assessment of his importance on the part of U.S. forces:

Even as American and Iraqi soldiers were closing in on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the commander of the American forces in Iraq was trying to get Washington to lower the terrorist leader's importance and profile.

In May, the Multinational Forces in Iraq sent a cable marked "secret" to the Pentagon requesting that the reward of $25 million for Zarqawi's capture be reduced, according to military and administration officials.

The request was part of a recalculation by American war planners who had noticed that the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq's role in the insurgency was gradually diminishing after Iraq's foreign fighters, Islamists, and irredentist Baathists in January formed a new umbrella terror organization known as the Mujahadin Shura Council, or consultative council of holy warriors.

The new constellation of car bombers and kidnappers significantly reduced the role of Al Qaeda in Iraq, relegating it to just one of a number of groups under the leadership not of the Jordanian-born Zarqawi, but an Iraqi, Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi.

This development, according to two military sources, persuaded America's top generals that the enemy's organization had become less reliant on a top-down hierarchy. The strategy to reduce the monetary reward for Zarqawi in part reflected a recognition that the man himself had been demoted.

Also, I'm inclined to agree with Eric Umansky, who, in the comments on Matt's item, questions Matt's comparison of Zarqawi to David Ben Gurion as well as his sense of who gets called what. This article on "Jewish Terrorism" makes it very clear that historians are quite willing to call certain founders of the Jewish state terrorists, but Ben Gurion is not the person at whom they generally point fingers.

--Garance Franke-Ruta

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