U.S. officials said Monday that they do not believe Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian insurgent leader, was among those killed in a gunfight in northern Iraq Sunday.
'I do not believe that we got him,' said Zelmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. 'But his days are numbered. We're closer to that goal but unfortunately we didn't get him in Mosul.'
Khalilzad was referring to a house in the city of Mosul, north of Baghdad, which was the scene of a three-hour gunfight Sunday precipitated by a tip that led U.S. forces to believe Zarqawi might be inside along with members of al Qaeda. U.S. and Iraqi troops surrounded the dwelling and engaged in the gunfight, which left seven men dead.
While it would be nice to have gotten him, it seems very unlikely. Buried a bit further down is the most significant aspect of the story though:
Over the past month, there has been a series of raids following a surge in tips from Iraqis unhappy with Zarqawi and his operation, said a U.S. military intelligence official involved in Iraqi issues. These tend to be traditional Iraqi leaders -- sheiks and imams -- upset with the organization, especially its recent execution of Sunni Arabs in Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar. "Their feeling is that al Qaeda in Iraq has overstepped its bounds," he said.
From what I can tell, the Sunni ex-Baathist part of the insurgency has pretty much dried up as Sunni's have decided to become involved in the political process and the jihadist Al-Qaeda in Iraq is in serious trouble as it's popularity has fallen dramatically. This means that they have to remain hidden from both American and Iraqi forces. While they are still capable of launching terrorist attacks, there numbers and capabilities will have to shrink as a cost of remaining hidden. I expect in six months 'Al-Qaeda in Iraq' will have less capabilities to attack than Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia does. Which is not to say zero, but certainly an improvement.