Zarqawi Dead: A Big Break In Iraq?

U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell at a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq pointing to a photo purporting to show the body of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida-linked militant who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings in Iraq, who was killed Wednesday in a U.S. airstrike, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced Thursday, June 8, 2006.
AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
It's hard to say what the effect of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death will be.

He is as bad as they come, but he was not alone in his deadly pursuit of chaos in Iraq. He was an avowed enemy of the Shiites and an ally of some Sunnis. But there are plenty of Sunnis who balk at the idea of a caliphate or religious rule. They resent the ultra-religious orders that have been passed around, including the ban on Western-style haircuts. They know a zealot when the see one.

At the same time, there are plenty of Shia who rejoice that al-Zarqawi is dead but feel certain that the United States was part of his network of death. This is no joke. They believe the United States has been one of al-Zarqawi's sponsors. That sounds ridiculous, but Iraqis told me that if the United States wanted to really crack down on the insurgency, it would have done so a long time ago.

Maybe this will prove something to skeptical Iraqis. Maybe al-Zarqawi's death will leave a void. Maybe this is a big break.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on many CBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith