Zarqawi's Fruit

A reader writes:

Thanks for your provocative Gathering Storm post, which was scary and sad but a great assessment. An exhausting fight between Sunni and Shia thugs with their Al Qaeda and Iranian allies will set some of our enemies upon one another. The tragedy, of course, is that thousands more innocent Iraqis will die in the process, and we’ll be partly culpable. 

Still, we have to recognize that Zarqawi (remember him?) succeeded in his goal of preventing our preferred outcome in Iraq, by provoking a civil war. And, we should take solace from the fact that this strategy came at a price for Al Qaeda. By bringing the sectarian schism within Islam to the forefront, Zarqawi demoted Al Qaeda from an almost mystical movement that stood up to the west in a fight for an idealized Islamic world, to just another brutal, sectarian faction killing Muslims in Iraq.  He's also taken the Islamic jihadist focus off the United States and even made a Syrian-Iranian alliance more difficult over the long term.