Understating Zarqawi

In his recent article for The Atlantic, “The True Origins of ISIS,” Hassan Hassan makes two related claims concerning the provenance of the Islamic State. One is that analysts have overstated the role of Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who died in 2006, in crafting the group’s “dark vision”; the other is that the Iraqi religious scholar Abu ‘Ali al-Anbari (né ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Qaduli), who died in 2016, played the greater role in this regard. “It was Anbari, Zarqawi’s No. 2 in his al-Qaeda years, who defined the Islamic State’s radical approach more than any other person,” Hassan writes. “[H]is influence was more systematic, longer lasting, and deeper than that of Zarqawi.” What is more, he contends, “Zarqawi was likely influenced by Anbari, not the other way around.” I am not convinced of these conclusions, primarily because the basis presented for them—a 96-page biography of

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