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Possible al-Zarqawi Successor Identified; House of Representatives Debates War on Terror

U.S. military leaders believe they have identified the successor to slain terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. There is a debate about whether Zarqawi's death will weaken the insurgency in Iraq and perhaps speed up an eventual drawdown of American troops. Members of the United States Senate overwhelmingly defeated a resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops by year's end, and the House of Representatives held its own debate.

In Baghdad, U.S. General William Caldwell identified Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's probable al-Qaida successor. "This is Ayyub al-Masri. This is the individual at this point that we have established is probably the person who is going to go ahead and move to take over and be responsible for the leadership role here in Iraq," Caldwell said.

Caldwell said al-Masri, an Egyptian, is a senior al-Qaida member, operating primarily in southern Baghdad. Although an Islamic militant website lists a different name, the United States believes it is the same person.

"Al-Masri's intimate knowledge of al-Qaida in Iraq and his close relationship with A.M.Z. operations will undoubtedly help to facilitate and enable them to regain some momentum," Caldwell said. Further assessment on al-Masri is necessary, he said. Al-Qaida has sworn vengeance for al-Zarqawi's death.

The House of Representatives held an extended debate on the U.S. role in Iraq and the war on terrorism. Some Republicans argued for the passage of a resolution declaring American troops will remain in Iraq until the country is free and secure. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R) of Florida said, "We cannot wait until international terrorism attacks us. We must take the war to international terrorism and defeat international terrorism before the terrorists attack us!"

The Rep. James McGovern (D) of Massachusetts is concerned there is no timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. "Under the current policy, the mission in Iraq is never-ending,” he said. “The resolution before us asks us not just to stay the course but to stay forever."

The U.S. military reported its 2,500 fatality in Iraq.

Some experts feel that the Republican push to pass the resolution in the House of Representatives, and President Bush's recent surprise visit to Iraq are both part of an effort to build political momentum going into midterm elections. Public opinion polls taken in the United States since al-Zarqawi's death reflect growing optimism for long-term stability in Iraq. However, the violence in Iraq continues, as gunmen attacked a mosque in Tikrit.