The Maliki government seems to think so. MNF is not as sure, as before. But Ayman al-Zawahiri appears convinced:
“Then, secondly I direct congratulations, support, and thanks to Islam's lions in Iraq, each one by one, and to the dear jihadi Islamic State of Iraq and its hero Amir Abu Omar al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Hashimi al-Qarshi, and to the lion of Islam Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, and their brave brothers.”The obvious question becomes this--if Ayman is convinced what does it mean if al-Baghdadi was indeed connected to Saddam's Baath Party or the Republican Guard? The recent spike of violence does seem to be originating from goons attached to Izzat al-Duri and other former regime members. Oddly, as if holding power, they've already made overtures to Obama.
Matter of fact it was interesting to hear the president say during his recent press conference that although violence has recently ticked up it was still way down compared to 'last year'. Well, no. He probably meant 2007 back when he was advocating our withdrawal, as violence was down pretty much all of 2008. As Reverend Wright once said, Obama is a politician and has to say erroneous things.
It's possible the 'capture' of al-Baghdadi is a stunt by Maliki to refocus the public on why the Baath shouldn't be reconciled back into the government, allowing him to win favor amongst the Shiite electorate and continue in power.
But assuming he's real and actually was connected to the regime this no more proves a Saddam-AQ connection than previous reports of a Zawahiri trip to Baghdad or the EIJ members called to Baghdad before the invasion. In other words, if people wouldn't believe those they likely won't believe this.