Iraq and al-Qaeda

How close is the Iraq–al-Qaeda connection? Quite close, said Secretary of State Colin Powell in his Feb. 5 address to the United Nations. He held up a satellite photo of a supposed al-Qaeda base in northern Iraq and mentioned a “fine paper … which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities.”

However, the report, grabbed off the Internet from an Israeli publication, turned out to be a grad student’s work based on 12-year-old data. And the camps, as reporters later discovered, were squalid little compounds outside Hussein’s direct authority lacking electricity and running water. In addition, the militants occupying them, like bin Laden himself, despise Hussein.

Bin Laden’s goal, after all, is to restore an Islamic caliphate with Baghdad as its capital and replace Hussein’s secular regime. Most unaligned analysts believe that the ideological rift between bin Laden and Hussein is far too great to enable them to partner up.