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What is Operational, Anyway?

11:25 AM, Mar 19, 2008 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Over at The Corner, Michael Leeden responds to my question about when, if ever, the Bush Administration claimed Iraq had an "operational" relationship with al Qaeda.

He writes:

What about Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom? That day, with George Tenet sitting behind him, he noted that Zarqawi - who we later learned was the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq - had operated out of Baghdad.

I was surprised when Powell said that, because I had previously noted that Zarqawi had long operated out of Tehran (and received Iranian support for al-Qaeda in Iraq after the defenestration of Saddam). But he certainly said it, and you can't ask for a more "operational" tie than that, or so it seems to. me.

I should have been clearer. I take "operational" to mean that the two entities collaborated on attacks, that is, worked together to pull off an "operation." Did the Bush Administration ever directly make such a claim, as so many reporters now seem to imply by suggesting that a report that found no evidence of an "operational relationship" is a repudiation of administration claims? Again, it's possible that they did say this and I just missed it.

FWIW, I would put the Zarqawi evidence in the category of "providing sanctuary" or "safe haven." And I don't think anyone disputes the fact that Zarqawi transited in and out of Iran with ease.