It is not clear what effect, if any, Colin Powell’s speech this morning is having. The Security Council members who have been dragging their feet spoke immediately after hearing Powell’s presentation; their remarks were prepared in advance and could not have been influenced by anything Powell said. The comments by Russia’s Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, as reported in the Washington Post, were especially ludicrous:
“The information given to us today will require very serious and thorough study. Experts in our countries must get down to analyzing it and drawing the appropriate conclusions from it….The information provided today by the U.S. secretary of state once again convincingly indicates the fact that the activities of the international inspectors in Iraq must be continued. They alone can provide an answer to the question of to what extent is Iraq complying with the demands of the Security Council.”
It shouldn’t really take a lot of study to draw the “appropriate conclusions” from the data Powell presented. It might take a little courage, however. And note the brand-new standard articulated in the last sentence: “to what extent” Iraq is complying with UN resolutions. What does that mean? If he’s only storing modest amounts of nerve gas, he is mostly in compliance?
I don’t suppose anyone actually believes that Iraq is not harboring chemical and biological weapons, so I was most interested to see what Powell would say about links between Iraq and al Qaeda. The following narrative seemed extremely important to me:
“This senior Al Qaida terrorist was responsible for one of Al Qaida’s training camps in Afghanistan. His information comes first-hand from his personal involvement at senior levels of Al Qaida. He says bin Laden and his top deputy in Afghanistan, deceased Al Qaida leader Muhammad Atif (ph), did not believe that Al Qaida labs in Afghanistan were capable enough to manufacture these chemical or biological agents. They needed to go somewhere else. They had to look outside of Afghanistan for help. Where did they go? Where did they look? They went to Iraq.
“The support that (inaudible) describes included Iraq offering chemical or biological weapons training for two Al Qaida associates beginning in December 2000. He says that a militant known as Abu Abdula Al-Iraqi (ph) had been sent to Iraq several times between 1997 and 2000 for help in acquiring poisons and gases. Abdula Al-Iraqi (ph) characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful.”
The most cogent point made by critics of the President’s Iraq policy is the alleged lack of any clear evidence that in the future, Saddam Hussein is likely to share chemical or biological weapons or expertise with al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The fact that he has already done so, according to a high-ranking, captured al Qaeda operative, would seem to be the best possible evidence that he is likely to do so again.
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