Steve Hayes can’t remember it, if it happened: “When did the Bush Administration claim that Iraq had an “operational relationship” with al-Qaeda before the war? It may have happened, but I missed it if it did.”
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.