The Americans are clutching at straws. That is the only conclusion to be drawn from the claims by the US administration that Osama bin Laden's broadcast on Tuesday demonstrated the existence of collaboration between al-Qaeda and Iraq. The full transcript does not bear out such claims; a large part of it is devoted to text book military advice on the advantages of trench warfare and to a detailed account of the battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan which resulted in “an enormous defeat for the coalition of international evil”. Basically, bin Laden's words are directed to “our Mujahidin brothers in Iraq” who are urged “ honest in intention that the fighting would be for the sake of God, not to triumph for nationalism or pagan regimes in all the Arab countries, including Iraq”. Another passage dismisses the importance of Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Socialist party, telling the faithful that “such a crusade war concerns the Muslim nation mainly, regardless of whether the socialist party and Saddam remain or go” and, for good measure, bin Laden adds that “Socialists are infidels whether they are in Baghdad or Aden.” The single encouragement for Washington's view of this broadcast is this passage: “It is not harmful in such conditions for the Muslim's interests and socialists' interests to come along with each other during the war against the crusade, without changing our faith and our declaration that socialists are infidels.” But most people will think that a slender straw indeed.

Ray Fleming