WOULD THE UN APPROVE AN ATTACK ON AL-QAEDA CAMPS?….After the U.S. offensive against Afghanistan destroyed the Taliban, a few al-Qaeda members managed to escape American forces by slipping across the border into Iran.

In 1987-88, Halabja was the one of the targets of dozens of chemical attacks launched by Saddam Hussein against Iraqi Kurds. It is now the home of Ansar al-Islam, a band of radical Islamic Kurds with ties to al-Qaeda.

By late 2002 many of them had crossed Iran into Iraq and settled in the Halabja Valley, a Kurdish area under the control of Ansar al-Islam, a band of radical Islamic Kurds. As a story in the Washington Post put it:

“The relationship between Ansar and al Qaeda is very much like the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” said Barham Salih, the prime minister of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdish administration that abuts the Ansar zone.

Saddam Hussein has little effective control over this area, so the existence of the refugees doesn’t really constitute strong evidence that he has ties to al-Qaeda. Nonetheless, there are al-Qaeda operatives in the Halabja Valley, and Dan Drezner has a question about it:

At a minimum, the Post story would seem to justify an offensive to knock out Ansar al-Islam and retake the Halabja Valley. This leads to an intriguing question. Given the obvious link between achieving this objective and the war on terror, and given the assertions by France and others that credible evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda would justify use of force, would the Security Council be willing to approve U.S. military action in this area?

Dan thinks this would be an interesting test of French and German motivations. Would it?

It’s a hard question to answer in isolation, since at this point I think everyone would simply assume that the U.S. was using such a strike as the thin end of a wedge toward full war on Iraq. So it’s almost impossible to evaluate this on its own merits.

At the same time there’s also a larger problem. Since al-Qaeda is a global organization, approving U.S. military action against Ansar al-Islam could be taken to imply approval of any U.S. action against any suspected al-Qaeda group anywhere in the world. It therefore seems unlikely the UN would approve of this, and in turn the U.S. would surely never ask the UN for approval, since it would limit our freedom of action in the future if the request were turned down.

Or so it seems to me. Back to you, Dan.