Fascinating new details on how closely linked the war in Iraq is to the war against al Qaeda:

The al Qaeda network is determined to open a new front in Iraq to sustain itself as the vanguard of radical Islamic groups fighting holy war, according to European, American and Arab intelligence sources. The turn toward Iraq was made in February, as U.S. forces were preparing to attack, the sources said. Two seasoned operatives met at a safe house in eastern Iran. One of them was Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, the military chief of al Qaeda, who is better known as Saif Adel. He welcomed a guest, Abu Musab Zarqawi, who had recently fled Iraq’s Kurdish northern region in anticipation of the U.S. targeting of a radical group with which he was affiliated, Arab intelligence sources said. The encounter resulted in the dispatch of Zarqawi to become al Qaeda’s man in Iraq, opening a new chapter in the history of the group and a serious threat to American forces there. “The monster is already near you,” said one Arab official who is familiar with the intelligence and who spoke on condition that he not be identified by name or nationality. “I don’t know if you can kill it.” The official added: “Iraq is the new battleground. It is the perfect place. It will be the perfect place.”

If this pans out, then the Bush administration really will have pulled off something important: taken the war to the enemy, taken it out of the West, and given us a chance for military victory. What Bush must tell us tonight is that the war in Iraq, far from having ended, is now entering its most critical phase. That’s why we need more troops, more resources and more focus. Now.