New Bin Laden Tape Re-Declares War on West

Osama bin Laden appeared in a new videotape on al Jazeera yesterday that renewed his declaration of jihad on the West. He added to his list of grievances against the developed world but strangely did not include the war in Iraq.* Most notably, bin Laden railed against UN efforts to stop Muslim-led genocide in Sudan and the U.S. attempt to force the Hamas government in Palestine to renounce terrorism. He also made references to Chechnya and Somalia.

Experts seem to agree that bin Laden is trying to both remind the world that he is still free and rally the Muslim world to his cause. While he succeeded at the former, his attempts at the latter will almost certainly further divide the Islamic world.

Bob Ayers, a security expert with the Chatham House think tank in London, said the tape may be bin Laden’s way of playing cat-and-mouse with those hunting him. “It’s when people have kind of forgotten about him, when he’s not been on the news, that the tapes emerge,” Ayers said. “It’s kind of his way of thumbing his nose at the U.S. and saying, ‘Hey, I’m still out here, and you haven’t caught me and you can’t.’ That’s what he’s saying.”

John Kerry is sold, at least.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism specialist and director of the Washington office of the Rand Corp., a California-based research group, said al-Qaeda is confronting the same challenge that all terrorism networks face: how to remain relevant as a radical movement over time. “It’s entirely cynical,” he said of bin Laden’s rallying cry on behalf of Darfur and Hamas. “He’s got to say something about someplace. They’ve got to keep talking or else they’re going to be irrelevant, especially when they’re not directly involved in the fighting.” “These are contentious contemporary issues that he can glom onto and milk for his own ends,” Hoffman added. “It’s more rhetorical than factual. Bin Laden is no friend of the Sudanese. They told him to leave in 1996 and took his money. And Hamas has basically told al-Qaeda to mind its own business.”

Agreed. More importantly, it seems to me, only the most radical Muslims could support the Janjaweed killing spree. If his aim is to win the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims, therefore, this cause seems an odd one to highlight.

Hamas, on the other hand, is a better choice.

Michael Scheuer, former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s bin Laden unit, said the segments of the tape he had read about suggested that Mr. bin Laden “is at the top of his game” largely because of America’s own foreign policy. “We cut off Hamas after we had a fair election,” he said. “It looks like we are going to intervene in another Muslim country with oil, in Sudan; we followed Israel’s lead with Hamas. His most important ally is American foreign policy.”

Interestingly, however, Hamas continues to do all it can to rhetorically distance itself from al Qaeda.

Update*: TigerHawk thinks bin Laden’s failure to mention Iraq is telling.

Al Qaeda drew a line in the sands of the Sunni Triangle, and the United States Army and Marines walked right across it. First, al Qaeda tried to kill Americans, per bin Laden’s orders. It largely failed. Then al Qaeda went after America’s allies, and succeeded only in turning public opinion against itself in every Muslim country it attacked. After thirty months of battlefield defeats and political embarrassments, bin Laden won’t even mention Iraq in one of his rare public utterances, and he rallies his troops to fight a war where American soldiers aren’t. How humiliating. How delightful.

Of course, it could signal that he has enough troops in Iraq already. Or a tactical shift. After all, the nature of asymmetrical warfare is hitting the enemy where he isn’t.

Dan Reihl adds, “In essence, al Qaida can’t ‘win’ this war. Their only hope is to be around when America gets tired of prosecuting it.” That’s certainly true but, then, that was always the case. Again, that’s the nature of asymmetrical warfare: They can’t beat a superior foe militarily but they can break their hostile will.

And, if one looks at the polls, it seems to be working.

*Update 2: Bill Roggio points to an English translation of OBL’s speech which demonstrates that “early speculation in the blogosphere that bin Laden ignored Iraq wholesale has proven incorrect.” Indeed, it was prominently mentioned:

The epicentre of these wars is Baghdad, the seat of the khalifate rule. They keep reiterating that success in Baghdad will be success for the US, failure in Iraq the failure of the US.

Their defeat in Iraq will mean defeat in all their wars and a beginning to the receding of their Zionist-Crusader tide against us. Your mujahidin sons and brothers in Iraq have taught the US a hard lesson while in the fourth year of the Crusaders’ invasion, they are steadfast and patient and keep killing and wounding enemy soldiers every day.

It is a duty for the Umma with all its categories, men, women and youths, to give away themselves, their money, experiences and all types of material support, enough to establish jihad in the fields of jihad particularly in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kashmir and Chechnya. Jihad today is an imperative for every Muslim. The Umma will commit sin if it did not provide adequate material support for jihad.

Correction noted.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. wom says:

    Bin Laden is a lunatic. Why would anybody in their right minds avert from a life of comfort and wealth to go and be chased out of caves in remote areas of the world? That�s insanity. This video proves nothing but the fact he�s still active. All his rhetoric is pointless since he says the same thing over and over again with alterations here and there. I condemn this man and the actions that he and his followers have committed over the past two decades.

  2. anjin-san says:

    All that the polls show is that American’s are tired of the incompetence, corruption, and stupidity of the Bush admin.

    But hey. blame it all on the evil “MSM”.

  3. LJD says:

    They canâ??t beat a superior foe militarily but they can break their hostile will.

    It seems Anjin’s ‘hostile will’ is still pretty much intact.

  4. Roger says:

    As is LJD’s pointless commentary.

  5. anjin-san says:


    I am hostile twoards those who attacked our country, and pissed at Bush for being too incompetent to bring them to justice.

    You seem to be happy as long as Bush is killing arabs, any arabs…

  6. LJD says:

    You crossed a line ass-wipe. I defy you to show any post where I support killing ‘any arabs’. Nice to see how you feel about the tough job our troops are doing overseas, though. (Killing ‘any arabs’ as if Bush and Rummy are pulling the trigger).

    If you read the f-in post, you would see that Bin Laden is an impotent figure head, losing traction in Iraq and losing support by arabs, because HE’S killing them wholesale for ‘his cause’.

    No, you’re too busy bean-counting, number of casualties, number of terror attacks. You are quite totally complacent about those who attacked our country, because you do not have the will to win. You’re too busy shooting yourself in the foot…

    Roger- same to you. As long as some idiot post a pointless comment that sits well with your ideology, you’re perfectly o.k. with it.

  7. Roger says:

    LJD, as long as you keep supporting our Great Leader’s idiotic detour in Iraq from the war against the terrorists who attacked us, you should refrain from accusing others of being complacent about going after the terrorists. Likewise with your comment on having a will to win. You have to focus on the enemy to win. We can kill Iraqis for another ten years and Bin Laden won’t lose any sleep over it. The profanity is idiotic and pointless.

  8. LJD says:

    I know you lefties have trouble with multi-tasking, so this will blow your socks off. We ARE ‘going after’ Bin Laden.

    Seems to me we have plenty of volunteers to be ‘the enemy’ in Iraq as well. Seems to me Bin Laden and the ME would be very affected by a democratic and free Iraq.

  9. anjin-san says:

    Bin Laden is “an impotent figure head”? Great news, guess we have allready won the GWOT. When are the boys coming home?

    Guess its a good sign that Bush’s few remaining supporters seem to be restricted to outright ranters. Wonder if Herb & LJD play poker together…

    PS, doing several things badly at the same time, such as going after Bin Laden and failing and conducting a cluster___k of a war in Iraq, is not really multi-tasking. It is simply producing multiple failures.

  10. Roger says:

    Good point, Anjin-san. I’d just add that Bushco is doing a lot more than a “several” things badly. More like a multitude. They are seriously sorry multi-taskers.

    LJD, you should pray for the day someone else has a shot, whether “lefties” or “righties” or “middle-ies”. It’s historically quite unlikely we’d have two of the worst administrations in history back-to-back.