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.