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Bin Laden's Strategy Shift

In a 12 minutes address on audio tape, Al Qaeda chief Usama bin Laden, spoke to the American people on the eighth anniversary of 9/11. The tape was produced by the as-Sahab propaganda arm of the terror group and posted on various Jihadists forums last night. His address, directed "to the American People," asserted that the main reason for the Al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, was U.S. support for Israel as well as “some other injustices.” Interestingly Usama claimed the war between the two "nations" i.e the American nation and the Islamic "Umma," can stop if the White House eliminated what he called the "Israel lobby." He accused the latter of pushing for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Note that in this speech he doesn't mention the battlefields of Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Chechnya, he only targets US-Israeli relations.

He begins by insisting that Americans needs to know the real causes for this war "which is costing you dearly in blood and wealth. The [past Bush-led] White House convinced you that this war [the War on Terror] is necessary for your security." The sentence used by Bin Laden can also mean that what the Obama administration called the "war of necessity," in the past few weeks. Bin Laden asked Americans to hear "both sides" (a concept taken from American political discourse and rarely referred to in Jihadist literature).

While over-emphasizing the Israel factor, something unusual for him, actually, Bin Laden reminded his audience that for two decades he had claimed that the main cause for his attacks is "America's support to its allies the Israelis". He added that there were also other injustices caused by the U.S., as well, but strangely refrained from citing them. Such an over-assertion is new in the Al Qaeda narrative, for in most of Bin Laden's previous speeches, including his declarations of war of 1996 and 1998, Israel was only one and not the main root cause for the terror he has unleashed since. His speeches during the fall of 2001 (all available online and in print) focused on the "evil nature" of American policies rather than only on the country's specific support for Israel. Hence, one can see a shift in Al Qaeda's strategic communications. We'll come back to this point.

Bin Laden then went on to say that "our two Umma (meaning America and the Muslim world) are both victims" of one aggressor, that is in his words, those "who control the White House, particularly the Israel lobby and the multinational corporations." He endorsed two books for Americans to understand how these lobbies control the White House. "A book by a former CIA agent who apologized for his crimes as a hit man," which most likely is John Perkins's "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man;" and another book called "The Israel Lobby," by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. He claimed that these two books "will give you the truth." Mearsheimer and Walt are thus becoming Al Qaeda's main recommended authors.

Bin Laden also praised President Obama for having "admitted at last in his speech in Cairo, the existence of our people's miseries." He also praised "former President Carter's statements about the Palestinians during his last visit in Gaza, and particularly his statements on Israel's racism."
"Those who are stating from the White House that the war in Afghanistan is one of necessity, are like Bush; they represent the interests of the corporations." He declared that the authors of statements are the ones responsible for the war not the Mujahidin. "The White House is occupied by pressure groups," he said. "You Americans should liberate the White House from these groups instead of liberating Iraq." Pushing the drama, Bin Laden added that "any leader [i.e., the president] of the White House is set on tracks he can't leave. This president has become like a train set to move in a particular direction. He must accept these pressures otherwise his fate (as president) could be like President Kennedy's or his brother (Robert)."

He called on Americans "to free themselves from the intellectual terror of the neo-cons and the Israel lobby." He asked them to review their alliance with Israel. "Is your security and well-being worth sacrificing for Israel's securit?" He added that polls shows that Americans are opposed to wars and thus they must act against those "who threaten our security," meaning Israel.
Then the Al Qaeda leader makes an offer: "We are ready to accept talking about ending this war." However, he believes that President Obama won't be able to meet that challenge. "Obama is a Mustad'aaf." In some of the media analysis in English the term was translated automatically as "Obama is weak." In fact such that translation is not accurate. "Istidaaf" means he has been rendered weaker. In other word he has been weakened -- by forces around him-- "Mustdaa'f" here means "victimized" or forced to act against his original intentions.

Bin Laden then goes on to explain how the weakening of Obama has been taking place. "He maintained the men of Bush and Cheney in power: Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and General Petraeus." Bin Laden says "Obama can't stop the war with these men in charge. "He should have appointed generals who were against the war like General Sanchez and Admiral Fallon."
He tells Americans that if they can stop the war, "that is fine, if not the jihadists will continue this war of attrition as they did with the USSR for ten years leading to its collapse." This war you are waging, "is already lost."

Then Bin Laden goes on to claim that his war against the United States led to a major economic crisis and debts which in turn led to a financial meltdown. He thus claims the economic collapse of the U.S. as an act of war by the jihadists

At first read, the speech aims to creating confusion among Americans by announcing that the war can be really come to an end by accepting Al Qaeda's conditions. But among the many messages Bin Laden is sending, is also an attempt to create a division within the Obama administration by stimulating those he believes are anti-Israel to pressure the American president in order to curtail the influence of the so-called "Israel lobby" inside the White House and within the administration.
There is, without a doubt, a shift in Al Qaeda's strategic communications. Bin Laden's advisers, some of whom we appear to be are operating from within the U.S. political culture, have convinced him (assuming it is voice on the tape) that it would be strategically preferable to single out one issue, the U.S.-Israel relationship and try to break it. That would putting the American public -- and perhaps some inside the administration -- under pressure. The offer from Al Qaeda is that the entire War on Terror, as waged from Al Qaeda's side, would come to an end if Washington would just let go of its alliance with Israel. That is why I stated that this tape from Al Qaeda, unlike any previous one, takes a non-traditional approach. Finally, this approach could even suggest that a possible re-alignment has been taking place between various forces of jihadism in the greater Middle East.

This tape deserves more attention than the previous ones and more analysis will be added in the near future.

Dr. Walid Phares is a FOX News contributor and the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Heis the author of "The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracies."

Walid Phares, Ph.D., joined Fox News in January 2007 and serves as Middle East and terrorism expert. He is author of "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against the West" (Palgrave Macmillan Trade 2006).

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