Osama bin Laden emerges to attack Barack Obama for ‘antagonising Muslims’
Osama bin Laden emerged from the shadows yesterday to deliver a scathing attack on President Obama minutes after the US leader landed in Saudi Arabia to begin his landmark visit to the Middle East.
In advance of Mr Obama’s keenly awaited speech to the Islamic world in Cairo today, bin Laden accused him of “antagonising Muslims” and inflaming hatred against America by backing Pakistan’s recent crackdown on militants in the Swat Valley.
Bin Laden’s message came a day after his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, surfaced to attack the White House’s new incumbent. Middle East analysts say the two tapes indicate growing concern in al-Qaeda’s leadership about Mr Obama’s arrival on the world stage when their influence over the increasingly splintered terror network is waning.
As Mr Obama held talks with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, after landing in Riyadh, the al-Qaeda leader’s audiotape was being broadcast on news channels globally. It is his third public message this year but the first time he has used such murderous and threatening language against Mr Obama.
In an audiotape in March bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding in the lawless mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, largely spared Mr Obama from criticism, noting only that he had a “heavy inheritance” from George Bush. This time, focusing exclusively on the situation in Pakistan, bin Laden declared that the Obama Administration shared blame for a campaign of “killing, fighting, bombing and destruction” in the Swat Valley by Pakistani forces. “He has followed the steps of his predecessor in antagonising Muslims . . . and laying the foundations for long wars,” bin Laden said. “Obama and his Administration have sowed new seeds of hatred against America. Let the American people prepare to harvest the crops of what the leaders of the White House plant in the next years and decades.”
On Tuesday al-Zawahiri, who grew up in Cairo, urged Egyptians to shun Mr Obama. In his audiotape, and in a reference to the Government of President Mubarak, he said that the US President’s trip was at the invitation of the “torturers of Egypt” and the “slaves of America”.
Alluding to Mr Obama’s rhetorical skills, al-Zawahiri, who like bin Laden remains at large since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, added: “His bloody messages were received and are still being received by Muslims, and they will not be concealed by public relations campaigns or farcical visits or elegant words.”
Robert Gibbs, Mr Obama’s spokesman, said: “I don’t think it’s any surprise that al-Qaeda would want to shift attention away from the President’s historic effort to have an open dialogue with the Muslim world.”
Bin Laden’s messages have had diminishing impact in the US over the years. The last one that reverberated among Americans was a dire warning to them on the eve of the 2004 election, which was a factor, analysts believe, in securing the re-election of Mr Bush.
Analysts observed that al-Qaeda’s lifeblood was fuelled by anti-Americanism and Mr Bush’s War on Terror. Yet it is now faced with a US leader whose father was Muslim, whose middle name is Hussein and who is taking a firm stand against Israel over the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Polls show that Mr Obama is far more popular in the region than Mr Bush.
His speech today, aimed at the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, is an attempt to repair the damage caused by the eight-year Bush presidency. Mr Obama told The New York Times that part of America’s “battle against terrorist extremists involves changing the hearts and minds of the people they recruit from”. Before he departed for Saudi Arabia he met Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, in Washington to reiterate that he intended to take a hard line on his insistence that Israel halted settlement expansion.
“They know Obama is popular in a huge part of the Arab and Muslim world because the man is actually trying to address America’s record in the region,” Abdel-Bari Atwan, the Editor of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, said.
Mr Obama spoke to King Abdullah at his horse farm about the Middle East peace process, Iran, the price of oil and how to counter the spread of the Taleban. The US hopes that Saudi Arabia, which has considerable influence in the region and beyond, will pressure Pakistan to keep on the offensive against growing extremism and terrorism inside the country.
“I thought it was very important to come to the place where Islam began and to seek His Majesty’s counsel and to discuss with him many of the issues that we confront here in the Middle East,” Mr Obama said.
Does this tape and it's content have any impact on the GOOD TALIBAN and BAD TALIBAN notion featured very frequently on this forum?
Will this be seen by my fllow members as OBL coming out clearly in favour of SWAT TALIBAN and against PA action against them?
Or will it be percieved as another conspiracy theory to make Obama more important (the tape obviously fabricated in that case)?
Or simply brushed off as statement against America as it does not specifically mention Pakistan Army and does not prove a tie between the two Taliban?