On the campaign trail?
This analysis from icWales expands on an idea I set forth here yesterday — that the new Al-Qaeda tape (here’s the full text again, from MEMRI) is trying to split the coalition. It adds that “Osama” is trying to make sure that Bush is defeated. (Thanks to JimB.)
A MAN identifying himself as al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden offered a truce to European countries in an tape broadcast today that tries to drive a wedge between America and its European allies.
It may also have been a message to sympathetic militants to back off from attacks in Europe.
The CIA said the voice on the tape was probably that of the multi-millionaire terror leader and was recorded recently.
European nations quickly ruled out any sort of negotiation with al-Qaida.
But experts on militant Islam say the message appears aimed at the European people – hoping they will pressure their governments in the wake of last month’s Madrid bombings to stop supporting US military operations in Muslim nations.
And, an analyst said, it appears also to be a message to al-Qaida sympathisers to stop European operations to avoid galvanising support for Washington’s war on terrorism.
“Bin Laden is seeing how those bombings in Madrid were used by the Americans to pressure Europe into more action,” said Montasser el-Zayat, an Egyptian lawyer who defends Islamic radicals. “This tape is a message to those groups to cease these actions.”
The message described the September 11, attacks on the United States and the March 11 Madrid train bombings as revenge strikes, though it did not directly claim al-Qaida responsibility.
The tape, which aired in full on pan-Arab satellite stations Al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya at more than seven minutes, came at a time when the US led coalition in Iraq is facing particularly violent resistance.
“I am offering a truce to European countries,” the taped message said as the stations showed an old, still picture of bin Laden. “Its core is our commitment to cease operations against any country which does not carry out an onslaught against Muslims or interfere in their affairs.”
“The door to a truce is open for three months,” but that could be extended, the tape said. “The truce will begin when the last soldier leaves our countries,” the speaker said without elaborating.
Bin Laden is believed hiding in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The stations did not say how they received the tapes.
Several audio and video tapes of al-Qaida’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahri, have been released in recent months, but today’s was the first purportedly from bin Laden since January.
In London, the Foreign Office ruled out any deal with bin Laden, saying al-Qaida’s “attacks are against the very idea of coexistence. … The right response is to continue to confront terrorism.”
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in Rome that “it’s unthinkable that we may open a negotiation with bin Laden, everybody understands this.”
Spain’s incoming foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, told his nation’s parliament that “we don’t have to listen to or answer” the tape. While a German government spokesman said: “There can be no negotiations with terrorists and serious criminals like Osama bin Laden.”
The message said, “What happened on September 11 and March 11 was your goods delivered back to you. Security is a need for all humans and we could not let you have a monopoly on it for yourselves.”
“People who are aware would not let their politicians jeopardise their security,” it added in a direct appeal to European citizens.
Spain’s outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar’s Popular Party strongly backed the war in Iraq despite popular and political opposition.
It lost general elections three days after March 11 terror attacks killed 191 people. Incoming Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has pledged to withdraw Spain’s 1,300 troops from Iraq by June 30 unless there is UN control by then.
The truce was offered, the speaker said, because polls have shown that “most of the European peoples want reconciliation” with the Islamic world.
Spanish authorities say the Madrid bombers were acting independently but may have had ties with Islamic extremists elsewhere. The United States has blamed September 11 on al-Qaida.
“They say that we kill for the sake of killing, but reality shows that they lie,” the tape said.
Russians, he said, were only killed after attacking Afghanistan in the 1980s and Chechnya, Europeans after invading Iraq and Afghanistan and the Americans in New York after “supporting the Jews in Palestine and their invasion of the Arabian Peninsula.”
Dia’a Rashwan, noting that tape deviated from bin Laden’s usual labelling Europeans as “the Crusader-Jewish alliance,” said the al-Qaida leader appeared to be focusing on the European people to get them to pressure their governments and “isolate the American administration even from its European allies.”
Bin Laden, he said, also may want to show he is still alive so he can try to sink President George Bush’s re-election bid. The purported bin Laden message denounced the US war on Iraq, saying it was making “billions of dollars” for companies, naming the American firm Halliburton.
The message also vowed revenge for Israel’s killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, founder and spiritual leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The message said that American policy ignores the “real problem,” which is “the occupation of all of Palestine.”