Sep 8, 2007

Stratfor on Osama bin Laden's Latest Video

Stratfor on Osama bin Laden's latest video.

NBC News released the text of an alleged new video of Osama bin Laden on Sept. 7. Though the video is addressed to the United States, the message is clearly meant for al Qaeda's constituency as the jihadist leader provides justification for young mujahideen to continue their war against the West.

In the 25-minute video, bin Laden addresses the American people and lays out his argument for why U.S. Democrats are unable to stop the Iraq war. He spends a great deal of time echoing the works of Noam Chomsky in condemning capitalism and globalization, arguing that the "money talks" notion is hardwired into the U.S. political system and is what drives the war industry. Toward the end of the speech, he calls for Americans to convert to Islam and makes an awkward outreach to Christians by noting how the Koran mentions Jesus and Mary dozens of times and even affirms the concept of the virgin birth. It is quite possible that the speech was written or influenced by Adam Gadahn, also known as Azzam the American, who is also referred to in the video. Bin Laden has not exhibited detailed knowledge of American political discourse in any of his previous communiques.

The fact that he referenced the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as being observed "a few days ago" (the anniversaries are Aug. 6 and Aug. 9) means the tape was probably recorded in mid-August. This would be in line with the pattern of bin Laden's statements taking at least three weeks to be released after being recorded.

If the video is authentic, the main takeaway from the message is that bin Laden is, in fact, alive. He has not appeared in a video since November 2004, and for operational security reasons has avoided making any media appearances. The last video was made at what was perceived as a major turning point for the United States ahead of the congressional elections. Bin Laden likely chose to risk making his reappearance at this time to take advantage of a critical juncture in U.S. politics over how to proceed in Iraq. His speech will strike a chord among al Qaeda's sympathizers and franchise jihadist groups, but it does not necessarily raise the threat level for attacks against the West. The gradual degradation of al Qaeda's apex leadership has significantly hampered the group's ability to carry out meaningful attacks against Western targets. Moreover, bin Laden's vision of creating an Islamic Caliphate by toppling corrupt Muslim regimes has proven unattainable. Even in this new video, bin Laden has no accomplishment to tout other than 9/11, nor does he make any specific threats.

Nonetheless, bin Laden remains the central inspirational figure to the modern jihadist movement, and the perceived proof of his continued survival from this video could aid regional jihadist nodes in recruitment and maintenance of their support networks.[Stratfor]

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