Is Osama bin Laden looking for contracts for his family's construction firm?
The question is not fanciful. The latest audiotape attributed to the fugitive terrorist and aired by Al-Jazeera television yesterday, is centred on an offer to help in "rebuilding
But how authentic is the tape?
It is certain that some terrorist group produced the tape.
But is it Osama bin Laden talking? My answer is: no. Bin Laden is either dead or too scared in his hole to look for construction contracts. But that is really not the point: even if he is physically alive, bin Laden is, in political terms, a dead man walking, or rather hiding.
Whoever produced the tape may have had several objectives.
The first is to revive the myth that bin Laden is alive. In the past few months there has been much speculation in the media as to why nothing has been heard of the fugitive since November 2004. It was, therefore, necessary for whoever now owns the Al Qaeda brand to show respond by providing some indication of bin Laden's continued existence.
The second reason for issuing the tape is to prepare Arab opinion for the turning of the tide against the Jihadists in
It is not fanciful to imagine the Jihadists leaving
Salih al-Mutlaq, the rising starts of Arab Sunnis who has just been elected to the new parliament in
Finally, the producers of the tape may well be trying to encourage renewed calls in the
All of that, however, is neither here nor there.
The real interest of the tape is that it may well indicate the deepening rift within the Jihadist movement. Remember the last two tapes of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian fugitive who is often identified as bin Laden's sidekick?
Al-Zawahiri's strategy, as developed over the past four years, that is to say after he and his cohorts run for cover, has been based on a dream of conquering a few Muslim countries- he has mentioned Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in particular- as the nucleus of an Islamic "superpower" that will then proceed to conquer the world. Such a strategy requires killing people in Muslim countries rather than in far away Europe or the
Bin Laden, or whoever pretends to be him these days, however, is still dreaming of 9/11 style operations in the West, preferably in the
The bin Laden of this tape, like the one of the two tapes before it, is offering a ceasefire. What is new is that this latest offer, unlike the previous ones that were addressed to the Europeans, is directed at the
So, any ceasefire from bin Laden, or whoever speaks for his ghost, must be regarded as Islamo-cynical.
Oh, and about that demand for building contracts: anyone whom has seen the damage that the fugitive's firm has done in half a dozen Arab cities would know better than offering him a contract.
Iranian author Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.