May 20, 2008

The Palestinians - Bin Ladin's new cause

Screen image during play of Bin Ladin audiotapePhoto - This is the screen displayed by Al-Sahab, al-Qa'idah video production organization during the play of the latest audiotape from Usamah bin Ladin. The text reads, "To the Arab people, a message from Shaykh Usamah bin Ladin (God keep him) - The reasons for the struggle on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Israeli occupation state."

Over the years, the messages from bin Ladin have been addressed to various audiences and espouse various causes, depending on his current situation. His latest cause is very interesting - the plight of the Palestinian people. His claims that the goal of the al-Qa'idah organization is the liberation of Palestine, specifically the Gaza Strip.

This is relatively new for bin Ladin, but makes a certain amount of sense. Given his failures to accomplish any of his goals in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Iraq, he needs a new cause, a reason to continue his war with the west and to justify attacks on Arab governments he believes have been co-opted by the west (Egypt, Jordan and Iraq). That cause is the Palestinian people, and the liberation of Jerusalem, site of Islam's third holiest shrine - the al-Aqsa mosque.

His failures have been underscored by his recent orders to his followers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to leave and head for Yemen. Bin Ladin assessed - correctly - that the climate in Yemen is much more conducive venue to base his terrorist operatives. Since 2003, the Saudis have cracked down on al-Qa'idah operatives in the kingdom after some high-profile attacks on facilities of the Saudi government and on housing compounds of contractors serving the interests of the kingdom. See my earlier article, Yemen walking a fine line.

Bin Ladin will find a willing ally in Hamas, which has virtually established an Islamic state in the Gaza Strip. Both Egypt and Israel have maintained a tight blockade on Gaza. That blockade erupted into a border crisis earlier this year, but the border has been re-established.

Bin Ladin has found one cause that will not go away anytime soon. It's a smart move - he will be able to use this as his raison d’ĂȘtre for years to come.