I don’t know why so many press commentaries keep saying that the new videotape from
Usama Bin Laden does not contain any threats.
It contains a clear threat: to escalate regional jihadi resistance against the US troops in Iraq.
(The text is here in PDF format.
Bin Laden, however, is not now and perhaps never has been a credible actor in Iraq. Most Iraqis are nationalists and would not want a Saudi telling them what to do. He made a big but perhaps unavoidable error in attacking the Shiites, and so denying his movement a nationalist platform. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a small cult of hyper-Sunni bigots and serial murderers. Instead of playing Abdul Nasser, who attracted the allegiance even of many Shiite Arabs in his day, Bin Laden long ago chose to play the role of a cultist, a David Koreish with better explosives.
A lot of jihadis consider Bin Laden a jinx, since he brought ruin on the Arab Afghans, who were killed, captured or had to go to ground.
And, the Iraqi Sunni Arabs are from all accounts increasingly acting to exclude the foreigners from their struggle against the Shiite government. The main antagonist of the US in Iraq has all along been elements in the local Sunni Arab population.
Bin Laden is stuck in the 1980s intellectually, when he was used by one superpower (the Reagan administration) against another (the Soviet Union). That bipolar world is gone, succeeded by a period of unipolarism. Jihadis with $10 bn. in aid from the US and Saudi Arabia and a national cause are one thing. Jihadis with no superpower patron, no united nation, and little or no money just become terrorists.
Ironically, Bin Laden has adopted the jejune leftist rhetoric of his erstwhile Soviet foes, making everything into a conspiracy of some corporations. But instead of calling for the workers to unite and overthrow their chains, he ends by assuring us that a fundamentalist Muslim dictatorship would be benign.
Bin Laden is like a venomous snake, always dangerous, and you never want to underestimate a cobra if it is in striking distance. But Iraq isn’t the Afghanistan of the 1980s and 1990s, and if Bin Laden thinks it is, he is very out of touch.