The AP reports this morning on a new audiotape from Osama Bin Laden. Walid Phares has posted a rapid-response summary of the tape over at the Counterterrorism Blog. The tape touches on a number of subjects: criticizing the west for cutting off funds to Palestine in light of the election of Hamas, encouraging jihadists to fight in Sudan, calling for a boycott of American goods, and requesting that the Danish cartoonists be “handed over to him for trial and punishment.”
My initial reaction is that tape seems to reflect weakness; bin Laden sounds more like a Chicago ward boss than an ideological, messianic leader. The fact that he needs to make these populist arguments shows that he may be feeling less confident about his level of support in the Muslim world. These two sentences in the AP story reinforce that perspective:
In Washington, U.S. intelligence officials said bin Laden is separated from his top deputy and, in a sign he has to be careful about whom he trusts, surrounded by fellow Arabs.
His No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is hiding in a more settled area along the border, also surrounded by al-Qaeda operatives from Egypt, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
If they’re only surrounding themselves with Arabs now, and not trusting the local Afghan and/or Pakistani populace among whom they’ve been hiding for 4+ years, that presents an opportunity to reinvigorate efforts to go after them.