Sunday, October 31, 2004

Really Dangerous: Senior Statesman Osama Bin Laden

There was something completely different about Osama's demeanor in this recent tape. I noticed it too. Check this out from the LA Times:
Roger W. Cressey, a senior counter-terrorism official in the Bush and Clinton administrations, said Bin Laden began his shift this year, when he tried to drive a wedge between the United States and its allies over the invasion of Iraq.

Al Qaeda criticism of Spain's role in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is believed to have contributed to the Madrid train bombings in March, in which at least 191 people were killed.

Then, in mid-April, Bin Laden offered a cease-fire to other European nations with a presence in Iraq, saying Al Qaeda would not attack them if they withdrew their troops. The offer was rejected, but authorities said the success of the Madrid bombings emboldened Bin Laden into believing that Muslims worldwide would actively support such efforts.

"He has injected a political element into his work and has tried to appeal almost on an intellectual level," said Cressey, now a counter-terrorism consultant. "He's saying, 'I'm here and you better factor me into your calculations, political and otherwise.' "

"If people are concerned that he is evolving into more of a political figure, to a certain extent he already has," Cressey said. U.S. authorities, he added, "should be concerned if [Bin Laden's] message resonates with a broader portion of the Muslim world than his narrower messages of the past, in that he was declaring war. And only time will tell if that's the case."

Lee Strickland, who recently retired after 30 years at the CIA, said Bin Laden already had made inroads in some respects.

"He and his organization have matured and become more subtle and more effective in delivering their message and their policy," Strickland said.

In his most recent tape, Bin Laden "shows a great sophistication in thinking, in planning and in communication. It makes him much more dangerous," Strickland said.