Foreign Policy Blogs

Obama Vs. Osama

President Obama travels to the Middle East, and Osama releases a new audio message. Indeed, this is no coincidence.

Today, President Obama touched down in Saudi Arabia for talks with King Abdullah and various diplomats. The conversations will no doubt center on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Saudi-sponsored roadmap. The trip then proceeds to Egypt, where the President is to make a highly-anticipated speech on US-Muslim relations.

Amidst this swirl of activity, Osama bin Laden has (purportedly) released a new audio message directed at President Obama, the Pakistani authorities, and the American people. The speaker attacks America’s policies towards Pakistan, particularly in regards to the Taliban, claiming Pres. Obama is ‘walking the same road of his predecessors to build enmity against Muslims and increasing the number of fighters, and establishing more lasting wars’.

“All this led to the displacement of about a million Muslim elders, women and children from their villages and homes. They became refugees in tents after they were honored in their own homes,” the message said.

“This basically means that Obama and his administration put new seeds of hatred and revenge against America. The number of these seeds is the same as the number of those victims and refugees in Swat and the tribal area in northern and southern Waziristan. The American people need to prepare to only gain what those seeds bring up.”

Mr. Bin Laden, if it his voice, is no novice of public relations. He understands all too well the importance and impact of President Obama’s Middle East mission. The timing and purpose of this message is revealing in several ways.

Primarily, Osama bin Laden is hoping to remain relative in a drastically changed landscape since 2001. From the turn of the century until 2003, bin Laden was the lion and savior of the jihadi movement. But relative success in Iraq, a surprising rejection of al-Qaeda throughout the region, and the election of President Obama has hurt his legitimacy and importance. By taking Obama head on, bin Laden hopes to increase his image as the quintessential anti-American. But will this resonate throughout the region? I find it rather hard to believe that Muslims throughout the Islamic world will look at the conflict in Pakistan and blame America and Pakistani authorities instead of the much-maligned Taliban.

Furthermore, the message hopes to prove that (barring all conspiracy theories) bin Laden is still alive and somewhat involved in news and developments.

This message does not bode well for bin Laden. It shows him worried, both about his public perception as well as Pakistani military successes in the Swat Valley. For a man whose major asset is his image, going head to head against President Obama in a PR campaign is not likely to end well. Even in the Middle East.



Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is an International Relations theorist, with expertise in terrorist ideology, American foreign policy, and war / conflict resolution. He currently holds a Master's of Science degree in International Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the George Washington University. Josh's most recent work, his M.Sc. thesis, is a comparative analysis between Marxist / Leninist ideology and Osama bin Laden's global jihadi movement. He currently resides in New York.

Areas of Focus:
Terrorist Idealogy; American Foreign Policy; Conflict Resolution;