DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden warned the American people over their government’s close ties with Israel in an apparently new audio tape posted on an Islamist website Monday.
“The time has come for you to liberate yourselves from fear and the ideological terrorism of neo-conservatives and the Israeli lobby,” Bin Laden’s latest tape said.
“The reason for our dispute with you is your support for your ally Israel, occupying our land in Palestine.”
The message, entitled “A statement to the American people,” was around 11 minutes long and was posted a few days after the eighth anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.
Reuters was not immediately able to verify its authenticity but the website often is used by supporters of al Qaeda.
In the tape, the al Qaeda leader said there had been no real change in American policy because U.S. President Barack Obama had retained people like U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates from the administration of former President George W. Bush.
“If you think about your situation well, you will know that the White House is occupied by pressure groups,” Bin Laden said.
“Rather than fighting to liberate Iraq — as Bush claimed — it (the White House) should have been liberated.”
Analysts who study al Qaeda say the organization is under pressure from followers to strike at Israel following criticism from many Arab commentators that it has never succeeded in launching a direct attack on the Jewish state.
Increasingly frequent and belligerent mentions of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in al Qaeda statements is an attempt to deflect such criticism, they say.
“He is telling a saving lie (that) we are still strong, despite the setbacks we had,” said one Gulf-based security analyst. “This is not true.”
Professor Ali Jalali, an Afghan expert on south and central Asia at the National Defense University in Washington, said bin Laden was also attempting to exploit wavering about the war in Afghanistan in Europe and the United States.
“He thinks the West is tired of the war and with a little more pressure and intimidation you might expedite this. They want to exploit the situation,” said Jalali, who was Afghan Interior Minister from 2003 to 2005.
“They are also sending a message to insurgent forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan that they have not lost morale despite the increase in US forces and that eventually they will prevail.”
The leader of the group that mounted the Sept.11 attacks in the United States is thought to be in hiding in the mountainous terrain along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
The attacks carried out by al Qaeda operatives in 2001 killed nearly 3,000 people.
The tape made reference to Obama’s speech in Cairo in June, suggesting the message was recorded afterwards. The speaker also appeared to refer to criticisms former U.S. President Jimmy Carter made in June of Israel’s Gaza invasion earlier this year.
Bin Laden’s last apparent message was issued just before Obama’s speech, where the president talked of a “new beginning” between the United States and the Muslim world.
In the new message, bin Laden also referred to U.S. military actions in Afghanistan to support the Afghan government against the Taliban, allies of al Qaeda, and support for Pakistan, which faces militant violence.
“If you stop the war, then fine. Otherwise we will have no choice but to continue our war of attrition on every front... If you choose safety and stopping wars, as opinion polls show you do, then we are ready to respond to this.”
“You have only changed the faces in the White House,” he said, referring to Obama who took office this year. “Obama is a weakened man. He will not be able to stop the war.”
(Additional reporting by William Maclean and Thomas Atkins)
Reporting by Andrew Hammond; editing by Michael Roddy