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Tim Roemer

Tim Roemer

Posted January 16, 2009 | 12:49 AM (EST)

Bin Laden's Message in the Era of Obama


The release of yet another tape from Osama Bin Laden Wednesday serves as a reminder of the many leftover issues Barack Obama will inherit from the Bush administration.

In the 22-minute audio tape, the al-Qaeda leader boasts of "new fronts" against the United States and places the blame for the fighting in the Gaza on the United States and moderate Arab states.

His comments on Gaza are a reflection of al-Qaeda's desire for relevance to its target audience. On the issue that has most transfixed the Islamic world, al-Qaeda, the self-appointed spokesmen and "defenders" of the Islamic world, are totally absent from the storyline. The fighting in Gaza is the direct result of Hamas's continued rain of rockets on the heads of Israeli civilians. But Bin Laden, vying to compete with the attention Hamas is receiving, turns the Gaza conflict into a parable about the need to follow al-Qaeda's prescription of violence against America and support for an ultra extremist Caliphate. In the absence of an operational capability in Gaza, Bin Laden is trying to frame his past efforts against America and its moderate Arab allies as a greater threat to Israel than the rockets currently being fired by Hamas.

Still, Al-Qaeda may reclaim its place in the headlines sooner rather than later. As al-Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan allows it to thrive and the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan gains momentum, the next president will be forced to confront a terrorist group that has gained strength since 9/11, not lost it, and remains a serious threat to the stability of South Asia and the security of the American homeland.

Fortunately, Bin Laden's latest promise of "new fronts" against the United States will not go unmatched. President-elect Obama has already signaled that he will open up his own "new front" against al-Qaeda on the as-yet untouched ideological battlefield. Obama's moves to close Guantanamo and strong anti-torture stance will help deny Bin Laden the political oxygen he needs to incite potential recruits to violence.

Fortunately, Barack Obama has already delivered a blow to al-Qaeda in the "war of ideas." His election, by signaling to the world that America is a country of limitless opportunity whose democracy can correct its own mistakes, has turned Bin Laden's narrative of a corrupt and belligerent America on its head.