Osama bin Hamfisted
It is a rare occasion when I agree with Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan and Middle East scholar, as he has done much to damage his credibility of late. In the past few months alone he has threatened a lawsuit against MEMRI’s Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes for compiling his writings and statements (under the pretext of harassment); labeled the assault on Fallujah as counterproductive; misrepresented the history of British action in Fallujah (debunked by Ali of Iraq The Model); insinuated the intrepid bloggers Mohammed, Ali and Omar of Iraq The Model are tools of the CIA and outside of the mainstream (by using an April poll) in the Iraqi political sphere (debunked by Iraq The Model's Ali and Armed Liberal); issued a tepid back down from his accusations against the Iraq The Model bloggers; and advocated setting aside “a generous 25 percent of seats [in the Iraqi assembly] for predominantly Sunni Muslim parties,” even if they boycott the election.
Despite my many disagreements with Professor Cole's views on American foreign policy, Iraq and the Middle East in general, he provides an excellent analysis of the impact of Osama bin Laden’s latest tape calling for a boycott of the upcoming Iraqi elections. He states that Osama bin Laden's admonishment for Iraqis to boycott the elections will backfire badly on al Qaeda.
Bin Laden's intervention in Iraq was hamfisted and clumsy, and will benefit the United States and the Shiites enormously. Most Iraqi Muslims, Sunni or Shiite, dislike the Wahhabi branch of Islam prevalent in Saudi Arabia, and with which Bin Laden is associated. Nationalistic Iraqis will object to a foreigner interfering in their national affairs.... It appears that Bin Laden is so weak now that he is forced to play to his own base, of Saudi and Salafi jihadists, some of whom are volunteer guerrillas in Iraq. They are the only ones in Iraq who would be happy to see this particular videotape.... It is a desperate, crackpot hope. The narrow, sectarian and politically unskilfull character of this speech is the most hopeful sign I have seen in some time that al Qaeda is a doomed political force, a mere Baader-Meinhof Gang or Red Army Faction with greater geographical reach.
Critics of the Iraq War fail to recognize Iraq is a major component in the overall war on terror, and Iraq has presented the opportunity to draw al Qaeda out into the open and fight the United States military in a theater of our choosing. The American invasion of Iraq has forced al Qaeda’s hand, as the organization was obligated to resist an American incursion into the heart of the Middle East and fight any attempts to establish democracy.
Events over the past two months demonstrate al Qaeda's operations in Iraq are having a negative impact the organization. The loss of the terror bastion of Fallujah demonstrated that al Qaeda is unable to occupy territory and is in reality the weak horse in this race. Leaders of jihad are livid over the unwillingness of young Muslims to fight against the infidels; proof that the power of the Arab Street is nothing but a myth. Al Qaeda is having manpower problems after being forced to fight against the Americans in two major theaters. Al Qaeda has become unpopular among the indigenous Iraqi insurgents. Osama’s speech inciting violence in Saudi Arabia indicates his organization is taking a beating in the country and now has no alternative but to advocate the overthrow of the House of Saud.
Professor Cole has been a major critic of the invasion of Iraq, the actions of American soldiers in country and American policy in the Middle East in general. It is high time he recognize the invasion of Iraq, coupled with the invasion of Afghanistan and military actions elsewhere, have set up the conditions for Osama bin Laden's political and military failures.