Bin Laden trumps Obama with support for Arab Spring
Speech from beyond the grave praising revolutions released hours before Obama does the same
Osama bin Laden may have got one over on Barack Obama from beyond the grave, after the al-Qaeda leader's final taped message, in which he praised the Arab Spring revolutions, was released hours before the US president was due to make a keynote speech doing exactly the same thing.
It seems that both al-Qaeda and Obama are keen to position themselves as champions of the revolutionary movements in the Middle East. However, Bin Laden's vision for the future of the region differed somewhat to the one that the US president will outline in his Washington speech.
The slain terror leader's message praises the Tunisian uprising that toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and says that "as quick as lightning, the knights of Egypt took a beam of light from the free ones of Tunisia to Tahrir Square. Then a great revolution was launched - and what a revolution."
However he urged those now in power in Tunisia and Egypt, and other revolutionaries, to "seek the help of qualified research centres and wise, knowledgeable people". He added: "I think that the winds of change will blow over the entire Muslim world, with permission from Allah."
Bin Laden criticised the established Middle Eastern rulers of manipulating the media, something that al-Qaeda believes has prevented the organisation from becoming a bigger political force in the region.
Before his death Bin Laden obviously saw the unrest as an opportunity for al-Qaeda, even though many of the uprisings have called for Western-style democracy and freedoms.
The tape was released on Wednesday night, the day before Obama's speech in Washington, and appeared to have been rushed out in time to trump the US president. The voiceover on the recording was accompanied by still images of Bin Laden.
Speaking on MSNBC, terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann said: "The last touches on this were put on within the last 24 hours. Which means they probably were aware of the fact that president Obama is planning this major speech... perhaps the idea was to try to pre-empt that with a final message from Bin Laden instead."
In his speech today the US president will announce billions of dollars in aid for Egypt, Tunisia and any other countries embracing democracy in the region. He will also warn rulers like Syria's Bashar al-Assad that it is time for them to accept reform or stand aside.
It is not the first time this year that the two sides have been unified in support of revolution in the region. American intelligence has warned that al-Qaeda forces are fighting alongside anti-Gaddafi rebels in Libya, with the support of Nato. ·
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