Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Juan Cole's comments

Juan Cole has been marginalized in many circles because of his relentless criticism of the war in Iraq. He is, to put it mildly, no friend of the administration. He is, however, well informed about his subjects (History and politics of the Middle East) and is able to speak with authority on those subjects.

He comments on the latest Bin Laden video...

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.
If Bin Laden had been politically clever, he would have phrased his message in the terms of Iraqi nationalism. By siding with the narrowest sliver of Sunni extremists, he denied himself any real impact. By adopting Zarqawi, who has killed many more Iraqis (especially Shiites) than he has Americans, he simply tarnishes his own image inside Iraq.

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.

Juan Cole's take on the shape of politics in Iraq is worth reading, though I doubt that none but a few policy wonks in the administration will notice.
I saw somewhere that ornithology experts were being consulted in an effort to identify bird species heard in the background of the video, presumably to help determine OBL's whereabouts. Let's hope the content of his message gets the same rigorous going-over.

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