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A new audiotape purportedly by Osama bin Laden claims responsibility for the failed Christmas day attack on Flight 253. The tape is highly unusual for bin Laden, who has never before claimed a failed attack, and who analysts suspect had little to do with the plot. The Flight 253 attacker was guided by officials from the Yemen-based offshoot of al-Qaeda; experts have long presumed that bin Laden is either hiding out in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region or is in fact dead. Further, the tape claims the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the sole motivation for the attack. While the plight of Palestinians has been one of bin Laden's concerns, it hardly dominates his lengthy agenda. Even if the tape is real, here's why analysts think it proves Osama bin Laden is growing irrelevant and ineffective.

  • Posing For Relevance The A.P.'s Jason Keyser writes, "U.S. officials and several researchers who track terrorist groups said there was no indication bin Laden or any of his top lieutenants had anything to do with or even knew in advance of the Christmas plot by a Yemen-based group that is one of several largely independent al-Qaida franchises." State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley says bin Laden was "trying to continue to appear relevant."
  • Al-Qaeda is Crumbling Foreign Policy's Imtiaz Gul says the tape "underscores desperation within the ranks of al Qaeda" and its steeply declining popularity in the Middle East. "Bin Laden's focus on the close U.S.-Israeli relationship in this tape may result from his worry about Obama's popularity across the Middle East." Bin Laden likely has less control than ever over the "cobweb of al Qaeda affiliates."
  • Proves We're Overreacting to Terror 'Threat' The Atlantic Council's James Joyner scoffs. "[I]t's quite interesting that he's now reduced to bragging about horribly botched operations to bolster his credibility. It would be funnier, of course, if we weren't massively overreacting to the plot and further snarling our transportation system and curtailing the liberty of our citizens."
  • Bin Laden Has No Claim to Palestine Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch says Palestinian fighters really don't want his help. "Palestinians, for the most part, want nothing to do with al-Qaeda," he writes. "As much as al-Qaeda would like to have an effective Palestinian franchise, it has not been able to gain a foothold in either the West Bank or Gaza."
  • Solve Israel-Palestine, Beat Bin Laden Brookings Institute analyst Bruce Riedel writes in the Daily Beast, "[Osama] and his gang have had the destruction of Israel at the top of their agenda for decades, but they believe the road to that goal goes through Washington." To truly defeat al-Qaeda, we must "strike at the narrative that al Qaeda sells to wage its war. We can separate al Qaeda from the vast majority of Muslims by advancing a just and lasting peace that Palestinians accept."
  • The Tape Is a Fake! Juan Cole insists it can't be real. "Nothing about this 'message' smells right." Cole compiles piles of very compelling evidence, concluding, "I think even the jihadis know that this thing is likely a fraud, and that in any case it adds nothing to the significance of Mutallab's operation (already claimed by others) or to the debate over the plight of the Palestinians. If it is Bin Laden, it is a pitiful Bin Laden trying to stay relevant by grandstanding and stealing others' thunder."

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