Just hours ahead of President Obama's Middle East speech, we're getting Osama bin Laden's take on the uprisings sweeping the Arab world. Al Qaeda has released a 12-minute audio address allegedly recorded by bin Laden weeks before his death, which some news outlets are billing as a message from "beyond the grave." The message itself, however, isn't particularly spooky. Bin Laden lauds the Tunisian and Egyptian revolution (he doesn't mention Syria, Libya, or Yemen, or western countries) and declares that "the winds of change flew to the square of Tahrir" in Cairo and that they'll "blow over the entire Muslim world, with permission from Allah." The protest movements, he adds, present the Muslim community with a "rare historic opportunity" to liberate themselves "from servitude to the desires of the rulers, man-made law, and Western dominance," and Islam can prevent these revolutions from failing.
The AP explains that while both bin Laden and the West supported protest movements in Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries, their aims diverge. The West wants democratic reform, while "bin Laden and his followers saw many Middle East governments as corrupt and hoped their collapse would lead to government based on their interpretation of Islamic law." Yet the BBC adds that al-Qaeda was "caught off guard" by the Arab Spring and The Telegraph's Rob Crilly thinks bin Laden was striving, in vain, to place al-Qaeda at the center of the uprisings. Crilly's colleague, Con Coughlin, argues that the tape reveals just how "out of touch" bin Laden was on the Arab Spring. The protests, Coughlin writes, have "more to do with demands for democratic government and economic reform than the establishment of an Iran-style Islamic state."
It's unclear whether this is bin Laden's last recording, especially since U.S. intelligence officials are still sifting through the material they collected at bin Laden's Abbottabad compound. (Reuters has assembled a greatest hits of bin Laden recordings, if that's your thing.) You can listen to the recording and AP's analysis here: