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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Al Jazeera Broadcasts New bin Laden Audiotape
Aired April 23, 2006 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. We are following breaking news this morning. What's reported to be a new audio tape message from terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: The tape aired within the last hour or so, and on the Arab language network, Al-Jazeera. The speaker on the tape slams the west for cutting off funds to the Palestinian government led by Hamas, calling that proof of a crusade against Muslims.
HARRIS: The Hamas reference indicates that the tape is recent. CNN has not yet independently confirmed its authenticity, but our experts, who have listened to the tape, say the voice does sound like bin Laden. CNN is using our vast global resources to bring you the latest on this story. And we'll be checking in with those experts throughout the hour. Good morning everyone I'm Tony Harris.
VERJEE: And I'm Zain Verjee in for Betty Nguyen this morning. We want to go to our senior Arab affairs analyst, Octavia Nasr who joins us now by phone. Octavia, bin Laden, alive, well and apparently well informed.
OCTAVIA NASR, SENIOR EDITOR FOR ARAB AFFAIRS: Yes, well informed and also strong enough to rally the troops. All the experts on bin Laden and Islamic movements, radical Islamic movements, are discussing this tape, saying that they haven't heard Osama bin Laden take charge like this in a long, long time. And basically they see this as a shift. They feel that bin Laden has realized that it is time for him to step to the front line of his jihad and basically take the lead.
We have heard a lot from his number two man, Ayman Al Zawahiri of late, but not bin Laden. The last tape from bin Laden was in January and the one before it was a year and a half prior to that. So all those experts are trying to understand what he's saying. One of them, actually, just said on Al-Jazeera, he said that he still sees that bin Laden is still negotiating. He sees that he's not taken a hard line. He's not saying fight or go out and kill. He's not calling for an all-out war. He's just threatening. And he's leaving the door open for discussion and negotiation.
HARRIS: Okay. Octavia, let me just quickly ask you. I believe Peter Bergen, our CNN terrorism analyst is going to be joining us shortly, but you've had a chance to listen to a great portion of this audio tape. Remind us again of some of what we call the time stamps on this tape, that indicate to us that this is a fairly recent recording. NASR: The most recent mention is, of course, the Hamas victory and the opposition by the west to the Hamas government. And the second one is the Jenin prison attack. This is an Israeli raid on a prison in the Palestinian territories. He talks about that. The rest of it is, you know, doesn't have a dated reference per se. He talks about Sudan. He talks about Chechnya and Somalia in general terms, but definitely the Hamas victory and the Hamas government, and the opposition that that government is facing. That definitely puts it at a very close, you know, proximity of the days that we are at today.
And this is where experts are saying, you know, the turnaround of those tapes is really not just interesting but kind of shocking for a man who is on the run, for a man who is believed to be hiding in some mountainous region, perhaps on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where it's really hard to get to and out of, let alone to record messages and send them out and have the capability to disseminate them around the world the way they did with this one.
HARRIS: So Octavia, let's do this, we're going to get to Peter Bergen in just a moment here, but if you would, stay with us. When we talk to you again here shortly, let's get into some of the meat of the tape and some of the exact language, some of the quotes from this tape, okay?
NASR: Very good.
HARRIS: Okay, Octavia, stay with us and we'll be back with you shortly.
VERJEE: Peter Bergen, CNN's terrorism analyst joins us now on the phone. Peter, first of all, what do you make of the timing of this? Peter is live with us. Peter, what do you make of the timing?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The timing of this, I, you know, I mean bin Laden wants to show that he's still out there, still influencing the debate. We've had -- since December 2004, this is only the second time we've heard from bin Laden. We've heard, as Octavia said, a lot more from Ayman Al Zawahiri, the number two in charge, we've had five or six tapes from Ayman Al Zawahiri, which is probably one of the reasons that a cruise missile or some sort of missile strike was aimed at him on January 13th of this year on the Afghan, Pakistan border.
By way of authentication, by the way, we've had something like 37 tapes from Ayman Al Zawahiri and bin Laden since 9/11 and none of them have proved to be false. Octavia has listened to a lot of these tapes, I don't speak Arabic but certainly I've met bin Laden and have heard his voice many times. It certainly sounds like him to me. So I think there's little doubt of the authenticity of this tape. You know, the -- bin Laden is an interesting catch-22. Every time he releases one of these tapes, he -- there's a possibility that the chain of custody of the tapes can be traced back to him.
On the other hand, if he says nothing, he really becomes more of an historical figure than a current figure. And so by, you know, releasing these tapes occasionally, he inserts himself into important debates that are going around in -- in the Islamic world. And, you know, why has he released one right now? I can't really read his mind, but, you know, if he's silent for years at a time, I think that makes his leadership of the movement in a way somewhat more suspect. So I think that he needs to release these tapes occasionally. However, it's a weakness for them, because it does potentially reveal their location.
VERJEE: One of the key questions that will be asked when scrutinizing this is going to be, when was this tape then made? There is a time stamp here specifically pointing to Hamas, making a reference to that, talking about funds being cut off to the new Hamas- led government, but there is no mention of President Bush, who was recently in Pakistan. What do you make of the references that have been made and what they could reveal?
BERGEN: Well, you know, I mean, getting these tapes out, I -- you know, we don't exactly know how they happened, but they obviously arrived at Al Jazeera. You've got to presume that there are, you know, ten people I think in the chain of custody of these tapes, maybe a dozen. You know, first of all, by courier, then by motor bike, somewhere in Pakistan. Sometimes through Al-Jazeera's bureau in Islamabad and Pakistan, we've seen at least a couple of examples of that, sometimes they get to Al-Jazeera headquarters through other undisclosed methods.
But I think that these tapes take a long time to get to where they need to be. We're looking at, you know, a couple of weeks, I think, from the time they're made until the time they get aired. So we're still processing what's in this tape, looking for those exact time stamps. I think that, as you say, if we -- the lack of reference to President Bush's trip to Pakistan is interesting.
HARRIS: Peter Bergen, good to talk to you, Tony Harris with Zain here in Atlanta. Good to see you, my friend. Just a quick question for you. It has been speculated by some of the analysts on Al-Jazeera that this tape is an attempt by bin Laden to reassert control over Al Qaeda. Does that also indicate that perhaps he has lost control of Al Qaeda?
BERGEN: Well, he's certainly not in operational control in a day-to-day sense. He's not picking up a satellite phone or cell phone and telling people what to do. On the other hand, I think he remains in broad ideological and strategic control of the network. And I think there are a couple of quick examples I'll give you. First of all, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in Iraq has renamed his group Al Qaeda in Iraq and has sworn allegiance to bin Laden as of 2004. And through the medium of his audio tapes and videotapes, that's the way he retains control.
Often there is specific instructions on the tapes. He's offered a truce to European nations willing to pull out of the coalition in Iraq. When that truce expired, there was the attack in London. You may remember in July of 2005. So, the people who listen to these tapes, are a part of Al Qaeda or motivated by its ideology, listen to this in a way that's very different from what you or I or any of the listeners hear. We just hear bin Laden going on and ranting on about a lot of the similar things he has in the past with maybe one or two bits of news. For his followers, what's on these tapes is akin to a religious order.
HARRIS: Peter, wasn't it totally predictable that as the U.S. and the EU moved to isolate the new Hamas-led government and the Palestinian authorities that Al Qaeda in some way, shape, or form would use that as a way to attempt to rally the troops?
BERGEN: Well, you know, certainly bin Laden is -- he was a -- he hated -- he hated Yasser Arafat, because he was a secularist, he hated Saddam Hussein for the same reason. He's certainly ideologically close to Hamas and in fact, bin Laden's mentor, who he broke away from in the late '80s, Abdullah Azzam, was in fact, one of the sort of founders of Hamas or certainly very instrumental in its -- in its sort of ideological views. And so, bin Laden certainly is more aligned with Hamas than the PLO, and certainly is a supporter of that movement.
HARRIS: CNN's terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen, for us. Peter, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning.
VERJEE: We're looking at the language of the tape. One of the themes is one of crusades or crusader war against Islam in reference to the Hamas-led government, in reference to Sudan, Chechnya, Somalia. We want to bring in now Henry Schuster who is CNN's senior producer. Henry, what do you make of the kind of language that bin Laden or if it is him, appears to be adopting?
HENRY SCHUSTER, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well this is pretty commonplace for Osama bin Laden. The term of crusaders and Jews figures very heavily into all of his language. In 1998 when he issued the call where that basically declared war on the west, he aimed it at the crusaders and the Jews. So this is very consistent with what he's said. In fact, you may remember right after 9/11, when President Bush used the phrase, this is a crusade, they jumped on that. That's actually a very sort of sore point with them.
It gives you the mindset, though, because it stretches bin Laden's goals back really to the beginning of the -- to the founding of Islam and that this is an open wound. When he talks about reclaiming Jerusalem, for example, he's thinking all the way back, he's thinking centuries back and centuries forward about this.
VERJEE: Henry, you were just in Saudi Arabia. You spoke to a number of people, you also spoke to Osama bin Laden's high school friend. What was your sense about what people told you about him, how they see him in Saudi Arabia?
SCHUSTER: Well, it's an interesting paradox that he faces and this is what Peter Bergen was talking about in terms of Osama bin Laden wanting to have sort of get himself out there and remain relevant. And that is that there was a poll done a couple of years ago in Saudi Arabia that showed broad support for Osama bin Laden's anti-western views. But when people were asked, would they want Osama bin Laden to be in charge in Saudi Arabia or what they approved of his tactics, down near zero was the approval rating. So what you have is this paradox that they identify with him as an anti-western figure and they have in the past, but they don't identify with his tactics, even in Saudi Arabia. And this most recent tape, for example, contained an attack against the Saudi regime, and it should be noted that king Abdullah there is actually very popular.
One of the things that we picked up there we went and visited Saudi special forces, as you said we talked to bin Laden's sort of family and friends is that bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia are really back on their heels. The government has done a very strong job. The most recent attack was an attack on an oil facility. It failed. That was at the end of February. And since the government has done a really -- has done an extremely smart job of taking down Al Qaeda cells in Saudi Arabia, to the point where two of the lists that they issued of most wanted terrorists, all those people are dead or in custody.
VERJEE: CNN's senior producer, Henry Schuster. We're going to continue to talk to you about your knowledge on Osama bin Laden Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia when we come back.
HARRIS: We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll have more on the breaking news of the morning, Al-Jazeera airing a tape purportedly from Al Qaeda's number one, Osama bin Laden.
A bit later in the hour, we will talk with CNN'S senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, as we break down the tape, analyze it, and try, as best we can, to put it into some kind of context. But first, a break. You're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
VERJEE: This is CNN SUNDAY MORNING. We are following some breaking news. A new audio tape appears to have been put out by the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. We're in the process of trying to confirm its authenticity. It's being aired by Al-Jazeera. The theme of the tape essentially from the speaker talking about crusader wars against Islam, also pointing to the opposition to the Hamas-led government. As saying this is proof of a crusade against Muslims. Also talking about Sudan, Chechnya and Somalia.
The last audio tape we received from Osama bin Laden was in January. The Al Qaeda leader making it clear that he's alive and well, and apparently well informed. We're going to continue to bring you some analysis about the Al Qaeda leader, the state of Al Qaeda itself, and some of the comments that he's making, if it is him on this tape.
The other top story that we're following this weekend is obviously a domestic story, an economic story. President Bush, as you know is in California this weekend as America wrestles with pain, a lot of pain, at the pump. The price is up a nickel today from what it was on Friday. CNN's Elaine Quijano is traveling with the president and she joins us from Palm Springs. And Elaine will talk about this new purported tape from Osama bin Laden in a moment, but first of all, bring us up to date on the president's trip out west. ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Tony. Well Saturday President Bush did focus on the issue of energy, of course, Californians feeling that particularly hard. Now, to mark earth day, yesterday was earth day, the president toured a research facility, where research on hydrogen fuel cell technology is under way. The president said that his administration is taking steps to try to find alternative sources of energy at a time when Americans are feeling that pain at the pump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're spending a lot of money at the federal level to encourage research and development, with the goal of getting away from oil. We spent $10 billion over the last five years to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable energy sources. The goal is, as I mentioned in my state of the union, to promote hydrogen and hybrid vehicles and ethanol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: Now, democrats argue, though, that the Bush administration needs to do more to fight this problem, that there need to be some tough policy changes enacted. And a recent poll, though, showing that this is a main worry for Americans. In fact, the recent "ABC/Washington Post" poll showing that only 23 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is handling the issue of gas prices. 74 percent say they disapprove. So, Tony, look for the president to continue sending the message. The administration continues to say there isn't going to be any kind of quick, easy fix to this problem but they are taking steps to try to address this in the long-term. Tony?
HARRIS: Elaine, I have to comment on that picture behind you. My goodness, you're in Palm Springs. That looks like a postcard behind you. Where exactly are you?
QUIJANO: We are in Palm Springs and, in fact, we should mention the president is going to be meeting with U.S. marines in 29 Palms. He's going to be attending a church service and then having lunch with them later. But certainly a picturesque setting here as the president continues his west-coast swing.
HARRIS: It's beautiful. Elaine, as you know, we're following this news this morning of this tape, which aired on Al-Jazeera, purportedly from Osama bin Laden. Any reaction from the president and his traveling party?
QUIJANO: Well, you know, we're still in the 6:00 a.m. hour here on the west coast, undoubtedly they are aware of it, but at this point they don't have any kind of reaction just yet. What I will say is that the Bush administration has really tried to send the message that the war on terror is about more than just Osama bin Laden. Of course, this is a question that President Bush, his top officials have faced over and over again, why is it that years after the 9/11 attacks Osama bin Laden is still out there, and the administration says Al Qaeda has been minimized. They say that it is not just about one person, but certainly this tape, if it is in fact authenticated and proven to be Osama bin Laden's voice, another reminder that he is still out there.
HARRIS: CNN's Elaine Quijano traveling with the president. Elaine, thank you, appreciate it.
We 're going to take a break, when we come back, we will have more on this tape, which aired on Al-Jazeera, a little more than an hour ago, purportedly of Al Qaeda's number one, Osama bin Laden. We'll get into some of the specific language, some of the quotes on that audio tape. And later in the hour, we will talk to CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, but first, a break.
HARRIS: It will be Nagin versus Landrieu in the race for mayor of New Orleans. The current mayor and the son of a former mayor got the most votes in yesterday's election, but neither won an outright majority, so voters will head back to the polls on May 20th. Gulf coast correspondent Susan Roesgen has details.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mayor Ray Nagin [ applause ] and Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, they finished one and two in the primary and now they'll face each other in the run-off next month.
LT. GOV. MITCH LANDRIEU, (D) MAYORAL CANDIDATE: We in New Orleans will be one people. We will speak with one voice and we will have one future.
ROESGEN: Landrieu comes from a prominent political family. His father Moon Landrieu was mayor of New Orleans from 1970 to 1978. And his sister is U.S. senator Mary Landrieu. As a former state legislator and now lieutenant governor, Landrieu has promised to overcome the friction between city and state officials that he says has slowed the city's recovery. But Mayor Nagin says now is not the time for the city to experiment with new leadership. Political analysts say if it weren't for Katrina, he would have cruised to a second term. Instead he'll have to rally supporters for the run-off.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, (D) NEW ORLEANS: There are too many people who thought this city should go in a different direction. But the people, the people have said they like the direction we're going in.
ROESGEN: The votes were carried in to be counted under armed guard, part of the extra precautions taken by state election officials who knew the world would be watching. Now they're getting ready for the final race on May 20th. Susan Roesgen, CNN, New Orleans.
VERJEE: In other news across America, six middle school boys were arrested in North Pole, Alaska. They are suspected of plotting to kill fellow students and faculty. Police say the seventh graders wanted revenge for being picked on by other students and revenge against staff and students that they just didn't like. In Riverton, Kansas, five boys suspected of planning a Columbine- style attack will be held for at least 72 hours. A judge signed an affidavit early on Saturday, saying there was probable cause to believe a crime was committed. The students were arrested on Thursday after details of the alleged scheme appeared on the Web site, myspace.com.
Believe it or not, bees, millions of them, were found in the walls of a house. Who knows how long they were even there for. The hive was six feet tall and two feet wide. On the plus side, beekeepers collected about 15 pounds of honey.
HARRIS: And, of course, keeping an eye on our top story this morning. New audio tape purportedly from Al Qaeda's number one, Osama bin Laden, aired over an hour ago on Al-Jazeera. We are pulling together all of our analysts and experts to analyze this tape, break it down and to put it into context. Octavia Nasr, senior editor for Arab Affairs, will be joining us again shortly. Henry Schuster is here, CNN's senior producer. Peter Bergen joined us a short while ago, saying, and in just a couple of minutes we will talk to our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. Stay with us. You are watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING.
HARRIS: Breaking news this morning, a new audio tape believed to be from Osama bin Laden. Al-Jazeera aired the tape within the last hour or so, saying it was the Al Qaeda leader. CNN is working to confirm that, of course, but our Senior Editor for Arab Affairs, Octavia Nasr, says the voice does sound like bin Laden. We have got reporters and analysts working this breaking story. So keep it right here for the very latest on this. And welcome back, everyone, to CNN SUNDAY MORNING. I'm Tony Harris, joined by Zain Verjee who is in for Betty Nguyen. Good to have you here.
VERJEE: Thank you.
Let's get straight to London and to our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, who joins us now with a little more perspective on this tape. Nic, what was the most striking part of this tape to you?
NIC ROBERTSON, SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, so far, we've only heard a very little bit of this audio message from Osama bin Laden that has been broadcast by Al -Jazeera, the Arabic language television station. What we've heard is appears to be a sort of a call to arms for Muslims around the world, if you will. He puts it in this context, and perhaps gives it this context that he puts it in, about opposition, U.S. And European opposition to the Hamas government in Palestine, perhaps gives us a reasonable indication that this message was recorded within the last few months at least.
He says the fact that there is opposition to the Hamas government is clear indication, he says, of a Christian crusade against Muslims. And this is a theme that is repeated throughout the clips of the audio message that we've heard so far. He talks about Sudan; he talks about Chechnya; he talks about Somalia. The last message from Osama bin Laden was about three months ago. That was a message directed at the people of the United States. That was a message directed about how the people of the United States could bring about the end of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. This seems to be directed at a different audience. It seems to be directed at the Muslim audience around the world -- Zain.
VERJEE: Do you think that the Muslim audience around the world, potential people who would want to be signing up for Al-Qaeda or Al- Qaeda-like operations, would be inspired by this message?
ROBERTSON: From the clips that we've heard so far, it has a political content in the way that bin Laden, we've seen him, along with his lieutenants, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, analyze what's happening in the world and sort of give their version of events. It's interesting, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, released a message about a month and a half ago, and about one-third of that message was directed at Hamas, warning them that after their electoral victory that they should not drop Sharia the law. That they should essentially stick by their Muslim faith.
Bin Laden here, again, puts importance on the Hamas issue. We haven't heard everything he's had to say, but it doesn't particularly sound like the sort of message that is going to encourage people to go out and perhaps perform suicide bombings. But what it seems to do is to try and sort of draw more Muslims towards the bin Laden message, towards the bin Laden ideology. And if one thinks about back about 15 years or so, Osama bin Laden's original mentor was the man, Abdullah Azzam, who actually founded Hamas. There were divisions between those two men in the late 1980s. Perhaps bin Laden trying to broaden his ground of support here, Zain.
VERJEE: Senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. Nic, we'll continue to check in with you about this tape throughout the morning -- Tony.
HARRIS: And Octavia Nasr is on the line with us now, our senior editor for Arab affairs. Octavia, good to talk to you this morning. And earlier you were the first to clue us in to the analysis of this tape on Al-Jazeera and the fact that there were some experts, some analysts, who were suggesting that the mere fact of this tape was an attempt by bin Laden to reassert control over Al-Qaeda.
NASR: Right. You know, this is the biggest theme on Al-Jazeera today, all the experts are basically saying that this is bin Laden coming back strong, stronger than what we've seen of him in the last two years, because he was either hiding and didn't want to expose himself by sending out tapes and messages, or he wanted to let, perhaps, Zawahiri, you know, take the lead and Zarqawi, in Iraq. So, the question is, is he dissatisfied with the way they've been handling things.
NASR: Or is he dissatisfied with the way operations are happening around the world. Of course, no one has the answer to that, but experts are speculating. And one interesting point here is that some of those experts, people who really know bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, they're saying that this is not a call for action. You know, there's no call for attack here. It seems like it's a wake-up call. You know, it's like waking up the troops, telling them that don't forget that this is a crusade against Islam. Your job is to defend Islam. It's like, prepare yourself for action if things don't happen the way you want them anytime soon.
HARRIS: Yeah, Octavia, that's interesting, because so much of what we've heard about Al-Qaeda lately is that it is a decentralized operation. Could this audiotape, in effect, be an attempt by bin Laden to call the troops home under one centralized leader, again, bin Laden, and one sort of centralized message?
NASR: Yea, some of these experts are saying just that, Tony, you're right. They're saying that bin Laden feels that he needs to show his supporters, first of all, that he's alive and well. And not just that, that he's strong, because the image of bin Laden has been that of the man who is hiding in some mountainous region, hard to get to and hard to get out of, not heard of on a regular basis. And that this is his way to show, not just that he is alive and well, but he's very well informed.
HARRIS: Yeah, but an audiotape doesn't do that. You know that as well as I do. An audiotape doesn't do that, Octavia, a videotape could go farther in making that point.
NASR: Absolutely. And people are aware of that, and those experts are discussing the fact that this is an audio and not a video. But, of course, there are many, many reasons for why this could be an audio, and not a video. First of all, it's easier to transport an audiotape than a videotape.
It's easier to track down or track back the effects of an audiotape than a videotape. And also, you know, some people are saying that he is -- he could be in a region where he doesn't have access to a camera crew and a camera and...
NASR: ...it's much easier for him to record the message on audio than on video. And, of course, there were instances in the past where Al-Jazeera receives audio, but it was really a video that surfaced on the internet later on. So all this is to be seen. At this time, the question is, is it him. It does sound like him. Is it the same rhetoric? It does sound like the same old rhetoric. People are saying that he is not calling for action, that he's basically saying that truce that I offered you in the past, you can forget it, this is not working. obviously this is a crusade against Islam and are calling citizens to unite.
HARRIS: You were very good to remind us that it still needs to be authenticated. Octavia Nasr, our senior editor for Arab affairs, Octavia, thank you this morning.
NASR: Thank you. VERJEE: CNN's senior producer, Henry Schuster, join us for a little more perspective. Henry, what's particularly interesting is the references to Hamas; Ayman Al-Zawahiri has made those references before. Give us an understanding of the relationship or the perception that Al-Qaeda has of Hamas and its relationship also with Saudi Arabia.
SCHUSTER: Well, you know, it's a very uneasy relationship. They don't know what to make of Hamas. Hamas has achieved a stunning victory and they did it at the ballot box, which is not something that Al-Qaeda approves of in terms of democracy. And Hamas has always had a very good relationship with the Saudi government which, of course, bin Laden calls for the overthrow of. So what we don't know is, are they trying to hitch on to Hamas' glory here or not.
VERJEE: What do you make of this notion this that -- with the tape like this, and if we do authenticate that it's Osama bin Laden -- that he has to prove in some way that he's relevant, that there's some degree of competition, if you will, between his No. 2, Ayman Al- Zawahiri, and perhaps even Al-Zarqawi in Iraq?
SCHUSTER: Well, absolutely. Zarqawi's been committing acts in Iraq, Zarqawi's been putting out videotapes and with the exception of one audiotape, Osama bin Laden has been largely silent. So, if he wants to reassert himself, as Peter Bergen was talking about before, then he's got to be out there. They can't just keep recycling old tap tapes.
VERJEE: One of the questions is years after 9/11, he's still out there, Ayman Al-Zawahiri is still out there and Mullah Omar is still out there. What's going on between the region of Pakistan and Afghanistan? You and I and Nic were also on a briefing on Waziristan when we were in Pakistan. Give us some perspective of the ground operations in those efforts.
SCHUSTER: Well, one of the simple truths that we learned when we were there and we reminded by President Musharraf's spokesman was this, that when the Pakistani troops went into Waziristan, they got a bloody nose. As many Pakistani troops almost died in the operations there as Al-Qaeda -- people they branded as Al-Qaeda, so it hasn't been easy for them and they don't have a strong foothold there, at least the Pakistani government doesn't.
VERJEE: Osama bin Laden, if it is him, says on this tape, the person says that the Western public shares responsibility for their country's war against Islam, and Tony had brought this point up a little bit earlier, as we were discussing it. What do you make of that? And it seems slightly nuanced this time compared to what he has said about Western publics before.
SCHUSTER: You know, that could be a very important point. That's a very good spot, a very good catch, which is that bin Laden and Zawahiri place great premium going by the book, as they understand, in Islamic law. They were sympathetic to the Western public before, and this time they are saying the Western public bears responsibility. Does that mean in their mind, they said, we've given your chance and now it's too late? Because remember in the last audiotape of bin Laden he did specifically threaten, he said attacks and plans for attacks are underway against America that you don't know about.
VERJEE: What's the conventional wisdom? If there's a tape, will there be an attack? Is it fair to assess something like that?
SCHUSTER: It's not clear, "A," that there's a link and "B," there's necessarily the credibility. It's said that you inspire attacks by putting out these messages but it's not clear that they're actually ordering a specific attack or saying an attack is underway.
VERJEE: Some good perspective from CNN's senior producer who follows all these developments and scrutinizes the tapes past and this one, present, quite carefully. Henry Schuster, thank you.
HARRIS: That is good stuff. That is really good stuff. Great analysis on this.
We're going to shift gears just a bit when we come back. As you know there were major developments yesterday in Iraq as that country moves forward to try to establish a new government. We will talk about those developments and those changes and those new appointments to the Iraqi government. We'll take a break and more of CNN SUNDAY MORNING right after this.
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ANNOUNCER: For a complete list of "Money" magazine's "Best Jobs in America," visit www.money.com.
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi everyone, I'm meteorologist, Reynolds Wolf, with the very latest on your weather situation around the country.
HARRIS: We begin our top stories with breaking news this morning. In the last hour the Arabic language network Al-Jazeera aired an audiotape reportedly from Osama bin Laden. The speaker on the tape slams the West for cutting off funds to the Palestinian government led by Hamas calling that proof of a crusade against Muslims.
Filling up is courting more, AAA reports the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas is $2.90. That is up five cents since Friday.
And then there were two, the race for mayor of New Orleans is down to incumbent Ray Nagin and lieutenant governor, Mitch Landrieu. The two go head-to-head in a run-off election next month.
VERJEE: In Iraq, the U.S. military says three U.S. soldiers were killed today by a roadside bomb, northwest of Baghdad. In Baghdad itself, a rocket attack today in the green zone, killed at least six Iraqi civilians. Two others were wounded, the rocket landed near the entrance to Iraq's defense ministry. Elsewhere in the city, police say six unidentified bodies were found, and all of them appear to have been shot.
HARRIS: Four months of political bickering and, finally, a breakthrough in Iraq's political standoff. The parliament has named Jawad Al-Maliki as the new prime minister-designate. He now has 30 days to put together a cabinet. President Bush says it's an historic achievement for Iraq and a positive development for the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The agreement reflects the will of the Iraqi people who defied the terrorists by voting to choose the men and women who will lead their nation forward. And this historic achievement by determined Iraqis will make America more secure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: But Massachusetts Senator John Kerry says the U.S. should give Iraqi leaders an ultimatum: Form a unity government by May 15 or the U.S. will pull its troops out immediately.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Iraqi leaders have responded only to deadlines. A deadline to transfer authority to provisional government, a deadline to hold each of their three elections, and it was the most intense eleventh-hour pressure that just pushed aside Prime Minister Jaafari, so we must be tough. And we must set another deadline to extricate our troops and get Iraq up on its own two feet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: The formation of an Iraqi government is seen as a crucial step in bringing U.S. troops home. We want to talk with Zain about this for just a moment. You have been so immersed with this story with CNN International and with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. This, Zain, is critical. This moment, feels like the moment. All the fits and starts that have come before this moment, what are the challenges for this new prime minister-designate in forming this cabinet and getting this process moving in Iraq?
VERJEE: It's certainly a step forward to putting together a national unity government. The process installed for four months since the election in December 15.
VERJEE: The tasks and challenges are formidable. First of all, Jawad Al-Maliki has to look at the issue of sectarian tensions. They've really escalated considerably under Ibrahim Al-Jaafari. That has to be addressed. The insurgency has to be addressed as well. He's got to come up with a security plan, people are waiting to see what shape that could take. And also the economy is in tatters. I mean, the Iraqi people are going, OK, we elected a government, we really need our lives to improve. We don't have access to basic needs, food, water, electricity. We can't get -- have our kids go out to go to school.
VERJEE: Because we don't know what'll happen to them.
HARRIS: So, what is it about this new prime minister-designate -- and we'll show more pictures of him in a second -- why is he going to succeed where Al-Jaafari failed?
VERJEE: There's no guarantee that he will succeed.
VERJEE: There's the bottom line. Al-Jaafari was seen as a weak and indecisive leader by many in Iraq. Jawad Al-Maliki is being seen as a tough-talking guy. One of the things that the Sunnis are going to want is to cleanup the interior ministry and use some of the tough- talking nature that he has. The death squads that apparently have been run by the interior ministries that have targeted Sunnis have been a real bone of contention, so that's one thing that they want to clean up. But he has to navigate it real carefully, because he can't be too lenient on the Sunnis themselves, otherwise he'll alienate the Shias.
HARRIS: OK, that's great. Wonderful analysis. I mean, really, I mean, you have really -- you and Jim Clancy and everyone over at CNN International have been great in helping us understand this story.
HARRIS: With all of your reporters and resources on the ground. Thank you.
VERJEE: Thanks, Tony.
HARRIS: We're going to take a break. More CNN SUNDAY MORNING when we come back.
HARRIS: And recapping the breaking news this morning, a new audiotape said to be from Osama bin Laden. CNN is working to verify that, but our experts say it does sound like the Al-Qaeda leader. The analysis so far suggests that it is authentic. That bin Laden may be trying to re-establish himself as the de facto leader of Al-Qaeda. It's seen as a general call to arms for Muslims around the world. Stay with CNN throughout the day as we work to authenticate the tape and analyze its comments. Now time to check in with Howard Kurtz in Washington to see what's ahead on CNN's "Reliable Sources."
HOWARD KURTZ, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Hi, Tony. Coming up a fired CIA officer accused of leaking to the press. Is the Bush administration cracking down again on journalists?
And the White House press secretary calls it quits will a FOX News host replace Scott McClellan?
Plus the Duke rape allegations topping the headlines and reporters pumping up some old stereotypes about race, sex, and sports.
And Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Nicholas Kristof on why the media are missing the ongoing tragedy in Sudan. All that and more ahead on "Reliable Sources."
HARRIS: And that's "Reliable Sources" coming up at 10:00 Eastern and followed by Wolf Blitzer and "Late Edition" and "On the Story." Stay tuned to CNN as we go in depth into the stories of the day.
VERJEE: As we said again, "Reliable Sources" is next. Followed by "Late Edition" and "On the Story." So don't go away.
HARRIS: And Fredricka Whitfield will be with you all morning with live news updates. Our thanks to Zain Verjee. Betty Nguyen will be back next weekend. Zain, thank you so much.
VERJEE: Thank you.
HARRIS: Great weekend.
VERJEE: Thank you. I had good fun.
HARRIS: Have a great weekend.
VERJEE: I get to sleep in next weekend.
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