New Tape -- How Effective Is the al Qaeda Propaganda Machine?

An audio recording appeared today on a radical Islamist Web site, but the new tape does not appear to be new at all.

The tape features what appeared to be Osama bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman al Zawahri, and it raises the question of why al Queida felt compelled to pass off an old tape as new.

It surfaced a week after a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan that killed a top al Qaeda bomb maker and chemical weapons expert, but the speaker does not mention the incident. Analysts say that's potentially revealing, because it calls into question al Qaeda's ability to respond quickly in its propaganda war. ABC News analyst Alexis Debat believes it may be a sign of desperation and suggests that perhaps Zawahiri was injured or killed, or at the very least on the run and unable to make a new tape.

In the recording, the speaker also talks about how he was affected by the poetry of Moheb Allah al Kandahari, whom he refers to as the "jihad poet." He also reads verses of the poetry during the 17-minute tape. Kandahari's works were initially written to mourn people who had died in the war in Afghanistan.

"We cannot say that this audio is new," said Fares Bin Hizam, an expert on Islamic affairs for the Arab TV network al Arabiya.

He said it could be a tactical move by Zawahri's followers to draw media attention. There is no connection, he says, between Thursday's release of a new bin Laden speech and this audiotape.

The last time Zawahri was heard from was in a video aired by al Jazeera on Jan. 6.

In that recording, bin Laden's No. 2 man called on President Bush to "admit defeat in Iraq" and said any future U.S. troop withdrawal would be a "victory" for Islam.

"Bush, you must admit that you have been defeated in Iraq and that you are being defeated in Afghanistan and that you will soon be defeated in Palestine, with the help and strength of God," said Zawahri in that videotape, sitting with an assault rifle at his side.

The audio tape comes a day after a new audio tape from Osama bin Laden himself. It appears to have been made recently. That tape threatens new attacks inside the US but also offers a truce. The new bin Laden tape adds new urgency to the hunt for al Qaeda leaders, and new urgency to the question: Why can't the US find the man it wants to kill most?

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