Tape urges Muslim fight against U.S.
DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- In an audiotape broadcast Tuesday on the Arabic television network Al-Jazeera, a voice purported to be that of Osama bin Laden called on Muslims to fight any U.S.-led attack on Iraq and warned leaders of Islamic nations not to help the so-called enemy.
"We are following very carefully the preparation of the crusaders to invade the Iraqi land and take the wealth of the Muslims and install a regime that has Tel Aviv and Washington on its head to run you, in preparation for the establishment of greater Israel, God forbid," it said.
U.S. officials said the tape does seem to be from bin Laden, and that a technical analysis will be done. Officials also said this tape was of much better quality than the previous one presumed to be from bin Laden, which Al-Jazeera broadcast in November. A U.S. analysis of that tape concluded it was extremely likely the tape was authentic.
Word of the tape first surfaced when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Senate panel earlier Tuesday that he had reviewed a transcript of the message.
"(Bin Laden) speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle and how he is in partnership with Iraq," Powell said at the congressional hearing.
Al-Jazeera had initially dismissed Powell's claim as rumor. The network broadcast the tape at 11 a.m. (3 p.m. ET).
The speaker does not express direct support for Saddam Hussein and refers to his socialist Baath party as "infidels." The State Department defended Powell's position after the broadcast and said the tape shows bin Laden's support for Saddam.
After listening to the tape, a senior Bush administration official said that, if authentic, "At best it is a terrorist making common cause with a brutal dictator and at worst it demonstrates a burgeoning alliance of terror."
"This just reinforces that bad guys hang with other bad guys, that they swim in the same cesspool," the official said.
The tape surfaced at a time when the Bush administration is preparing for a possible war with Iraq and is trying to strengthen its argument that there is a link between al Qaeda and the Islamic nation led by Saddam Hussein.
Powell reinforced the argument during his address to the Senate before its broadcast.
"This nexus between terrorists and states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored. As the president has said, 9/11 changed things," Powell said.
The tape called on Muslims to "fight those who believe in Satan" and quoted the Koran as saying "you shouldn't take the Jews and the Christians as friends and whoever helps them becomes one of them."
It added that those who help America in a war against Iraq, "have to know that they are outside this Islamic nation. Jordan and Morocco and Nigeria and Saudi Arabia should be careful that this war, this crusade, is attacking the people of Islam first."
While the message called for Iraqis to fight, it did not express support for Saddam. Instead, it referred to Saddam's Baath party as "infidels." But, the message added, if the party fights alongside Muslims to resist any U.S.-led attack, "that's OK."
In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Powell's chief spokesman, Richard Boucher, defended Powell's assessment that bin Laden and Iraq are linked.
"There were people who argued, well, these two ideologies are too different, they'll never get together. The secretary made clear that we thought they were bound by a common hatred. That is what brought them together," Boucher said. "I think that's really what you have bin Laden confirming today in this tape."
"He says it doesn't matter if people are socialist -- we're going to fight together with them to destroy everything that we can."
The voice on the tape said the enemies of Islam "have old animosities to the Middle East -- especially when you look back at George Bush Sr."
U.S. fighters are cowards who tell false stories of their bravery, he said.
"Our brothers, the mujahedeen in Iraq, don't worry about America's lies and their powers and their military might," he said.
"We also advise you to drag the forces into fighting you in street fights. Take them into farms, into cities, and fight them in there. They will be losing a lot of lives.
"And we also encourage the suicide attacks against the enemy," the recording said. "Just look at what happened to the U.S. and Israel."