A newly released trove of CIA documents linked to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan reveals that the al-Qaeda chief urged his son to travel to Qatar, where he believed the government to be trustworthy, and praised the Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera as a potential ally having “little against us.”
A coalition of fellow Gulf region states severed diplomatic ties with Qatar this summer after the nation rejected a 13-point list of demands that included cutting ties with the Iranian regime and shutting down Al Jazeera, repeatedly accused of promoting jihadist sentiment.
The Saudi media outlet Al Arabiya highlighted on Saturday CIA documents that show that bin Laden felt that Al Jazeera’s influence on the world was formidable and possibly beneficial for al-Qaeda. In one letter, bin Laden praised satellite broadcasters as “stronger than the heroic poets of the pre-Islamic era,” specifically noting Al Jazeera’s reach.
“Most of the channels have been against us, but Al Jazeera’s interests intersect with ours, and it is useful not to make it our enemy, it has little against us, and if we oppose it, it would take a hostile stand,” bin Laden advised, according to Al Arabiya.
Another letter, Al Arabiya contends, appeared to indicate that bin Laden was coordinating the broadcast of some footage of his interest. “Al Jazeera recommends that we take precautions, particularly on separate episodes, knowing that the previous recordings respond to the State’s lies in a direct and indirect manner,” Al Arabiya quotes the CIA documents as showing bin Laden stating.
Other documents show bin Laden as claiming that Al Jazeera “carries the banner of revolutions” and praised Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated cleric who hosts the call-in advice show Sharia and Life on Al Jazeera.
“From a religious [or theological] aspect, I was committed within the Muslim Brotherhood,” bin Laden wrote in one of the recently released documents.
Another outlet, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal, highlighted a letter revealing that bin Laden was willing to trust Qatar with his son Hamza, whom authorities believe is being groomed to take over the reins at al-Qaeda. In addition to releasing video footage of Hamza bin Laden’s wedding, the CIA published a letter from father to son that warned him to leave Shiite Muslim territory and find sanctuary in Qatar.
“Travel to Qatar, Muhammad is studying strategic sciences, sociology and psychology; write details no one but he is privy to, that way they make sure that the letter is in fact written by Hamza,” Osama bin Laden advised his son. He appeared significantly concerned that Hamza was spending time in Shiite Iran, where the Long War Journal suggests his wedding took place.
Despite reservations about Iran, other CIA documents revealed extensive cooperation between Tehran, the world’s lead state sponsor of terrorism, and al-Qaeda. One document showed that Iran offered the group “everything they needed,” from money to “training in Hezbollah camps.” Iran has dismissed as “fake news” the document showing this collusion.