Bin Laden Expert: Muslim Tradition to Offer Truce Before Attack

The former chief of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit says bin Laden’s “truce” offer comes from a long-established Muslim tradition of warfare — sending a clear signal to the United States that an al Qaeda attack is more than likely.

Twenty-two-year CIA veteran Michael Scheuer, who wrote “Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror,” says bin Laden has offered his final warning before launching his next strike.

“Warning your enemy before you attack him is very much a tradition in Islam from the prophet to the times when Saladin was fighting the Crusaders, he would warn them, he would offer them a truce, he would try to go the extra mile before attacking him,” Scheuer said on “The O’Reilly Factor” Thursday.

“So I think it’s very important that we understand the context in which bin Laden is speaking,” Scheuer continued, “because I’ve heard other people today already saying that he’s offering a truce because it’s a sign of weakness, because we’re beating him. And I think that’s pretty far from the truth.”

Following Al-Jazeera’s disclosure of the tape yesterday, several bin Laden experts — including journalist Richard Miniter on Human Events Online — dismissed bin Laden’s latest message as nothing more than a bid to reassert himself as the world’s preeminent terrorist.

I asked two experts on the Middle East and Islam their thoughts about Scheuer’s assertion. They cited historical parallels to Scheuer’s contention.

Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch and author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades),” told me: “Traditional Islamic theology actually does support the idea that Osama was asking for a truce because he perceives weakness in his ranks.”

Spencer pointed me to a passage (below) from “Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller),” a Shafi’i Sharia manual endorsed by Al-Azhar University in Cairo as conforming to the “practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community.” Here’s what it says:

“Truces are permissible, not obligatory. … Interests that justify making a truce are such things as Muslim weakness because of lack of numbers or materiel, or the hope of an enemy becoming Muslim. … If the Muslims are weak, a truce may be made for ten years if necessary, for the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) made a truce with the Quraysh for that long, as is related by Abu Dawud. … The rulings of such a truce are inferable from those of the non-Muslim poll tax; namely, that when a valid truce has been effected, no harm may be done to non-Muslims until it expires.”

A second scholar, Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, told me: “Bin Ladin has a history of making threats he did not carry out — for example, versus Israel after the execution of Ahmed Yassin. It is more useful to see his tape as an attempt to stay relevant than in the tradition of Muslim warfare.”