The Washington Post

The mourners of bin Laden

Amid all the celebrations of the death of Osama bin Laden, it’s worth taking note of those who are loudly condemning the U.S. raid that eliminated him.

There is the Taliban, on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. A spokesman for the Terik-e-Taliban, the Pakistan-based strand of the movement, told the Reuters news agency Monday that the group would seek revenge. “Pakistani rulers, President Zardari and the army will be our first targets. America will be our second target,” Ehsanullah Ehsan was quoted as saying.

An Afghan Taliban leader meanwhile told a reporter from Britain’s The Guardian that his organization would launch a special offensive, called Bader, to avenge the al-Qaeda leader. “Losing him will be very painful for the mujahideen, but the shahadat [martyrdom] of Osama will never stop the jihad,” the commander, named Qudos, reportedly said.

And then there is the Palestinian Hamas, whose top leader in the Gaza Strip mourned bin laden on Monday as an” Arab holy warrior.” Ismail Haniyeh, who is Hamas’s prime minister, told reporters that “we regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.”

“We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior,” said the man who has assured former president Jimmy Carter, among other envoys, of Hamas’s peaceful intentions toward Israel and the United States. “We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”

These may seem like predictable reactions by known terrorist organizations. But they ought to be deeply troubling for a host of Western diplomats who lately have been promoting the idea that both the Taliban and Hamas are suitable partners for peace negotiations.

The Obama administration has been showing renewed interest in proposals for peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban, hinting that it might soften previous conditions. Britain, among other European governments, has been pushing hard for such negotiations. But the premise of the strategy has been that the various Taliban factions are ready to make a decisive break with al-Qaeda.

Perhaps bin Laden’s death will eventually make it easier for the Taliban to cut its al-Qaeda ties. But an offensive in response to the leader’s death will not be a good way to start.

Haniyeh’s comments will be even more concerning, as they come days before a planned meeting in Cairo at which Hamas and the secular Fatah movement are to agree on a reconciliation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas long ago renounced violence against Israel, and his West Bank security forces are funded and trained by the United States.

Now Abbas will find himself agreeing to form a joint Palestinian government with a man who has just condemned the U.S. killing of “Arab holy warrior” bin Laden. The broker of the deal, Egypt, has been pressing the Obama administration to accept the accord and to put forward a plan for Palestinian statehood in response.

Should the mourner of bin Laden be recognized as a worthy partner for peace with Israel, or a potential leader of a new Arab state? Haniyeh’s comments won’t leave the White House -- which has been weighing how to respond to the Palestinian unity deal -- with much of a choice.

Jackson Diehl is deputy editorial page editor of The Post. He is an editorial writer specializing in foreign affairs and writes a biweekly column that appears on Mondays.


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