Bryan, some of these stories are catching up with my conversation with the shade of James Jesus Angleton, in which he explicitly raised the possibility that Zawahiri ratted out his boss. Angleton had a plausible theory: Al Qaeda is getting slaughtered in Afghanistan, cash flow is down, recruitments are down, and the really big prize–Egypt, as you note–is on the table.
If UBL were in favor of fighting to the last recruit in Afghanistan, Zawahiri might have decided to, uh, bite the bullet.
But there is a lot of disinformation in the air. The Pakistanis surely knew about the operation. It will eventually emerge, I suspect, that the helicopters reached Abbotville from a base in Pakistan, not from Afghanistan. And whoever betrayed UBL has every good reason to cover it up. So who are the candidates? The list is pretty interesting:
1. The Pakistanis (to draw the increasingly painful sting of American complaints about their legendary duplicity);
2. The Saudis (many reasons);
3. One of UBL’s “trusted associates” (for the money and to save his skin);
4. The Iranians (if it turns out that UBL arrived fairly recently in Pakistan, rather than the story he was in the villa for five years, which is hard to believe…)
And of course, the Middle East’s favorite deus ex machina, the Mossad. Right on the eve of Netanyahu’s big trip to Washington, no less.
Anyway, Angleton deserves a lot of credit for sniffing it out at the outset, don’t you think? All thanks to medieval technology (my ouija board)!