Osama bin Laden gets up each morning in his dark, damp cave in northern Pakistan, gripped by fear, listening carefully for the telltale sound of a drone that is searching for him. His isolation is almost complete. Only a few trusted associates know where he is, and they visit rarely — bringing food and news, but careful not to fall into a routine. There is no radio or other electronic device whose signal might be followed. He can’t go out in daytime for fear of satellites. It is a grim, lonely existence.
At least, that is the picture that has emerged of the life of the world’s most wanted man since he fled Tora Bora in 2001.
But a new and vastly different picture of the Al Qaeda leader’s life has been emerging over the past few years. In this scenario, he wakes each morning in a comfortable bed inside a guarded compound north of Tehran. He is surrounded by his wife and a few children. He keeps a low profile, is allowed limited travel and, in exchange for silence, is given a comfortable life under the protection of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The idea that Bin Laden is in Iran got a strong boost recently with the premiere of a documentary called “Feathered Cocaine.” In it, Alan Parrot, the film’s subject and one of the world’s foremost falconers, makes a case that Bin Laden, an avid falcon hunter, has been living comfortably in Iran since at least 2003 and continues to pursue the sport relatively freely. He is relaxed, healthy and, according to the film, very comfortable.