Libya Attack Brings Challenges for U.S.

Islamist militants armed with antiaircraft weapons, rocket-propelled, grenades stormed lightly defended United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, late Tuesday, killing the American ambassador and three members of his staff and raising questions about the radicalization of countries swept up in Arab Spring. The ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, was missing almost immediately after the start of an intense, four-hour firefight for control of the mission, and his body was not located until Wednesday morning at dawn, when he was found dead at a Benghazi hospital, American and Libyan officials said. It was the first time since 1979 that an American ambassador had died in a violent assault. American and European officials said that while many details about the attack remained unclear, the assailants seemed organized, well trained and heavily armed, and they appeared to have at least some level of advance planning. But officials cautioned that it was too soon to tell whether the attack was related to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Fighters involved in the assault, which was spearheaded by an Islamist brigade formed during last year’s uprising against Muammar el-Qaddafi, said in interviews during the battle that they were moved to attack the mission by anger over a 14-minute, American-made video that depicted the Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s founder, as a villainous, homosexual and child-molesting buffoon. Their attack followed by just a few hours the storming of the compound surrounding United States Embassy in Cairo by an unarmed mob protesting the same video. On Wednesday, new crowds of protesters gathered outside United States Embassies in Tunis and Cairo. The wave of unrest set off by the video, posted online in United States two months ago and dubbed into Arabic for first time eight days ago, has further underscored the instability of the countries that cast off their longtime dictators in Arab Spring revolts. It also cast doubt on adequacy of security preparations at American diplomatic outposts in volatile region. Benghazi, awash in guns, has recently witnessed a string of assassinations as well as attacks on international missions, including a bomb said to be planted by another Islamist group that exploded near the United States mission there as recently as June. But a Libyan politician who had breakfast with Stevens at the mission the morning before he was killed described security, mainly 4 video cameras and as few as four Libyan guards, as sorely inadequate for an American ambassador in such a tumultuous environment. “This country is still in transition, everybody knows the extremists are out there”, said Fathi Baja, the Libyan politician (…..)



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11 Responses to Libya Attack Brings Challenges for U.S.

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: “The trailer was uploaded to YouTube by Sam Bacile, whom The Wall Street Journal Web site identified as a 52-year old Israeli-American real estate developer in California. He told the Web site he had raised $5 million from 100 Jewish donors to make the film“. A proxy Middle East war being fought from US soil?

  2. (…..) “We are building some of the ugliest embassies I’ve ever seen,” Senator John F. Kerry said in 2009. “We’re building fortresses around the world. We’re separating ourselves from people in these countries. I cringe when I see what we’re doing” (…..) Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University, said the United States had to build “embassies that resemble fortresses, and that convey an image of America that is at odds with our interests and our own self-image, and especially with the image that we would like to convey to foreign peoples.” An excerpt from his 2010 piece in Foreign Policy: We like to think of our country as friendly and welcoming, as open to new ideas, and as a strong, diverse and confident society built on a heritage of pluck and grit. You know, we’re supposed to be a society built by generations of immigrants, pioneers, and other determined folk who faced adversity and risk with a smile and a bit of a swagger. Yet the “Fortress America” approach to embassy design presents a public face that is an odd combination of power and paranoia. Don’t get me wrong: states in the modern world do have to worry about security for their representatives, and we ought to take all reasonable measures to ensure that our diplomats are adequately protected. But as with dangers (such as extremists with explosives in their underwear), it’s possible to go too far in the quest for perfect security. Trying to blast-proof everything may even be counterproductive, if the damage done to our global image is greater than the damage that violent radicals would do to a slightly less-fortified global presence. It’s not just the design. For the lack of a better word, it’s the ambience…. Like most foreign correspondents, I have been in dozens of American embassies, consulates, diplomatic offices and official residences around the world. Even as an American, even with approved credentials, even with a security clearance and an appointment to see a senior officer or the ambassador, the entry process at most embassies is wholly unpleasant — and usually smacks more of hard power than soft (…..)

  3. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Any US embassy today is an ugly fortress. They resemble a military garrison under siege, even in friendly countries like Brazil. To walk into an american embassy today is like walking into a maximum security prison. A frightening experience for an American citizen or foreign national seeking a visa or attending a cocktail party.

    This creates an image problem since embassies and consulates are the MAIN symbol of a country in foreign lands. The fortress-like US embassies reveals a country under siege, isolated and afraid.

    They resemble embassies of countries under siege such as North Korea and Israel. The folks in Foggy Bottom should think about this important point when deciding how to better protect US installations overseas.

  4. Anti-Western populations in the Arab world are not as “anti” as they, or we, think. Many among the crowd of protestors outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo this week would have been only too pleased to apply for a visa to study or work in the United States. Those removing the American flag, and shouting anti-American slogans, were wearing jeans and T-shirts. In Egypt, and other Middle Eastern countries, there is a mental disconnect, a love-hate relationship with the United States. American technology, medicine, coffee at Starbucks, McDonalds, Coca Cola, cars, Hollywood movies and judging by the slogans of the Arab uprisings in 2011, even American political ideals of liberty and democracy, are hugely popular. But there is a dark side to this attachment to all things American: the flawed but popular narrative that the U.S. is at war with Islam and Muslims. Al Qaeda is a violent manifestation of this myth, but plenty of others embrace this view as fact. It is by puncturing this worldview that we help minimize anti-Western sentiment in the region. In recent weeks, Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahri has been angered by Tunisia’s and Egypt’s democratic Islamists maintaining close ties to the U.S. Until recently, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was at the forefront of anti-American rhetoric. Not anymore. To have traditional Islamist foes now as friends helps damage the perception that the U.S. is at war with Islam. This interaction based on mutual interests must continue and be solidified with aid and trade. The U.S. has unrivaled cultural capital in the Arab world. Almost 50,000 Saudi students are now studying in American universities. Thousands more Egyptians would like to do so. Al Qaeda and its sympathizers want to weaken our bonds. There is plenty of goodwill amid ordinary Arabs that can be used to the benefit of Arabs and Westerners.

    This new phase of closer cooperation cannot be derailed by far-right Muslimphobes in America, or right-wing radical Salafis in the Middle East.

    Room for Debate: Does Mideast Democracy Complicate Diplomacy?

  5. (NYT GOLDEN PICK) Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The first thing US scholars and media should do is stop using “anti-western’ when what they really mean is anti-US/Israel sentiments in the Middle. Brazil is part of the western world and its image is very positive among countries in that volatile part of the world. It is impossible for the US to have a fair and balanced Middle East policy for two main reasons: First, — and foremost- its unwavering support for the state of Israel REGARDLESS whether Israel’s actions are detrimental or not to US own national interests. Iran and the Palestinian question are excellent examples. Second, the US dependency on Middle East oil which result in keeping repressive regimes in power. Saudi Arabia is another example. The US diplomacy and political leadership face a gigantic challenge in this new century. To demonstrate with deeds that the US is genuinely committed to help Arab countries to become rich, prosperous and safe as it did with the State of Israel. Otherwise, the anti-US-Israel will continue to prevail among the young and restive Arab population eager to abandon a legacy of repressive regimes, poverty and illiteracy.

    Thus, the big question: Is the US ready to have a new Israel showcase in the Arab world? otherwise, the US diplomacy runs a competition risk. China’s highly successful foreign policy model, applied in Africa and Latin America, can replace the old US model in the Middle East.

  6. The killings of the US ambassador to Libya and three of his staff were likely to have been the result of a serious and continuing security breach, The Independent can reveal. American officials believe the attack was planned, but Chris Stevens had been back in the country only a short while and the details of his visit to Benghazi, where he and his staff died, were meant to be confidential. The US administration is now facing a crisis in Libya. Sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the “safe house” in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack. Other such refuges across the country are no longer deemed “safe”. Some of the missing papers from the consulate are said to list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups, while some of the other documents are said to relate to oil contracts. According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and “lockdown”, under which movement is severely restricted. Mr Stevens had been on a visit to Germany, Austria and Sweden and had just returned to Libya when the Benghazi trip took place with the US embassy’s security staff deciding that the trip could be undertaken safely. Eight Americans, some from the military, were wounded in the attack which claimed the lives of Mr Stevens, Sean Smith, an information officer, and two US Marines. All staff from Benghazi have now been moved to the capital, Tripoli, and those whose work is deemed to be non-essential may be flown out of Libya. In the meantime a Marine Corps FAST Anti-Terrorism Reaction Team has already arrived in the country from a base in Spain and other personnel are believed to be on the way. Additional units have been put on standby to move to other states where their presence may be needed in the outbreak of anti-American fury triggered by publicity about a film which demeaned the Prophet Mohamed (…..)

  7. Robert Kagan: A handful of Republicans pushed Wednesday to cut off aid to Libya and Egypt. Fortunately, most Republicans and Democrats in Congress reject the idea. In Libya, the government is largely secular and pro-American. It is also weak and unable to preserve order against the many forces — from remnants of the Gaddafi era to radical Islamic militants — that challenge its authority. Cutting off support isn’t the answer. If anything, we should be increasing assistance, especially security assistance, to help Libyans make their country safer, for themselves and us. The bigger and more important challenge is Egypt. The attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo were not carried out by or at the instigation of the elected Egyptian government. As The Post’s David Ignatius rightly points out, many of the protesters who stormed the compound Tuesday oppose the current government. But that government’s failure to protect the embassy, a core international obligation, and President Mohamed Morsi’s failure to condemn the attacks are worrisome (…..)

    Some conservatives are starting to make a glib comparison between the evolution of Egypt today and the Iranian revolution of 1979. This is a faulty analysis. Egypt is not declaring jihad on the West, and Morsi is not Ayatollah Khomeini. We need to avoid an undiscriminating Islamophobia and distinguish between those who want to kill Americans and those who may dislike the West but are primarily interested in rebuilding their societies after decades of dictatorship.

    As with many nascent democracies around the world, Islamic and non-Islamic, the transition in Egypt is incomplete. Some signs give reason for hope, but there are also signs of undemocratic tendencies. The Morsi government has been censoring media and hounding political opponents. Coptic Christians are justifiably scared. Women have reason to worry about whether their rights will be respected. The United States needs to strike an intelligent balance. If Egypt’s economy crumbles, is the nation going to become less radical? Is it more likely to uphold the peace treaty with Israel? Is it more likely to be a force for moderation in the greater Middle East? (…..)

  8. The United States is laying the groundwork for operations to kill or capture militants implicated in the deadly attack on a diplomatic mission in Libya, senior military and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday, as the weak Libyan government appears unable to arrest or even question fighters involved in the assault. The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is compiling so-called target packages of detailed information about the suspects, the officials said. Working with the Pentagon and the C.I.A., the command is preparing the dossiers as the first step in anticipation of possible orders from President Obama to take action against those determined to have played a role in the attack on a diplomatic mission in the eastern city of Benghazi that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three colleagues three weeks ago. Potential military options could include drone strikes, Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden and joint missions with Libyan authorities. But administration officials say no decisions have been made on any potential targets. Spokesmen for the Defense Department and C.I.A. declined to comment. The preparations underscore the bind confronting the White House over the Benghazi attack. Mr. Obama has vowed to bring the killers to justice, and in the final weeks of the presidential campaign Republicans have hammered the administration over the possible intelligence failures that preceded the attack — including a new accusation that repeated requests for strengthened security in Benghazi had been rejected. But any American military action on Libyan soil would risk casualties and almost certainly set off a popular backlash at a moment when support for the revolt against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had created a surge in good feeling toward the United States that is unique in the region. Reflecting a surge in nationalism, the Libyan government has opposed any unilateral American military action in Libya against the attackers. “We will not accept anyone entering inside Libya,” Mustafa Abu Shagur, Libya’s new prime minister, told the Al Jazeera television network. “That would infringe on sovereignty and we will refuse.” At the same time, the Libyan government still depends almost entirely on autonomous local militias to act as the police, complicating any effort to detain the most obvious suspects. Libyan and American officials acknowledge the possibility that some of the perpetrators may have fled the country, perhaps across the porous southern border (…..)

  9. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: A golden opportunity dreamed by any US pres incumbent: strike a terrorist group during an election year. The timing of an attack could be set to coincide with the second and third presidential debate. Good news for Obama and bad news for Mitt Romney that is trailing in the polls.

  10. For months, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been funneling money and small arms to Syria’s rebels but have refused to provide heavier weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles, that could allow opposition fighters to bring down government aircraft, take out armored vehicles and turn the war’s tide. While they have publicly called for arming the rebels, they have held back, officials in both countries said, in part because they have been discouraged by the United States, which fears the heavier weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists. As a result, the rebels have just enough weapons to maintain a stalemate, the war grinds on and more jihadist militants join the fray every month. “You can give the rebels AKs, but you can’t stop the Syrian regime’s military with AKs,” said Khalid al-Attiyah, a state minister for foreign affairs in Qatar. Providing the rebels with heavier weapons “has to happen,” he added. “But first we need the backing of the United States, and preferably the U.N.” Saudi officials here said the United States was not barring them from providing shoulder-fired missiles, but warning about the risks. The Saudis and Qataris said they hoped to convince their allies that those risks could be overcome. “We are looking at ways to put in place practices to prevent this type of weapon from falling into the wrong hands,” one Arab official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with diplomatic protocol. American support for such weapons transfers is unlikely to materialize any time soon. The Obama administration has made clear that it has no desire to deepen its efforts, mostly providing logistical support for the rebels. Administration officials would not comment on what they are telling their Persian Gulf allies about arming the rebels. “We are doing what we feel is appropriate to help the unarmed opposition to be more effective and working closely with the opposition to prepare for a transition,” the State Department said in response to a question on the subject. Backing from the United Nations Security Council, where any intervention is blocked by the firm vetoes of Russia and China, seems even less likely. Nor is the call for an Arab-led military action in Syria, voiced two weeks ago by the emir of Qatar at the United Nations General Assembly, expected to bear fruit. Many Saudi and Qatari officials now fear that the fighting in Syria is awakening deep sectarian animosities and, barring such intervention, could turn into an uncontrollable popular jihad with consequences far more threatening to Arab governments than the Afghan war of the 1980s (…..)

  11. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: In a tight election race, the temptation for pres Obama ‘to do something’ about the Syrian civil war is too strong to resist. I hope he decides wisely. Otherwise, the US would be involved in a full blown Middle East war, fighting Syria-Iran at the wrong time for the wrong reason. US national interest is not well served if that happens.


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