Monday, September 17, 2012

Varying versions of embassy-attack crisis incidents

I'm struck by a couple of variances in major parts of the story last week about the embassy attacks. One is that it seems to have become a general meme the President Obama's comment about Egypt not being an ally but not being an enemy either was a "gaffe".

Juan Cole has a different and realistic view in Obama Plays Hardball and Egypt’s Morsi Folds Informed Comment 09/14/2012:

Egypt is among about 14 countries designated at “major non-NATO allies” by US presidents. This status recognizes that they do joint military exercises with the US, and gives them special access to advanced US weaponry. However, some of them are not allies in the precise legal sense. That is, there is no obligation of mutual defense. A true ally, as with NATO states, is one that the allied country is pledged to defend from attack. Still, US officials typically have referred to Egypt as an ally, and the State Department made clear that it continues to do so.

So Obama was technically correct that Egypt is not an ally in the sense that Britain or even Turkey is. But unlike what some media outlets wrote, this statement was no gaffe. Rather, Obama was playing hardball with Morsi, trying to impress upon him that the status of ‘major non-NATO ally’ is not automatic now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in control. It will have to be re-earned, at least from Obama’s point of view. And the lack of response on the embassy attack is not consistent with ally status. Non-NATO ally status is bestowed by a stroke of the presidential pen, so Obama could take it away.

... Obama has enough assets in his contest with Morsi to influence the Egypt situation– loan reduction, civilian and military aid, and the danger that a US State Department travel warning could devastate Egypt’s tourist industry, which is worth billions a year. Even Obama’s willingness to play a politics of reputation with Morsi’s Egypt seems to have had some effect. It wasn’t a 'gaffe.' [emphasis in original]
The Obama Administration is going with the story that the Libya consulate attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens was an outgrowth of a protest of the Innocence of Muslims YouTube trailer and (alleged) film. Our UN Ambassador Susan Rice reiterated that position Sunday. (Ambassador Rice: Benghazi attack began spontaneously NBC News US 09/16/2012) The Libyan government is taking a different position, as Brad Knickerbocker reports in Libya attack: US doubts that Al Qaeda planned ahead 09/16/2012:

Rice’s comments put her at odds with Libyan officials, who continue to insist that the attack that killed Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans was planned well in advance of the protests that began on the anniversary of 9/11 and spread around the world.

"It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival," Libyan President Mohammed Magarief said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.

So far, Libyan authorities have arrested some 50 individuals suspected of being connected to last week’s attack. President Magarief told CBS the suspects are connected to Al Qaeda, or are affiliates and sympathizers.

"We don't know what are the real intentions of these perpetrators," he said. "They entered Libya from different directions. Some of them definitely from Mali and Algeria."
Nancy Youssef and Amina Ismail report for McClatchy Newspapers (Anti-U.S. outrage over video began with Christian activist’s phone call to a reporter 09/15/20012):

Whether the Benghazi attack was linked to anger over the video remains uncertain – witnesses have said there was no protest preceding the attack – but the trauma of those deaths will likely scar U.S. perceptions for years, and while Saturday seemed calm across the region, the U.S. State Department made clear it fears the violence has not ended.
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