After Benghazi Consulate Attack, What’s Next for U.S. Relations with Libya and Egypt?

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Ibrahim Alaguri—AP

A man looks at documents at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sept. 12, 2012. The graffiti reads, "no God but God," " God is great," and "Muhammad is the Prophet."

Outrage was the Obama Administration’s first reaction, Wednesday morning, to attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts in Egypt and Libya — where four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

“Today many Americans are asking, indeed I asked myself, how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate and a city we saved from destruction?” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday morning, referring to Benghazi, the city saved by NATO military intervention and where Stevens and his colleagues were killed at the U.S. Consulate. “It reflects just how complicated, indeed how confounding the world can be. This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or the government of Libya.”

Added President Obama minutes later, “There is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence, none… This attack will not break the bond between the United States and Libya… Make no mistake, justice will be done.”

(MORE: Slaying Highlights Libya’s Post-Gaddafi Struggles)

Noticeably absent from the Administration’s response, though, was much mention of Egypt. While the attack in Libya was more violent and involved loss of life, the situation there is also more diplomatically straightforward. The Libyan government was quick to apologize for the attack, and to reaffirm its alliance with the U.S. Egypt, however, is a major diplomatic headache.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has yet to apologize, or say anything much at all. Riot police stood idly by overnight as protesters spray-painted insults on the embassy’s walls. Popular anger over a anti-Muslim film trailer produced by an Israeli real estate developer is being fanned by more radical rivals to the Muslim Brotherhood, leaving Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, in an awkward position. The Brotherhood’s youth wing has said it will take part in a planned protest on Friday but otherwise thegroup has been as silent as Morsi.

Morsi has prioritized getting the Egyptian economy on track. The attack forced a group of 100 American businessmen in Cairo for meetings on investing in Egypt to seek safety nearby. And it coincides with some lawmakers on Capitol Hill questioning whether Egyptian military should continue to receive $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid. In March, the U.S. renewed its commitment to another year of disbursements, despite Cairo’s failure to meet democratic goals. “The Parliament has said some things that are very chilling,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said at a budget hearing in March. “We’re not going to throw good money after bad.”

Egypt is also asking the International Monetary Fund for a $4.8 billion loan, and needs at least $5 billion more, according the European Union estimates released Wednesday ahead of an anticipated Morsi visit to Brussels on Thursday to ask for aid.

(MORE: Egypt, Libya: Fundamentalisms Unleash Havoc)

Morsi has left no doubt of his independence from the U.S., ignoring calls to boycott the Non-Aligned Movement Conference in Tehran. At the same time, he told the Iranians that he would not be anyone’s pawn, and took them to task for supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Egypt’s centrality to regional security has had many watching uneasily as a Muslim Brotherhood president has taken and consolidated power, avowing both his independence from U.S. regional strategy but also his interest in stability and his intention to respect the 1979 Camp David peace treaty with Israel. The embassy attack marks a serious test of Morsi’s ability to keep his political balance amid the competing pressures of staying onside with Western allies at the same time as fending off the challenge from radical salafists that have emerged as an increasingly important player on the Egyptian political spectrum, largely at the expense of the Brotherhood.

“If [Morsi] does not make a direct, firm statement condemning the violence and accompany that with stepped up security measures, it will cast a dark cloud over US-Egyptian relations,” says Robert Springborg, an Egypt specialist at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

Obama and Clinton’s silence on Egypt represents a responsible measured response, says Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The danger here is [that] a rush to judgment on the part of the U.S. could be in its own way as damaging as a rush to judgment over a movie where people relied on Egyptian TV excerpts and rumors and reacted,” Cordesman said. “We do not face an Islamic war on the U.S. What we do face is the spillover of the internal struggle for Islam. It’s one that’s going to go on for a long time and whatever we do weneed to have policies that address the situation that have long term cost benefits, and not trying simply to find someone to punish whether they’re guilty or not.” The danger, now, is that if mishandled by either side, the crisis provoked by the embassy attack could dramatically weaken or destroy the four-decade alliance between Egypt and the U.S. — which, of course, is exactly what the Salafists want.

MORE: The Anti-Muhammad Film at the Heart of Mideast Violence

53 comments
theaznecho
theaznecho

It's beyond senseless to borrow money to give it to the other countries. Even a caveman knows that.

Michael Redbourn
Michael Redbourn

The only thing that surprises me is that anybody is at all suprised by this.

Arabs understand strength and not crawling to them and they are not near to wanting democracy.

What's happenning has little to do with the film.

"Obama Didn’t Learn from Carter’s Mistakes

Obama had only to look at the Carter’s similar misunderstanding to see that his vision was totally wrong.

Carter screwed the Shah and brought Sayyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini to power and the world now has Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as his fellow lunatics to deal with.

Obama failed to support the Iranian uprising and then screwed Mubarak.And now we see similar if not worse results.

Results which were easily predictable by anybody that has the slightest understanding of the Middle East and Democracy.

And the present unrest shows that the Obama administration had no understanding of either".

The above is from an article at http://tinyurl.com/8jcwl3q

HawaiiRules
HawaiiRules

I had to laugh at:

"The danger, now, is that if mishandled by either side, the crisis provoked by the embassy attack could dramatically weaken or destroy the four-decade alliance between Egypt and the U.S."

We got one side making misstep after misstep, including the president saying Egypt isn't an ally, and trying to ignore reality by blaming the whole thing on a video almost nobody saw, and we have on the other side people that preach hatred against Americans and allowing our embassy to be attacked.  Yup, it's just going swimmingly.

cleo48
cleo48

Whatever else happens, Obama is finished.  Many First saw this coming the moment Mubarrak stepped down.  Either the money to these nations stops now, or it most certainly will after Nov.    Americans will not allow a man of this level of ineptitude to remain in office.

Cjones1
Cjones1

History shows that many revolutions, while including many factions, are soon dominated by those who gain control of the rules and constitutional committees. Former revolutionary allies are quickly disenfranchised and isolated. It happened in the French, Russian, Iranian, and now apparently in the Arab Spring upheaval. With Al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups willing to destroy whoever stands in the way , the old pattern presaged current events and only needed a Reichstag event.

So it becomes clear that the message we need to send is to ask whether the populations of the Arab Spring nations will feed on a bloody diet offered by the radicals or share in the bread of tolerance and democracy the United States has to offer.

So far our leaders have struggled and lost control of an outcome beneficial to all...and that doesn't even include the Israel/Iran or the Sunni/Shia train wrecks ahead.

MZ13
MZ13

What relations? If their govt allows US diplomats to be murdered, they should enjoy the same status and treatment as N. Korea.

Chabad West Valley
Chabad West Valley

"Israeli Real Estate Developer". ?!!???

 This is a proven LIE and Time magazine should correct this to reflect what is now known that the film was produced by a Coptic Christian of Egyptian extraction. Then again, perhaps Time is happy to libel the Jews once again. Yawn, what else is news in the world

FR2011
FR2011

Outrage was not Obama's first reaction- his administration's first reaction was to apologize for the first amendment. Why does this author lie about that?

eliking
eliking

What's next for our relations with Libya and Egypt is what's next for pretty much every issue this fall, which is that Mitt Romney is going to politicize them without offering anything of substance. You tell me what's in the news, and I'll tell you what Romney is blaming on Obama today.

viguy007
viguy007

The world is no longer a simple place where soldiers wore the uniform of a country. The enemy is now small groups of madmen who think they are "cosmic warriors", and their attacks are meant not to bring a military victory, but to provoke a political reaction. Under Obama, the war against al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists is comprised of operations by small detachments of special forces and drone operations. These have been extremely effective in that they have limited any political reaction by the general Islamic communities.

In 2005, a report to the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence by the National Security Research Division (NSRD) stated: 

"The rise of religious movements in the late 20th century with a proclivity toward violence and terrorism - predominantly Islamic extremism - has significantly changed the landscape of international politics. It has also shifted the focus in analyzing the international system from the power struggle of Cold War politics and its attendant conceptual toolbox to a reality that emphasizes culture, violence in the name of religion, identity, and nationalism.”

“The cosmic war concept refers to the metaphysical battle between the forces of Good and Evil that enlivens the religious imagination and compels violent action. Cosmic war has roots in the theology of most religions. In the three monotheistic religions, it is the Day of Judgment, the cosmic battle between Good and Evil, and the realization of God’s ultimate purpose for His creation.  Cosmic war ensues when this inner conflict between Good and Evil becomes manifest - physical, not metaphysical... It is more symbolic than pragmatic in intent and is performed in remarkably dramatic ways; its displays of violence find their moral justification in a religious imperative."

"States find themselves in a difficult position when confronting cosmic war. Tactically, the more states turn to military instruments, the more they run the risk of validating the theology of the cosmic warriors. In particular, the use of military force as a tool for combating cosmic war could be counterproductive; force could perpetuate the perception that a religious group is under attack and must fight for the preservation of the faith and its own existence. It validates the appeal of cosmic war... More generally, in dealing with a perceived clash between Islam and current U.S. foreign policy, an attempt ought to be made to blur the edges of that clash, not sharpen them."

This report was produced for the Bush administration in order to help it understand the continuing war in Iraq.

This new war is psychological rather then military. What to us may only be the exercising of free speech, is to the cosmic warrior a direct attack on them. President Obama clearly understands this, and just as clearly Mitt Romney does not. While the Obama administration tried to put out the fire, Mitt Romney chose, for political 

ClawhammerJake
ClawhammerJake

No government is responsible for what a small group of individual citizens does.  A government is responsible for their response to those actions.    If Libya and Egypt arrest and try the people who attacked us, that is one thing.    If all they do is talk, that is another.

What we should do now? We should send the embassy staffs of both countries back to their homes.    We should bring our embassy staffs back here.    We should stop all aid and assistance.    After it is clear where these countries stand, we can rethink the relationship then.

larrybudwiser
larrybudwiser

Morsi is going to lead a million idiot march against the US tomorrow, he's letting us know where he stands. They have met with the Irainian Mullahs and in their world, it's game on. Stop the flow of US grants NOW and shut off the flow of US food stocks. Screw 'em, they can't have it both ways, they can eat Irianian oil if they get hungry. Problem is, they know Obama's a fool and has no nuts.

Voting for Obama is like backing up the Titanic and making another run at the 'berg. It just ain't gonna get better the second time.

jmatt55
jmatt55

No, his first reaction was to apologize for the first amendment.

silver fox
silver fox

all hail the s.h.i.t.f.u.c.k obah bah bah ma

House Jay
House Jay

The attack and the murder of the US ambassador and diplomatic personnel can be laid directly at the feet of the President , the Sec of State and CIA. This was a massive intelligence failure, a failure to anticipate attacks on US embassies and consulates abroad on the anniv. of 9/11 and most important, the result of the President's short-term policy goals in Libya.

This act of war will have consequences, as it will embolden our enemies to conduct further attacks in the future.

The President learned nothing from 9/11. Americans will pay for it with their lives

INTJ
INTJ

It is difficult for some of us to see the benefit of a "measured response" to a country we directly helped liberate committing what is - by definition - an act of war against us.

INTJ
INTJ

Actually, Secretary Clinton, the question I keep asking is, why did we liberate these people in the first place?

Heterotic
Heterotic

Is there one semi-normal majority muslim country in the world?

thesafesurfer
thesafesurfer

I ask myself, why didn't the United States increase security at every single military and diplomatic outpost overseas for the anniversary of September 11, 2001? It is inexplicable to me that we did not. Why didn't our intelligence services understand the risks of the Youtube video agitating Islam? It seems that the US embassy in Cairo was aware of the video and how did they prepare for any associated risk? By apologizing to an Islamic community that murders and riots over cartoons and Youtube videos. The embassy didn't even bother to contact Washington if the administration is to be believed.  

Imagine media reaction to the death of an American ambassador, the burning of an American flag, the attacks on two diplomatic stations, and the raising of a terrorist flag over one if George W. Bush was President.

felhini
felhini

I call on the state department to cut relations with Libya and Egypt immediately. Also to stop all the aid and loans to the Egyptian Government, to teach the people a hard lesson,  so they will realize who put's the food on the table for them and their children.  The Islamists don't understand any language but force, So we should speak their language, and defeat them in their term.

felhini
felhini

The radical salafists  are mainly the fighters who returned from Afghanistan, and Guantanamo bay. Mubarak sent them to jail, but the Muslim brotherhood released them again.  The Salafists  are a branch of the Talaban, who are now replacing Al-Qaeda in the the Arab world. They both have the same goal, which the hate and the hostility towards  America.  Mubarak has done the right thing with the Islamists, after they attacked the tourists in Luxor and Cairo to destroy the tourism industry in Egypt, when he through them in Jail, despite the call of the American human rights to release them.  Tell America they are released, and the first thing they did, is to attack your Embassy.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Jay. It’s great to see other Libyans respond against the attack / in support of Amb. Stevens. Reasoned replies are needed here, not rants and rash behavior. Let’s hope for quick justice here.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

Sarah Murphy
Sarah Murphy

As frustrating as it can be to be an American citizen who is angry at the attack and not seeing things move faster, I actually appreciate that the government is collecting their facts before publicly reacting. Rushes to judgement and not collecting proper information is what led to the attacks in the first place, so it is nice to have someone in the White House who can me more calm and measured in their response. It doesn't matter if it takes a couple days for all the facts to be brought to light or stronger condemnations are to be made, really the only things we should concern ourselves with right now is how to keep all of our foreign officials safe and finding those responsible and bringing them to justice.

freelisa
freelisa

Update this article or pull it.  Stop continue to spread the proven false propaganda that an Isreali Jew made this film ..that has already been debunked and the claim, along with the film itself, is designed to spark riots.  Everyone else is correcting and updating their articles.

borisIII
borisIII

I met a couple of college educated people from developing countries that actually thought TV shows like desperate House wives was an accurate portrayal of the United States.  I think a lot of people from developing countries believe life in the United States is like Hollywood and it makes poor people mad, even though we have a lot more poor people living worse lives percentage wise than most developed countries.

prestalex
prestalex

Are there any American Muslims who are willing to stand up for their country of America?

I realize that it places them in a no-win situation where if they do stand up for American freedom of expression, they also appear to condone blasphemy against their religion, as seen in that hateful video. And if they remain silent - as they have every right to do, their deafening silence makes me wonder just how committed they really are to American values.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Americans tend to forget that it was more than a decade between the time we declared independence from England (1776), gained independence from England with the Treaty of Paris (1783), and unified as a nation under the Constitution (1788-1790). The Arab nations will take some time to finalize their status as well. The U.S. needs to be a good mentor during that process.

Heterotic
Heterotic

Umm, flush the relationships down the toilet, as those muslim countries are toilets already