Libya — Revolution and Aftermath

Libya — Revolution and Aftermath

New York Times, 8 October 2012

U.S. Ambassador Killed in Violent Assault

On Sept. 11, 2012, heavily armed Islamist militants stormed and burned the American Consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi,killing the United States ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three others: Sean Smith, a Foreign Service officer, and Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, both former members of the Navy SEALs who helped protect diplomatic personnel.

It was the first time since 1979 that an American ambassador had died in a violent assault. The attack has raised questions about the radicalization of countries swept up in the Arab Spring.

The violence initially appeared to be part of riots that had broken out in Benghazi and Cairo that day in response to an American-made video promoting an anti-Muslim film called “Innocence of Muslims” that had been uploaded to YouTube. The amateurish 14-minute trailer mocked Islam’s founding prophet. For more about the video and the turmoil it incited, click here.

But, on Sept. 26, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clintonindicated for the first time that there was an explicit link between the Qaeda franchise in North Africa and the attack at the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

Libya’s president, Mohamed Magariaf, who met with Mrs. Clinton and other American officials on Sept. 24, also attributed the attack to what he called “Al Qaeda elements who are hiding in Libya,” citing the sophistication of the attack on the mission in Benghazi and the date, Sept. 11, the anniversary of the attacks in New York and near Washington in 2001.

Romney Criticizes Obama on Benghazi Attack

On Oct. 8, after weeks of refraining from dipping back into the sensitive topic of the attack that killed the American ambassador in Libya, the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney offered harsh criticism of the administration for being slow to label the assault terrorism and faulted its overall handling of the attack.

The assault on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi “cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long,’’ Mr. Romney said. “No, as the administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others.’’

In a wide-ranging foreign policy address meant to polish Mr. Romney’s image as a potential commander in chief, he belittled President Obama as “leading from behind” in conflict spots across the Middle East, from Syria to Iran to Egypt to Israel.

Mr. Romney declared that “hope is not a strategy” for dealing with the rise of Islamist governments in the Middle East or an Iran racing toward the capability to build a nuclear weapon, according to excerpts released by his campaign.

Parliament Dismisses Prime Minister

Also in October, the Libyan Parliament voted to dismiss Mustafa Abu Shagour, the prime minister it chose less than four weeks ago, deepening a leadership crisis at a moment when the country’s transitional authorities are under intense pressure to catch the killers of Ambassador Stevens, and to stop the prevailing lawlessness that led to his death.

With the dismissal of the prime minister, Libya now effectively lacks ministers of defense and interior, the officials most responsible for apprehending the attackers and reining in the local militias that control the streets. Former interim ministers still hold those titles, but they were written off months ago as hopelessly weak, and their subordinates describe them as all but absent; Mr. Abu Shagour’s efforts to win approval for a new cabinet failed.