The Middle East Channel

Libya makes arrests over U.S. consulate attacks as protests spread

Libya makes arrests over U.S. consulate attacks as protests spread

The Libyan government has arrested four people suspected to be connected with Tuesday night’s attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The attack resulted in the death of four U.S. diplomats. U.S. and Libyan officials continue to search for others who might have been involved, and are  investigating the militant fundamentalist group Ansar al Sharia. New information has led U.S. officials to doubt initial assessments that the attack was planned in advance, but rather an opportunistic assault. Authorities released the names of the two people killed in addition to Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith. They are Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, both former Navy Seals. Meanwhile, four people were reported killed and an estimated 34 injured in clashes between protesters and police near the U.S. embassy in Yemen‘s capital Sanaa on Thursday. In Iran, protests outside the Swiss embassy, which handles U.S. interests,  lasted for about two hours and peacefully dispersed. Protests continued in Cairo where demonstrators clashed with Egyptian police, injuring 224 people between the U.S. embassy and Tahrir Square. U.S. President Barack Obama called for Egypt to honor its commitments to protect U.S. diplomats and facilities. Relations between the United States and Egypt have become increasingly tense, and Obama in an interview with Telemundo, "I don’t think that we would consider [Egypt] an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy." The United States has put embassies across the Arab world on high alert bracing for demonstrations expected after Friday prayers.


U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Damascus Thursday saying the conflict is worsening. He stated, "We came to Syria to consult with our Syrian brothers. There is a crisis in Syria, and I believe it is getting worse." Brahimi is set to meet with President Bashar al-Assad and opposition representatives on Friday. He is scheduled to meet with a delegation from the opposition National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC), a group of leftists, Kurds, and independent political activists. Meanwhile, heavy clashes were reported in the western and southern regions of Aleppo and outside Damascus. According to an activist, "There is a fresh campaign on the eastern parts of Damascus." Residents of the southern district of Tadamon said the opposition Free Syria Army (FSA) has pulled out of the neighborhood. One resident said, "Any house that had any link to the Free Syrian Army has been destroyed." And residents said the army threatened to destroy the remaining houses if the FSA is allowed to reenter. Increased sectarian violence is being reported between Shiite and Sunni communities, and the conflict is causing regional divisions along sectarian lines.


  • The United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency has passed a resolution rebuking Iran for its nuclear development program.
  • Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Friday amid regional unrest.
  • Turkish forces have reportedly killed 75 Kurdish militants in weeklong clashes along the Iraqi and Iranian borders in Hakkari province.

Arguments and Analysis 

The U.S.-Egypt Relationship Needs Therapy, Not a Divorce‘ (Nathan Brown, The New Republic)

"It’s important to note that Egypt’s domestic political process is actually surviving the rhetorical race to the gutter. A new constitution is being written; civilian control of the military is slowly evolving; and the new president has used his temporary dictatorial powers both sparingly and wisely.

But the country’s foreign relations may have suffered a blow with the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The attack itself that will cause problems for Egypt’s diplomacy; foreign audiences that learned to cheer for Egyptian crowds last year will now learn again to fear them. An even greater problem will be caused, however, by the slow and quirky official Egyptian reaction to the violence done by the demonstrators."

‘‘Our Condolences,’ the Muslim Brotherhood Says’ (Khairat el-Shater, New York Times letter to the editor)

"Despite our resentment of the continued appearance of productions like the anti-Muslim film that led to the current violence, we do not hold the American government or its citizens responsible for acts of the few that abuse the laws protecting freedom of expression.

In a new democratic Egypt, Egyptians earned the right to voice their anger over such issues, and they expect their government to uphold and protect their right to do so. However, they should do so peacefully and within the bounds of the law."

Manipulated Outrage and Misplaced Fury‘ (Husain Haqqani, The Wall Street Journal)

"The attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions this week-beginning in Egypt and Libya, and moving to Yemen and other Muslim countries-came under cover of riots against an obscure online video insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. But the mob violence and assaults should be seen for what they really are: an effort by Islamists to garner support and mobilize their base by exacerbating anti-Western sentiments.

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to calm Muslims Thursday by denouncing the video, she was unwittingly playing along with the ruse the radicals set up. The United States would have been better off focusing on the only outrage that was of legitimate interest to the American government: the lack of respect-shown by a complaisant Egyptian government and other Islamists-for U.S. diplomatic missions."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey