The Middle East Channel

While facing new questions, the U.S. is tracking Libya attackers

The United States is tracking the people responsible for the attack on the Benghazi consulate in Libya as the administration faces new questions about the compound’s security. U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice, but an F.B.I team sent to Libya to investigate has not been able ...

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WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 28: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a fundraiser event at the Capital Hilton Hotel September 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama will reportedly speak at three fundraisers after an afternoon of debate preparations. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

The United States is tracking the people responsible for the attack on the Benghazi consulate in Libya as the administration faces new questions about the compound’s security. U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice, but an F.B.I team sent to Libya to investigate has not been able to access the crime scene. Ahead of U.S. presidential elections, Republicans have requested that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clarify reports on the attack which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, and that she investigate whether requests from the consulate for increased security had been denied. Other questions that remain are what happened in the attack, whether it was a spontaneous or pre-planned assault, and who conducted the raid. However, it is also believed that Obama’s administration had intelligence that the attack was not a spontaneous protest but that organized militant groups were involved. At the same, however, the Libyan government has opposed unilateral military action by the United States against the attackers. Meanwhile, Libyan authorities are being criticized for the failure to go after the group believed to be the main force behind the assault, the militant group Ansar al-Sharia. U.S. intelligence officials are gathering information on members of Ansar al-Sharia as well as other militants with ties to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Syria

Up to five explosions killed around 31 to 40 people in central Aleppo Wednesday morning. Four of the bombings, within minutes of each other, occured near a military officers’ club and a hotel in Saadallah al-Jabari Square. According to state and pro-government media, three of those were suicide car bombings, but conflicting reports have been released. The fifth blast was reportedly nearby, close to the Chamber of Commerce, at the edge of the Old City. According to State TV, two or three "terrorists" appeared after the explosions in explosive-packed belts seemingly to carryout further attacks, but were shot dead before they could. Aleppo is now split with government forces primarily in the west and the opposition in the east. Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV and Lebanese newspaper al-Diyar, both pro-regime, reported that President Bashar al-Assad has traveled to Aleppo and will remain there to direct the military campaign after ordering up to 30,000 additional troops. These accounts have not been verified. Meanwhile, Hezbollah commander Ali Hussein Nassif (also known as Abu Abbas) and several fighters were killed in Syria on Tuesday, according to a Lebanese security official.  Hezbollah’s newspaper, al-Intiqad, said he was killed "while performing his jihadi duties," but where and when he died is unknown. While Hezbollah support for the Syrian regime remains strong, relations between the government and the Palestinian militant group Hamas are unraveling. On Monday, Syria’s state TV attacked Hamas leader Khaled Mashall, who pulled the organization’s headquarters out of Damascus earlier this year, saying he is ungrateful and traitorous and accused him of abandoning the resistance movement against Israel and the United States. The comments came after Mashaal decided to participate in a conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and is likely, in part, due to Mashaal’s settling in Qatar, an alleged funder of the opposition.

Headlines  

  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the first time acknowledged the impact of sanctions and blamed black market speculators as well for the 25 percent drop in Iran’s currency this week. Meanwhile he insisted the nuclear program will continue.
  • Protesters and police clashed in Bahrain after a funeral for a 23-year old man who died while imprisoned for participating in pro-democracy demonstrations.

Arguments and Analysis

The Politics of Security Sector Reform in Egypt‘ (Dan Brumberg and Hesham Sallam, United States Institute of Peace)

"In Egypt, security sector reform (SSR) hinges on achieving democratic reforms, particularly the reconstitution of an elected parliament and preparation of a new constitution that defines the roles and responsibilities of military and security institutions based on transparency, accountability, and respect for civilian authorities.

In this highly political process, arranging the disengagement of Egypt’s military from government and the economy will be essential. Democratically elected leaders will need to consult widely while keeping an open door to reformists in the security sector.

At the same time, the police and security establishments must be transformed into effective, accountable, and politically neutral law-enforcement bodies that deliver human security and protect human rights. Downsizing the security services to a number consonant with its professional mission is vital.

Egypt’s new president will play a central-although not exclusive-role in advancing the above aims. He will have to forge a wide societal consensus on the boundaries of SSR. He will also have to reach an accommodation with military leaders to ensure that SSR initiatives receive their support.

The responsibility for advancing SSR lies with Egypt’s political community. The international community can help by supporting elected officials and providing technical expertise and economic support."

IRI Poll: Employment, Economy Most Important Priorities For Tunisians‘ (International Republican Institute)

"Employment, economic development, and living standards were chosen most often as top priorities for the current government;

Sixty-seven percent of respondents believe Tunisia is moving in the wrong direction; and

Seventy-three percent of Tunisians support ratification through a national referendum, instead of the current process of ratification by the National Constituent Assembly."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

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