The Obama administration was wrong when first it said that what happened in Cairo and Benghazi was a spontaneous gush of righteous Muslim indignation. After days of insisting that a snippet of YouTube trash was responsible — not U.S. policy and certainly not the U.S. government — and that Susan Rice had better intelligence than the president of Libya and Jay Carney had magic insights, the administration backtracked and called it terrorism. Mr. Carney now says it is “self-evident” that the attacks were terrorism.
Wrong twice; the attacks were acts of war against Americans on American soil. The distinction is important if we plan to protect ourselves and our interests.
Benghazi was well-planned and executed with weapons that require military training. The Washington Post had one of the best reports:
The attackers stormed the main building and set it on fire. One U.S. official described the militants striking the front of the building first, distracting security, while a second group struck then from the rear. Many people escaped and fled to an annex to the east.
About an hour after the assault began, American and Libyan forces retook control of the compound and brought everyone to the annex. Rescue teams headed their way.
Intelligence indicates the gunmen broke off into teams to block certain roads away from the compound, officials said. Whether that changed the route or otherwise influenced how the Americans moved through the streets remains unclear, but one U.S. official said the tactic was being looked at as an indication of battlefield strategy and sophistication.
As the Americans waited to be rescued from the annex, that building came under mortar fire. Mortars are short-range bombs that launch in high arcs. Aiming them can be a matter of trial and error. But U.S. officials said mortars were landing directly on the roof of the annex.
That, officials said, indicated an experienced fighter, a well-planned assault or both.
The Weekly Standard cited Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) on the House Intelligence Committee, agreeing with Sen. Carol Levin (D-MI): “This was not just a mob that got out of hand. Mobs don’t come in and attack, guns blazing. I think that there is a growing consensus it was preplanned,” said Smith. The Standard continued, “And according to CNN, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy “has said that the attack appeared to be planned because it was so extensive and because of the ‘proliferation’ of small and medium weapons at the scene.” Not only was the attack planned, it appears there was no protest at all. Citing eyewitnesses, CBS News reported late last week: “There was never an anti-American protest outside the consulate.”
It is possible that the instigator was al-Qaeda, taking revenge for the drone killing of Sheikh Abu Yahya, its second-in-command in Pakistan, or for the killing of Osama bin Laden, or perhaps for the inevitable administration “spike of the football.” Since we’re already out there killing as many al-Qaeda as we can find in as many countries as we wish, if it was al-Qaeda, the administration may believe that there is no additional action required.
But the attack also has the hallmarks of another of America’s enemies in the region: Iran.
Preferring to think of Iran as a problem with and for Israel, the Obama administration has studiously avoided acknowledging Iranian attacks on U.S. forces — and the attempted attack on U.S. soil. In 2011 Iranian plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in a Washington restaurant and attack the Israeli Embassy. The U.S. Embassy in Libya may have been an easier way for the Iranians to make their point. There are Iranians in Libya — eight Iranian workers disappeared in July — and the Iranians are the premier trainer of forces hostile to the United States. They armed and trained Iraqi militias, and IRGC units were inside the country. They armed and trained Afghan militias. The IRGC has been a presence in Lebanon for years with Hezb’allah. Iranians are presently in Syria shoring up Bashar al Assad’s forces, and, according to a recent Center for Strategic and International Security report, Iran is a mainstay of Syrian chemical capabilities. They are in this hemisphere in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
Both al-Qaeda and Iran require that the U.S. acknowledge that there are organized forces waging war on the United States, not conducting random acts of terrorism.
The U.S. Embassy seizure in Cairo should be seen in the context of war as well. The demonstration was called by Salafists to protest the imprisonment of Omar Abdul Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh,” convicted of the first World Trade Center bombing. DHS reported internet calls for demonstrations at the U.S. Embassy, claiming, “The time has come for a strong movement from you, O sons of Egypt, to release the detained sheikh[.] … Let your slogan be: No to the American Embassy in Egypt until our detained sheikh is released.”
The administration would be loath to discover that the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi is in league with Salafists, but Morsi did not object to the planned demonstration, did not beef up security, did not respond promptly to the riots, and waited 24 hours to make a statement — at which point, he wrote on his official Facebook page: “The presidency denounces in the strongest terms the attempt to insult the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) and condemns the people who produced this extreme action.” He did only a little better later.
Morsi’s hesitance stems in part from the Egyptian government’s alignment with the Salafist Gama’a al-Islamiyya, a group designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization, but which elected members to the Egyptian Parliament under the name of the Building and Development Party. Despite his terror-organization ties, Parliamentarian Hani Nour Eldin received a visa to the United States to discuss Egypt’s desire to have the Blind Sheikh released from prison; he made his request at the White House.
Morsi may not be a Salafist, and he may be controlling himself in anticipation of American largesse, but the Muslim Brotherhood considers itself no less at war with the West than they.
President Obama said, “The tide of war is receding.” Wrong yet again. The tide of war is advancing as the United States withdraws troops and influence. Across the Middle East, North Africa, and eastward to Pakistan and Afghanistan, multiple groups — Sunni and Shiite — are waging war against us, our allies, and our interests. They have separate and conflicting histories and yet find common cause. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” may not exactly apply; it’s more like “The enemy of my enemy is closer to me than my enemy, at least for now.” But in any event, the enemy is us.