The Middle East Channel

In partisan row, officials claim diplomatic security requests for Libya were denied

Two former heads of U.S. diplomatic security in Libya said that requests for additional security were denied as a hearing over the September attack on the Benghazi consulate became political. Speaking in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Wednesday, former head of embassy security in Libya, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, said that diplomatic security remained weak in Benghazi and claimed that, "The RSO (regional security officer) struggled to obtain additional personnel there, but was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with." The RSO, Eric A. Nordstrom, said he was told in July during a phone call that a 16-member U.S. military unit based in Tripoli would not be extended, despite security concerns. The State Department's Patrick Kennedy, under secretary for management, countered the claims, asserting that fulfilling the security requests would not have changed the outcome of the September 11 attack which was perpetrated by "dozens of heavily armed men," and resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and three other diplomatic staff. The State Department's Charlene Lamb, who was responsible for handling the request for additional security personnel, said such measures wouldn't have helped as they would have been placed in Tripoli, rather than Benghazi. Weeks ahead of the U.S. presidential election, the hearing was dominated by partisan politics with the Republicans pushing to frame the attack as the fault of an irresponsible state department under the Obama administration. 

Syria

Turkey intercepted a passenger plane flying from Moscow to Damascus over suspicions it was carrying military equipment. Russian and Syrian officials accused Turkey of "air piracy" and claimed it endangered the passengers and crew on the plane which was comprised of 17 Russians. Conversely, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said there was "objectionable" cargo found on the plane that should have been reported. It is unclear whether any arms were discovered, but Turkish media said there were boxes of military communication equipment, according to unverified reports. After confiscating materials, Turkey allowed the flight to depart. Davutoglu has warned that Turkey will prevent any weapons transfer to Syria through its airspace. Tensions have recently increased between the neighbors over cross border attacks that spurred Turkish retaliation last week, as well as a Turkish plane that was shot down in June. Additionally, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters that last week Syria had stopped purchasing power from Turkey, which had supplied 20 percent of its electricity. Meanwhile, 70 people died across Syria on Wednesday according to the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Most of the casualties were in fighting in Idlib Province, including the strategic town of Maaret al-Numan along the highway linking Damascus to Aleppo.

Headlines  

  • Egypt acquitted 24 former Mubarak regime officials accused of organizing an attack on protesters in Cairo 2011. The incident is now known as the "Battle of the Camels."
  • A U.S. embassy security official, Qassem Aqlani, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, on Thursday.

Arguments and Analysis

Understanding Algeria's Northern Mali Policy' (Peter Tinti, Think Africa Press)

"The United States, having maintained for months that democratic elections should precede any military action, has warmed to the idea of an African-led military intervention so long as it is "well planned", "well resourced" and "has the support of all states in the region", including those who are not ECOWAS members.

The last caveat is particularly crucial as Mali's northern neighbour Algeria continues to call for a negotiated solution to the crisis. Aside from rejecting the idea of the creation of a new state, questions remain regarding the parameters of what Algeria considers an acceptable result in northern Mali. These questions are far from peripheral. Recent history and present imperatives suggest that Algeria will be active - either unilaterally or within an international framework - in shaping security outcomes in the region. As researcher Wolfram Lacher highlights, the challenge for the international community is to integrate Algeria into whatever mechanisms - political and military - that are used to put Mali back together."

Historic election is upon us' (Michael Freund, The Jerusalem Post)

"So just what, then, is there to get excited about? Should this election elicit little more than a collective yawn? Absolutely not! In fact, Israel is about to turn a new page, one that will be remembered as a political and national milestone for generations to come. Put simply, Netanyahu is about to make history by cementing the position of Israel's Right as the leading political force in the country.

Over the past four years, he shattered the myth that the Left is the only responsible clique capable of wielding the reins of power. By successfully navigating the global economic crisis and deftly handling an increasingly hostile world, the prime minister has brought a steadiness and maturity to the administration of the affairs of state that several of his predecessors were sadly lacking. Consequently, he has instilled the public with a sense of confidence in the ability of a decidedly right-wing coalition to manage our national affairs."

--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey  

AFP/Getty Images

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