Is the Libyan Attack on the US Consulate the Work of Al-Qaeda?

John Glaser, September 12, 2012

It seems there is a strong possibility that the attacks on the US consulate in Libya, which killed four Americans including the US Ambassador, had much less to do with a dirty anti-Islam movie than with al-Qaeda’s presence in that “recently liberated” country. Very few commentators are discussing this, but it seems this incident revisits the issue of what happens vis-a-vis al-Qaeda when the intervention-addicted US gets involved in transfers of power in the Middle East.

“In Libya,” CNN reports, “witnesses say members of a radical Islamist group [loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda] called Ansar al-Sharia protested near the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi” prior to the deaths of four Americans.

According to the British think-tank Quilliam, based on what they call “information obtained…from foreign sources and from within Benghazi,” the “assault against the US Consulate in Benghazi should not be seen as part of a protest against a low budget film which was insulting Islam,” but instead as an opportunistic attack “to avenge the death of Abu Yaya al-Libi, al-Qaeda’s second in command killed a few months ago.” Quilliam gives three reasons for this belief:

  • 24 hours before this attack, none other than the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a video on Jihadist forums to mark the anniversary of 9/11. In this video, Zawahiri acknowledged the death of his second in command Abu Yahya and urged Libyans to avenge his killing.
  • According to our sources, the attack was the work of roughly 20 militants, prepared for a military assault – it is rare that an RPG7 is present at a peaceful protest.
  • According to our sources, the attack against the Consulate had two waves. The first attack led to US officials being evacuated from the consulate by Libyan security forces, only for the second wave to be launched against US officials after they were kept in a secure location.

The best guess I have for why the Obama administration chose to intervene in Libya last year against the former US-ally Muammar Gadhafi is that Gadhafi was a dispensable ally, as opposed to other Middle Eastern dictators (like Khalifa, Saleh, and the Saudis) who are indispensable. As Michael Hastings reported, “[P]resident [Obama] apparently shared the impulse to use [my emphasis] Libya to make up for the administration’s slow-footed response to the Arab Spring.” Indeed, its perfectly believable that the Obama administration launched the war in Libya for “credibility” – a public relations stunt for the Arab world’s perception of America.

But the intervention soon proved hasty, despite a refusal on the part of the Obama administration to address serious concerns about an al-Qaeda presence among the rebel militias we were helping to bring to power. Even absent my admittedly speculative ideas about the nefarious intentions of the Obama administration, it is just plain foolish to think such an intervention would have been nice and clean. As The American Conservative‘s Daniel McCarthy writes:

Westerners across the political spectrum have been willfully naive not only about who some of the Arab Spring revolutionaries are — by no means a majority, but quite enough, are extremists of the sort the U.S. has elsewhere been fighting in the vaunted War on Terror — but about the nature of revolution in general, which does not come to a neat conclusion with the death of a monster like Gaddafi. After seeing what happened in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was deposed, everyone should know better. There’s nothing simple about the “transition to democracy.”

The case of Libya is merely one case in a field of many illustrating the Obama administration’s drastically counter-productive policies regarding al-Qaeda. The drone war consistently kills civilians and is daily embittering entire populations of Muslims in Pakistan and Yemen, increasing al-Qaeda recruits and laying the groundwork for more blowback. US policies in Syria come dangerously close to directly aiding al-Qaeda militias, which is due to be a far bigger mess than Libya by several orders of magnitude. Meanwhile, the American military is more present in the Middle East than ever and it is still full of US-backed dictators, and the US approach to Israel-Palestine has not changed and continues to rob the Palestinians out of their land and their livelihoods. All of these issues are reinforcing the same grievances that spawned al-Qaeda. Right now, it’s just one US Ambassador and three nameless Americans. But what comes next?

Update: MSNBC and CNN have all but confirmed that al-Qaeda at least in part organized the attack on the US consulate.




31 Responses to “Is the Libyan Attack on the US Consulate the Work of Al-Qaeda?”

  1. 'It seems there is a strong possibility that the attacks on the US consulate in Libya, which killed four Americans including the US Ambassador, had much less to do with a dirty anti-Islam movie than with al-Qaeda’s presence in that “recently liberated” country. Very few commentators are discussing this…'

    Very few commentators are discussing this because it's a stupid idea. Not at all surprising that it comes from the Quilliam 'think tank'.

    Not to defend the violent reactions, but any Muslim seeing this video, from a child to an old person, can't help but be thoroughly disgusted. That was the whole intent of the 'film'. We don't need your al-Qaeda boogeyman to tell us not to like it.

  2. You mean the work of Al CIAduh in order to justify a complete invasion and occupation?

  3. [...] the attack on the consulate might have been a coordinated assault opportunistically organized by elements of al-Qaeda and affiliated extremist groups to mark the anniversary of 9/11 and the recent death of a top [...]

  4. That Libya is full of oil is no secret and has been openly discussed on this very site, and no time was wasted in laying claim to it. That's motive for the original intervention, what is going on, whom how, what future policy will be, and what is being aimed at now, it is too soon to tell. Except that not a single politician or initial offical explanation should be entirely trusted as far as you can spit.

  5. “Not to defend the violent reactions, but any Muslim seeing this video, from a child to an old person, can’t help but be thoroughly disgusted. That was the whole intent of the ‘film’. We don’t need your al-Qaeda boogeyman to tell us not to like it.”

    I think you are missing the point. Commentators are (or were – I’m speaking to what John wrote, I can’t stand to watch any news shows) connecting this event with the film, but this firm, for one, has reason to believe it is unrelated to the film.

    Certainly, calling this film what it is doesn’t mean you support violence – I hate it when people draw those conclusions, it happens to me all the time, just because I challenge the narrative. From what I’ve read about the film, I don’t doubt it’s appalling. Most everything that pastor says and does is ignorant and appalling. But the point of John’s post is that the attack may not be about the film and if that’s the case, it’s important to correct the reports, not just for accuracy but so that people have an opportunity to see how our repeated and unwarranted excursions in the ME have consequences. And that’s not to say the film itself shouldn’t be exposed for the ignorant offense that it is.

  6. Why is Gadhafi a monster and not Obama or Cameron or Sarkozy or Hollande or Netanyahu?

  7. [...] Is the Libyan Attack on the US Consulate the Work of Al-Qaeda? (antiwar.com) [...]

  8. And these are the same sort of rats the State Department supports in Syria, no? How is it that we've spent trillions in treasure and thousands of lives, both broken and stolen, to supposedly chase these bastards and then support them on the battlefield? The very reasons for going after this group are all based on lies.

  9. It doesn't seem stupid to me. The timing is remarkably coincidental, a bit too, IMO. The rocket attack stuck out to me immediately. They just happen to have a rocket powerful enough to blow up a car, and it just happens to be set up and ready to go where the ambassador is going to be while making a SECURE getaway? A bit too fortuitous. That in no way undermines the reaction of the people. In fact, it seems quite possible that the people were provoked and exploited by offensive material for the purpose of this operation. It doesn't make their outrage any less valid just because they were deliberately provoked for this operation. Now it seems there's something "off" about the voices in the audio track and the whole film project is looking dubious. More on that forthcoming, no doubt.

  10. [...] the attack on the consulate might have been a coordinated assault opportunistically organized by elements of al-Qaeda and affiliated extremist groups to mark the anniversary of 9/11 and the recent death of a top [...]

  11. Well, whoever is behind the various parts of this, it's having the proper affect on the American right wing. Just a quick perusal of RW websites and Facebook comments from conservative friends/neighbors yields the usual: crazy muslims, go nuts over anything critical of muhommed, Obama left the embassy unguarded, Obama leading from behind, "see, this is why we have to be involved in the middle east," muslims get their feelings hurt and riot while Democrats coddle Islamists, yada yada yada.

  12. Suppose you are funding an anti Muslim hate video with no expectations of profit, but have enough money to hire a score of actors for many days of shoots. You hire a fall guy cut out, a coptic egyptian
    with a criminal background to organize some of the logistics, and the same, or another cut out now disappeared, pretends to be an Israeli to the AP and WSJ. You know you have protest elements through NGOs in both egypt and benghazzi who will add agit-prop to the films release, together with its discussion on egyptian tv, and its translation into arabic on youtube and twitted about. Once the Israeli complicity accusation falls through you have the ADL and weisenthal center describe the ap/wsj as anti semites promoting blood libel. And you have some Islamaphobe christian nuts to make noise about their participation in the film's production. Seems like a lot of work and budget for a couple lame protests and some stir about a badly made movie. Unless there is another agenda, namely the assaination of the us ambssador to bring AQ back online and to eliminate a political problem in benghazzi.

    All you need is a small kill team , interlocking fields of fire, on the ambssadors car as it leaves the embassey compound following the fire and protests, according to a pre known sop. The shooter light up the target and disperse out of country, once the mission is complete you have some AQ affiliate announce its responsibility for the attack.

    You have succeeded in eliminating suspicians of Israeli involvement by the duping of ap/wsj by the coptic egyptian hood patsy. And anyone who brings it up is guilty of blood liberl according to the rabbis at weisenthol center. Plus the primary benefit of putting AQ back in business with american lives lost.

    Question: what was the us ambassador up to that required his removal? obstruction of bp/sheell aramco in Libya? opposition to israeli onetary involvement in Libyan reconstruction ?

    US intel is following these leads but wont discuss Israeli false flags and espionage directed against the US in Libya and on its home turf.

  13. I can't even finish reading this STUPID ANALYSIS.

    There is NO ALQUEDA!

    The people who killed the Ambassador or is it Assador…..are the people the US of A put into power who are the fundamentalists, extremely conservative people who the US and A put into power in Iraq and everywhere else.

    This article is so STUPID. It encourages people to think there is an Al Queda.

    There are fundamentalists in every country including the US of A. Are the Evangelicals, the Koch brothers Al Queda?

    THe answer is…..they might as well be.

  14. stupidity, is that bearded fundamentalist muslims that did this, look at the phots and u see pissed off youth clean shaven, not middle aged conservative muslim babbits. And a bunch of youth dont bring RPGs to a film protest. Or suppose u right , how do rpg carrying muslims kill the us ambassador because of an israeli or coptic muslim hate flick. More likely its an organized kill team from outside libya opportunistically using the protests as cover, possibly coordinated with the initiation of the film protests. And since the ambassador was the envoy to the 'Al Qaeda ' elements (muslim mercenaries fighting for nato), one wonders who the ambssador pissed off to get on the kill list?? bp, shell, aramco, or was he just collateral damage from bibi to teach obama a lesson_

  15. Btw – I realized my earlier assumption that the film in question was linked to the pastor, Terry Jones(?), was wrong. Doesn’t affect what I was saying but still, it was incorrect.

  16. I have doubts. A mob attack is hard to explain and hard to respond to. It seems more convenient to create an explanation so the president has a way to respond – by bombing someone.

  17. Qui bono? – Who benefits?

    Certainly not Al Quaida. But Netanyahu does.

    “By Way Of Deception Thou Shalt Wage War!” – official Mossad-motto.

    I see a Mossad-orchestrated last-ditch attempt to whip up US-American anti-muslim-sentiments, in order to stem the tide of Obama winning the upcoming presidential elections – which, in case Obama wins a second term, would spell doom for all the Likudniks, Israel-firsters and Neocons in Washington.

    Once re-elected, Obama will throw out all the Neocon money-changers of Capitol Hill.

    Netanyahu knows this. He knows that his chances to have America attack Iran on his behalf will be nil then. And his frustration is driving him nuts, actually – that is, nuts enough to have his own Intelligence Service manufacture Islam-insulting films to stoke riots in muslim countries and, in case that’s not enough, even stage attacks on US-american installations and blame it on the Muslims.

    Mark my words.

  18. Quote: “Update: MSNBC and CNN have all but confirmed that al-Qaeda at least in part organized the attack on the US consulate.”

    And they know this WHY, exactly?

    Quoting today’s sorrow mainstream-media as reliable sources is HILARIOUS!

  19. It may or may not be AlQaida there are hundreds if not thousands of Islamic groupes or cells that have much of the same agenda as AlQaida .I know the majority of muslims are oppsed to this kind of violence , But they never seem to be able to stop it or even gain enough power to prevent the radical Jihadists from taking over Islamic society . In Egypt after morsi was elected I understand his supporter crucified a couple of the opposition . I assumed these may have been Coptic Christians .. This story was said to be false , and is not generaly reported in MSM . But the guy that reported the story said it is not false and it has happend in other Arab countries too after the Arab spring . He showed pictures of the dead victims still hanging on the crosses . So a muslim democracy may not really be all that it was sold to be . It is becomming easier for me to see why Saddam Hussien and the Shaw of Iran were sometimes so brutle as they govorend their countries . There simply is no other way to maintian contol .

  20. [...] of Yaya al-Libi rose up to essentially become one of bin Laden’s replacements.  According to John Glaser, al-Libi was al-Qaeda’s second in command.  al Libi was a Libyan freedom fighter was [...]

  21. [...] is claiming it is a poorly made video posted a year ago, the partisans are spinning it, even though something more convincing occurred within 24 hours of the [...]

  22. Not to defend the violent reactions, but any Muslim seeing this video, from a child to an old person, can't help but be thoroughly disgusted. That was the whole intent of the 'film'. We don't need your al-Qaeda boogeyman to tell us not to like it.

  23. [...] Is the Libyan Attack on the US Consulate the Work of Al-Qaeda? (antiwar.com) [...]

  24. Very few commentators are discussing this, but it seems this incident revisits the issue of what happens vis-a-vis al-Qaeda when the intervention-addicted US gets involved in transfers of power in the Middle East.

  25. [...] Tense situation in several middle eastern countries as people protest against the US; reasons for anti-US sentiment not as simple as they are portrayed; New Hampshire jury acquits Rastafarian [...]

  26. Qaeda’s presence in that “recently liberated” country. Very few commentators are discussing this, but it seems this incident revisits the issue of what happens vis-a-vis al-Qaeda when the intervention-addicted US gets involved in transfers of power in the Middle East.

  27. that did this, look at the phots and u see pissed off youth clean shaven, not middle aged conservative muslim babbits. And a bunch of youth dont bring RPGs to a film protest. Or suppose u right , how do rpg carrying muslims kill the us ambassador because of an israeli or coptic muslim hate flick. More likely its an organized kill team from outside libya opportunistic polo hackett

  28. Qaeda’s presence in that “recently liberated” country. Very few commentators are discussing this, but it seems this incident revisits the issue of what happens vis-a-vis al-Qaeda when the intervention-addicted US gets involved in transfers of power in the Middle East.
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  31. there must be something in the middle i think. something that we the public don`t have acces to.