The Free Press, Mankato, MN


August 11, 2013

Embassy closings raise questions

WHY IT MATTERS: It's not a matter of showing weakness in strength but weakness in our allies to help protect our diplomatic missions

Heeding what it deemed to be serious threats involving al Qaeda, U.S. embassies and consulates were closed last week prompting criticism that we were appearing afraid.

Britain, France and others closed their embassies in Yemen, where al Qaeda is based. U.S. closures spread further to include Yemen, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as Madagascar, Rwanda and Sudan.

The New York Times reported the closures followed the interception of electronic communication between some of the “big guys” in al Qaeda that included specific timing for the attack.

And CNN reported that those threats, tied with the end of Ramadan and several major prison breaks in the region all lead to the U.S. decision to shut down the diplomatic missions.

Our allies in the Yemen government didn’t think it was a good idea saying it “serves the interests of extremists and undermines exceptional cooperation” between Yemen and international community fighting terrorists.

Rep. Ted Poe, R-TX, said the closure sends the wrong signal, proving that “terrorism works.” Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, reportedly said “Why do we allow a bunch of extremist thugs to close us down, rather than the reverse? For what purpose do we pay for the world’s best military and largest intelligence services if not to protect ourselves from this sort of threat?”

Former ambassador Ronald Neumann told NPR that the closures may be a reaction to the attack last year in Benghazi and the resulting controversy surrounding it. “Politicizing Benghazi in the feeding frenzy of the Congress has made this issue of security so sensitive that this and other administrations will continue to overreact and keep diplomats from actually making the judgments on the ground that they need to make,” said Neumann who now runs the American Academy of Diplomacy.

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