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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Wednesday, October 31.
Osama bin Laden is dead
Barry Rubin in A short guide to the Benghazi issue, writes:

Al-Qaeda, however, is a relatively weak organization, capable of staging only sporadic terror attacks, with the exception perhaps of remote Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan. It cannot take over whole countries. The fact that Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Turkey, and perhaps soon Syria are governed by Islamists is a far greater strategic threat.
Then why couldn’t the Obama administration have said that the consulate was attacked by evil al-Qaeda for no reason other than its lust to murder Americans, with the perfect symbolism of the attack having been staged on September 11?
There was a dual problem. First, the group involved was one the U.S. government had worked with during the Libyan civil war so it could not admit they were close to al-Qaeda. Second, the official line was that al-Qaeda had been defeated so it could not still be a threat. Therefore, an alternative narrative and a cover-up were needed.
How did the mainstream media report this?

The Washington Post reports After Benghazi attacks, Islamist extremists akin to al-Qaeda stir fear in eastern Libya:
Some Libyans say the extremist views are held much more broadly than just among the Islamist militias themselves, a fact they said the United States has failed to understand in the wake of the Benghazi attack. Not all of the extremists in Darna or elsewhere in Libya belong to a group, they said. But those who share al-Qaeda’s ideology are many, they said, and that creates ample opportunity for recruitment.
“It’s a way of thinking,” said Saad Belgassim, who used to work as a bureaucrat in Darna’s now defunct court system. “They kidnap people like they do in Afghanistan. They delude young people and send them off to bomb themselves.”
In some ways, the sway that Islamists hold here is not a surprise. Neglected, conservative and desperately poor under Gaddafi, Darna stood out for its fierce Islamist resistance to the old regime — and for sending more jihadists to Iraq during the U.S. occupation than any other place in Libya.
The article is descriptive of the extreme groups operating in Libya. There's no obvious agenda in the reporting. The same can't be said for a "news analsis" Al Qaeda-Inspired Groups, Minus Goal of Striking U.S. that recently appeared in the New York Times. 
The candidates offered profoundly different answers during their final debate last week, with President Obama repeating his triumphant narrative of drone attacks and dead terrorists, and Mitt Romney warning darkly about Islamists on the march in an increasingly hostile Middle East.
In a sense, both are true. The organization that planned the Sept. 11 attacks, based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is in shambles; dozens of its top leaders have been killed since Mr. Obama assumed office, and those who remain appear mostly inactive.
...
But there is an important distinction: most of the newer jihadist groups have local agendas, and very few aspire to strike directly at the United States as Osama bin Laden’s core network did. They may interfere with American interests around the world — as in Syria, where the presence of militant Islamists among the rebels fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad has inhibited American efforts to support the uprising. But that is a far cry from terrorist plots aimed at the United States itself.
The gist of this article is to support President Obama's view that he has successfully defeated Al Qaeda and made the world safer. Even if the last paragraph is true, does it mean that the jihadists won't target the United States when they've achieved their more immediate goals.

Later in the article there's this: 
Jihadists now control Mali’s vast north, as Mr. Romney mentioned more than once in the last debate, and have links to an older group officially affiliated with Al Qaeda that grew out of Algeria’s civil conflict in the 1990s. Although these groups are well armed and dangerous, some appear to be more criminal than ideological, focused on kidnapping and drug smuggling. Jihadists have also gained strength in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, just across the border from Israel.
At one point during the debate, Mr. Romney appeared to link these varied threats with the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt. To some terrorism analysts, this kind of talk is counterproductive, because it blurs crucial distinctions between potential allies who profess to believe in democracy and civic rights, like the Brotherhood, and more militant Islamists who view those principles as heresy.
“There is still a tendency to talk about the enemy in grand terms, linking them all together, because it makes you sound tough,” Mr. Fishman of the New America Foundation said. “In fact, it does the opposite, because it obscures differences that should be at the heart of our counterterrorism efforts.”
It wasn't enough to support President Obama's claim that he has Al Qaeda on the run. Here the reporter, Robert Worth, criticizes Mitt Romney's view, citing a friendly "expert."

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