U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken responsibility for security failures in the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans. In an interview with CNN on Monday, Clinton said that she is in charge of over 60,000 people working for the State Department across the world. The statement came as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have come under increasing criticism over the Benghazi attack by the Mitt Romney campaign coming into the November 6 presidential election. Republicans have questioned the handling of security prior to the attack, and have accused the Obama administration of shifting explanations afterward. Clinton said, "The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They're the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision." Her remarks came the day before the second presidential debate, during which Romney is likely to use the Benghazi attack against Obama's foreign policy. Earlier this week, the father of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in the attack, said it would be "abhorrent" for his son's death to be politicized.
The U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said he welcomes "ideas from all sides" as he appealed to Iran and Iraq for help in negotiating a Syrian ceasefire for the Eid al-Adha holiday. As tensions with its neighbor have recently escalated, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss the situation in Syria. Additionally, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Luxembourg with EU ministers. Russia has traditionally been an ally of Syria, and along with China, has repeatedly blocked U.N. Security Council resolutions against the government of Bashar al-Assad. British Foreign Minister William Hague said, "I can't say that we made any progress." Meanwhile, clashes continue in Aleppo. According to the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, government forces bombarded two opposition controlled districts in northeast Aleppo, al-Shaar and Karm al-Habal. Additionally, opposition fighters and Syrian troops clashed in Jdeideh, north of the ancient citadel. Syrian warplanes reportedly bombed several towns in the northwestern Idlib province. As violence progresses, the United States has expressed concern over weapons flows into Syria after the New York Times reported that arms sent through Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the Syrian opposition are going to jihadist groups. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the U.N. Security Council that Lebanon's militant group, Hezbollah, has been increasingly involved in the Syrian conflict and actively supporting the Assad regime.
Arguments and Analysis
‘Tentative Jihad: Syria's Fundamentalist Opposition' (International Crisis Group)
"Prematurely and exaggeratedly highlighted by the regime, belatedly and reluctantly acknowledged by the opposition, the presence of a powerful Salafi strand among Syria's rebels has become irrefutable. That is worrisome, but forms only part of a complex picture. To begin, not all Salafis are alike; the concept covers a gamut ranging from mainstream to extreme. Secondly, present-day Syria offers Salafis hospitable terrain - violence and sectarianism; disenchantment with the West, secular leaders and pragmatic Islamic figures; as well as access to Gulf Arab funding and jihadi military knowhow - but also adverse conditions, including a moderate Islamic tradition, pluralistic confessional make-up, and widespread fear of the kind of sectarian civil war that engulfed two neighbours. Thirdly, failure of the armed push this past summer caused a backlash against Salafi groups that grabbed headlines during the fighting."
‘Iraq suffers from its chaotic foreign policy' (Ranj Alaaldin, The Guardian)
"Iraq has no national foreign policy. For the past decade, a lack of unity among its ruling elite has failed to allow for a unified approach towards its international relations - one that could have protected the country from becoming a playground for outside powers, with disastrous consequences for its political and security stability.
The consequences are particularly telling today. The conflict in neighbouring Syria has placed Iraq in a pivotal position: sitting between Iran and Syria, but also bordering Turkey, it can either help bring the end of the Assad regime or complicate those efforts.
Since the withdrawal of US troops last year, Iraq has certainly become more assertive internationally under the leadership of its prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who has just purchased Russian arms worth $4.2bn, in defiance of the US and to the concern of the country's Kurds, who fear these weapons could one day be used against them."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
The Middle East Channel offers unique analysis and insights on this diverse and vital region of more than 400 million.