Skip to content

Death of Ambassador J Christopher Stevens, Arab Spring and the Iran Question

September 13, 2012

Many people realized in hindsight that it was 9/11 anniversary when the US Consulate in Benghazi was attacked by a furious mob armed with sophisticate weapons. The reason for their fury was a film on Prophet Muhammad made by an American Sam Bacile. This movie was on YouTube with Arabic subtitles and evidently there was some reference in Arabic which does not find mention in the original English version(1). It is reported that a Salafi TV channel telecast this film which resulted in widespread violence. Be as it may, Moslems around the world were furious. Angry mobs demonstrated in Libya and Egypt. Benghazi saw the worst violence when American consulate was attacked and torched. Ambassador J Christopher Stevens apparently died of suffocation along with three other consulate employees.

It appears that when angry mobs attacked the American consulate in Benghazi the security personnel there fired at them to scare them off. But the attackers were too many and had sophisticated weapons including rocket launchers. According to one report Ambassador Steven tried to exit in a car along with his employees but was hit by a shell. The exact circumstances

American consulate in flames in Benghazi. Courtesy: Spiegel

American consulate in flames in Benghazi. Courtesy: Spiegel

of the death of the Ambassador and his colleagues are still not clear and details will emerge in days to come.

Remarkably, Ambassador J Christopher Stevens was an old hand in Arab affairs and could speak Arabic and French fluently. He had been in Libya during the uprising and had been actively involved with it. The weapons that America and the West gave the rebels to fight Gadaffi loyalists were perhaps the ones that killed the Ambassador and his staff.

It is not as if this is an isolated incident. During the Danish cartoon controversy too Western embassies were targeted in Indonesia and other places. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while condoling Steven’s death wondered how it could ever happen that the people who the Americans supported reacted so viciously so as to kill American ambassador who was so much part of the anti-Gadaffi campaign. The truth of the matter is that howsoever much the West led by the US helps any one group or faction the underlying angst against the West in Islamic world remains.

The Arab Spring is being hailed as a huge achievement and the right course towards democracy and freedom but reality on the ground is quite different. Libya may have a government in Tripoli that is purportedly liberal but the militia that control the wider landscape is definitely not inclined towards freedom and democracy that the West so gleefully claims to have enshrined in Gadaffi’s Libya. The Salafi’s and the Wahhabi’s are in control in large parts of Libya and they are the extreme fringe of Islam. But they are not small in number as indicated by Hillary Clinton. By all measures they are in majority and use all means fair and foul to effect control of Libya. The Gadaffi tribe has moved out to Mali and radicalism of Libya is complete after the fall of dictator Muammar Gadaffi. Add to that the free flow of arms and ammunition that was supplied by the West not so long ago in truckloads and you have a situation that is a tinderbox ready to explode.

And explode it did on the fateful night of 11th of September, 2012 in Benghazi. The American consulate was reduced to cinders. The tragic death of the Ambassador and his staff saw the US president react in a predictable manner with a vow to bring the perpetrators to justice – if they can pinpoint the men or group that attacked the consulate.

What is true of Libya is largely true for Egypt too. The ‘benevolent’ Hosni Mubarak regime has given way to a Muslim Brotherhood led government of President Muhammad Morsi. While it is true that Morsi was democratically elected it is also true that the Brotherhood is not a liberal outfit. In fact the Brotherhood is alleged to have links with terror factions in Gaza and other parts of the Middle East.  The ouster of Morsi was strategically inevitable. The guy was not playing along and had to go.

The reaction to the controversial film on Prophet Muhammad in Cairo was also extreme. A crowd gathered outside the US embassy shouting slogans, climbed the walls, tore down the Stars and Stripes and unfurled a black al-Qaeda flag! This after a ‘revolution’ that had the unambiguous backing of the Americans!

The West needs to do a SWOT analysis keeping ears close to the ground to find as to how is it that the very regimes that they helped gain power and which purportedly had the mandate of the people find hard to generate pro-US sentiments. The Arab world and the Muslim world at large sees the US as its biggest enemy (2). Anti-American feelings even in Pakistan where the US has been pouring in billions of dollars are extremely negative. Compare that to how it was during the times of Mubarak and Gadaffi and even Saddam and the contrast could not be greater.

Western fixation with exporting their brand of democracy maybe a good idea but not one that is readily accepted in many parts of the world. The Muslim world especially finds it difficult to accept multi-party democracy as ultimate political aim. Best of Islamic scholars propound the rule of the Caliph. It is a Cailphate with a benevolent Caliph at its head that is the preferred political system in the Islamic scheme of things. To thrust down a multi-party democracy in an Islamic society is negating the very basis of Islamic way of life, even if with the best  of intentions. Mubarak, Saddam and even Gadaffi were ‘benevolent’ Caliphs and had been successful in controlling the fanatical elements with an iron fist. The fall of these Caliphs or Sultans or rulers or dictators as per western definition may seem a huge step forward but the ground reality is that in all these countries there is minor chaos. Iraq is still witnessing bombings and killings, their Sunnite Vice President is in hiding in the North. Nouri al-Maliki is the de facto dictator with majority of the portfolios under his direct control. Western accomplishment in Iraq is that they have replaced Saddam Hussein with Nouri al-Maliki and that is the sum and substance of Western achievement in this ancient land.

The question is – what do these developments say about the Arab Spring? The civil war in Syria has seen large scale displacement of people to nearby Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. The widespread atrocities on these refugees are extensively being reported. Assad maybe heading an Alawite government with close links to Iran but it is also true that were the Assad regime to fall a Sunnite establishment will emerge. How that will impact the security of the region is for anyone to guess. Suffice to say that according to many observers of the Arab politics ouster of Bashr al-Assad may not be the best news for the world in the long run. A more reasonable course would be to make sure Assad is isolated and does not meddle in the Iran question.

Here, it would be worthwhile to delve on who was behind the controversial film on Prophet Muhammad that has the Arab world seething. The one name that crops up is that of one Sam Bacile. The man in the eye of the storm was reported to be an Israeli-American. Later it was clarified that Sam Bacile was not Jewish and by all accounts this is not even his real name. Another name appeared linked to the film – Morris Sadek  – an Egyptian American from the anti-Islamic National American Coptic Assembly.  There are people from various nationalities who have been involved in the making of this controversial film, one reportedly even from Pakistan. But most are Evangelists.

It is increasingly getting clear that the Benghazi attacks were preplanned. If so there must be a particular sect or group behind the attacks. Who were these people and who instigated them? That there was some Jewish connection to the making of the controversial film Innocence of Muslims is being muttered in hushed tones. Could it be that the rage was manufactured to corner the Obama administration? The scaling of walls of the US embassy in Cairo was strikingly similar to the Tehran episode of 1979. The Jewish lobby is not too happy with the way Obama administration has been prevaricating on the Iran question giving no time-bound active assurance. The Benghazi, Cairo fracas could be a wake up call for the Obama administration and a way of making sure it takes a stand and shows some action. Be as it may, the developments in Libya and Egypt after a wretched film that few have seen and few will care to watch could be the acid test for the Obama administration. I can’t help but wonder if this upheaval in Libya and Egypt would have taken place at all, which resulted in the death of historically sixth American ambassador to die in line of duty(3), had Obama administration been more proactive on the Iran question.

Addendum: Associated Press has claimed to have solved the mystery of Sam Bacile, the man behind the controversial movie. It appears that the man’s name is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian with a criminal background, who lives in California and is 55 years old. The federal law enforcement agencies have backed the claims made by AP (4).

Meanwhile the protests have spread to other parts of the Middle East including Iraq, Yemen and Iran. Similar violent protests are expected in Afghanistan when people are informed about the movie after the Friday prayers tomorrow. In San’a crowds surged inside the US embassy compound and burned vehicles parked there. US Secretary of State has given a statement condemning unequivocally the film and denied the US government had any role in its making. The protests continue nevertheless.


1. On the trail of mystery Muhammad filmmaker By Alastair Leithead, BBC

2. Libya attack: Obama vows justice for killed US envoy : BBC

3. Stevens Was the Sixth U.S. Ambassador Killed in the Line of Duty. Who Were the Other Five? : Slate http://www.slatecom/blogs/the_slatest/2012/09/12/u_s_ambassadors_killed_in_line_of_duty_chris_steven_was_the_fifth_here_are_the_other_five_.html?wpisrc=newsletter_jcr:content

4. The AP Solves the Mystery of the Man Behind Innocence of Muslims: Slate

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2012 8:59 am

    Hi! Good stuff, please tell me when you finally post something like that!

  2. October 5, 2012 1:03 pm

    i wish to have some diamond necklace but they are quite expensive

  3. November 14, 2012 10:40 pm

    I always used to study article in news papers but now as I am a user of web thus from now I am using net for articles or reviews, thanks to web.

  4. December 5, 2012 2:00 pm

    I think this is one of the most vital information for me.

    And i am glad reading your article. But should remark on
    few general things, The site style is wonderful, the articles is really
    excellent : D. Good job, cheers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: