The Meaning of Benghazi for Israel and the Middle East

(Israel Hayom) Dore Gold - The attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, highlighted many unanticipated developments that were a direct outgrowth of Gaddafi's fall. Even before the attack, according to an October 2, 2012, report in the Washington Post, the White House held a series of secret meetings out of a growing concern that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was gaining strength after it took control of the northern parts of the African state of Mali where it created a new Afghan-like sanctuary. In the last year it has begun to spread its influence across the Sahara. AQIM's weaponry came from post-Gaddafi Libya, whose arsenal was boosting the arms trade from Morocco to Sinai. Israeli sources have noted that Libyan weapons, including shoulder-fired SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles, were reaching Gaza as well, where one was fired last week at an Israeli helicopter for the first time. While only a small number of AQIM combatants were involved in the Benghazi consulate attack, within hours U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted communications between members of Ansar al-Sharia, the main Libyan militia behind the operation, and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. When the Libyan revolution began in 2011, the flag of al-Qaeda was raised over the courthouse in Benghazi, indicating that elements identifying with al-Qaeda were present from the start. After the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound, the black flag of al-Qaeda was raised again. When the U.S. Army investigated where the foreign fighters in Iraq came from during 2007, they discovered that while the largest contingent were Saudis, Libyans were the second largest group. Most of the Libyans came from two towns in eastern Libya: Darnah and Benghazi. Bruce Reidel, who was one of the top Middle East analysts in the CIA and later served on President Clinton's National Security Council, wrote already on July 30, 2012, that what was happening in Libya and across the Middle East was nothing less than a comeback for al-Qaeda, which had created "its largest safe havens and operational bases in more than a decade across the Arab world." He called AQIM "the best armed al-Qaeda franchise in the world." Thus AQIM is on the rise. The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

2012-10-19 00:00:00

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