Over the weekend, the Obama administration announced that at least 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa will remain closed this week, as increased chatter is sparking fears of an attack on American interests. Officials say that the intelligence for a possible attack is “similar to what American spy agencies picked up in the weeks before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001” but “have no clear information about where they should try to defend against them.” Britain, France and Germany have also responded to the intelligence by closing their embassies in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
While several Republican senators praised the administration’s pre-emptive measure, Fox News seized on the story to accuse President Obama of misleading voters about Al Qaeda during the 2012 presidential election and perpetuating a foreign policy that betrays weakness and invites terror groups to attack the United States:
— BILL KRISTOL (THE WEEKLY STANDARD): “A year ago the president said ‘Al Qaeda is on the run,’ and now we seem to be on the run. I‘m not criticizing the decision to close the embassies … but it’s a terrible thing that just a year ago boasting ‘Al Qaeda is on the run and Bin Laden is dead.'”
— STEVE DOOCY (FOX & FRIENDS CO-HOST): “Some of the critics of the president say, ‘look a statement like that, if you’re Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, you’re going, wait a minute we’re not on the run, we’re emboldened. We’re going to try something.’ And maybe that’s what’s going on right now.”
— FORMER SEN. JIM DeMINT: “Our attempt to placate parts of the world, the re-set whether it’s Russia or somewhere else are clearly not working and the perception of weakness in this administration is encouraging this kind of behavior.”
— PETER JOHNSON JR. (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): “Is this a creeping abdication of American exceptionalism?”
Sources within the administration suggest that the threat is possibly emanating from Yemen, specifically from the off-shoot of the core Al Qaeda group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The group may have originated the failed Christmas Day underwear bombing in 2009, the Cargo Planes bomb plot in October of 2010, and a foiled terror plot which the Associated Press reported in 2011.
The scope of the terror threat has clearly changed since the attacks on 9/11. As President Obama pointed out in May, “the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat,” but “the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates,” particularly from the Arabian Peninsula are still “the most active in plotting against our homeland.” “And while none of AQAP’s efforts approach the scale of 9/11, they have continued to plot acts of terror,” he said. The nation’s intelligence chiefs have echoed this assessment.
As for embassy closings, Fox News sees the practice as sign of weakness if ordered by Obama. Under President George W. Bush, the nation experienced attacks against 13 U.S. embassies and the administration repeatedly closed embassies in response to terror threats. On September 11, 2002, the U.S. closed nine embassies in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia “indefinitely” and shutdown embassies in Vietnam and Cambodia after uncovering “a plot by a radical Islamic organization.” In May of 2003, the United States temporarily closed its embassy in Saudi Arabia, following warnings of “imminent” terror threat. In June of 2003, the Defense Department “alerted all U.S. interests in Kenya to a terrorist threat, prompting the closure of the American Embassy in Nairobi.” In May of 2005, the government responded that on the basis of there being a terrorist threat, “the US embassy and the US consulates-general in Indonesia have been closed.”