Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Bradley Klapper / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
The U.S. has consistently outlined the important operations such money supports — from fighting al-Qaida in the heart of the Middle East and safeguarding the stability of the Suez Canal to halting weapons flow to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and ensuring Israel's security.
The protection of American diplomatic assets has been another major, if up to now, unspoken element in U.S. policy considerations, officials said.
The administration doesn't worry that cutting aid would spark an attack on U.S. interests by Egypt's military-led interim authorities. But it does fear that an army already besieged by internal disorder from the deadly standoff in Cairo's streets to the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel, could easily turn its cheek to threats against the United States while it is openly — and financially — expressing its opposition to Egyptian government policies.
Such a scenario would put Americans serving in an already dangerous environment in even greater peril, given Egypt's history of embassy breaches. Beside the U.S., demonstrators penetrated Israel's embassy in 2011 and damaged the facility before a late-night call from Obama spurred Egypt's military into restoring order.
Any attack targeting the U.S. overseas would be a political disaster for Obama, given the continued criticism over his administration's handling of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Congressional investigations continue almost a year later, and the United States has yet to bring a single perpetrator to justice — even if the Justice Department has filed sealed charges against several individuals for alleged involvement in the attack.
A repeat attack would be major blow to Obama as he tries to work with Congress on a domestic agenda including immigration, debt reduction and making his health care overhaul fully operational.
Benghazi has weighed so heavily on the administration's threat perception that it recently closed diplomatic posts across the Muslim world for a week after intelligence suggested an al-Qaida strike against Western targets. U.S. officials insisted they acted out of "an overabundance of caution."