Big Break For Obama: Libya Arrests Four In Embassy Killings

The Libyan government has arrested four suspects in the 9/11 attack on the U.S. Embassy that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens, vindicating President Obama's declaration on Wednesday that the United States was not going to walk away from a newly liberated Libya because of a terrorist attack.

"Four men are in custody and we are interrogating them because they are suspected of helping instigate the events at the U.S. consulate," Wanis el-Sharef, eastern Libya's deputy interior minister, told Reuters, the first new service to report the arrests.

Other wires services, such as this CBS/AP report, also cast more light on the turbulent attack that unfolded late on Tuesday local time, describing a series of street protests that were inflitrated by orchestrated armed men in the late evening and early morning Wednesday that escalated and led to the deaths and burning of the building. The reports underscored that Libyan government security forces helped evacuate other Americans and kept looking for the men who were found dead.

The domestic political impact of the Libyan arrests in the U.S. presidential campaign cannot be understated--even though there is no confirmation that those arrested were responsible for the embassy attacks.

When looking back over the past 48 hours, President Obama repeatedly stated that the U.S. was committed to Libya's growth as a future democracy, would not disengage from the country, praised the U.S. diplomatic corps and said the perpertrators would be found and face justice. Mitt Romney, in contrast, sharply criticized the State Department's initial response to related protests in Egypt--even after learning of the deaths in Libya--and repeatedly accused Obama of coddling Arab extremists.

Even yesterday, some Republicans were distancing themselves from Romney's bellicose stance, saying it is well understood in American politics that both parties will put aside partisan differences in national emergencies or attacks on U.S. personnel abroad. By Thursday morning, the Romney campaign's surrogates were adopting a softer tone, seeking to walk back their candidates intemperate comments.

However the arrests by Libyan officials demonstrate that the Obama Administration has a firm grip on foreign policy--as the most ideological Republicans on Thursday were still accusing Obama of making excuses for America. Instead, the Administration took a measured but firm tone in public on Wednesday and a day later the Libyan government announced these initial arrests.  

While it remains to be seen what the arrested men will disclose to Libyan authorities--or if they in fact are the attackers--the American public certainly is watching how Obama and Romney have reacted in this crisis, and it is clear which candidate is more presidential.

AlterNet / By Steven Rosenfeld

Posted at September 13, 2012, 1:16pm

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