Mideast Expert: It's Not Just About a Movie

Wednesday, 12 Sep 2012 08:20 PM

By Ernest Istook

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An anti-Muslim video was just a pretext for attacking American diplomats in Libya and Egypt. The underlying motive was to attack on the 9/11 anniversary and gain leverage over not-quite-as-radical Muslims in northern Africa.

That’s the conclusion expressed by Mideast expert James Phillips of The Heritage Foundation, in an interview on Wednesday on “Istook Live!” The daily talk radio show broadcasts from studios at The Heritage Foundation.

The organizers, according to Phillips, are the Salafists, who are “ultra-radical, much more radical than the Muslim Brotherhood.” They’re trying to outflank the Muslim Brotherhood, Phillips says, by using the anti-American soapbox

As Phillips told me, “It’s no coincidence that these attacks occurred on September 11. They claim to have been protesting a movie, but that movie has been online on YouTube since July. What’s made it an issue now is that it’s been highlighted by a radical Islamist preacher in Egypt.” Phillips says the cleric uses the movie to blame the U.S. government, even though it was made by private producers.

The key agitator, he says, is Sheikh Khaled Abdalla. Phillips described the sheikh, “He’s a controversial TV host on an Islamist TV network. He’s been harping on this since Sept. 8 because he wants to see much more harsh imposition of Sharia or Islamist law. In Libya, one of the groups suspected of launching the attack is called Ansar Sharia, which supports Sharia law.”

A New York Times’ blog indicates that the controversial video was broadcast on Sunday by host Sheikh Khaled Abdalla on the Egyptian television channel Al-Nas.

The blog indicated that blame for the video was aimed at Coptic Christians as well as at American pastor Terry Jones.

Says Phillips about Abdalla’s group, “Their objective is to turn Libya into an Islamist state in which they would be the leaders, trying to interpret the will of God.”

He believes the Egyptian and Libyan governments failed to provide security for American diplomats against the mobs because it would have made them look pro-American and thus weaken their ability to oppose the Salafists.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is no friend of the United States,” said Phillips. They seek “ultimately to turn the world into one global Islamist empire.” However, “Salafists are even more radical. They put the Muslim Brotherhood on the defensive so they would be reluctant to take any political risks to defend the U.S. embassy or U.S. interests.”

Phillips expects that the Islamists will now intensity their ongoing campaign against Egyptian Coptic Christians, using recent events as another excuse to go after them; he also expects the Salafist efforts will become a very big issue in Libyan politics.

He told Istook that the situation reminds him of 1979 in Iran, when hostages were taken at the U.S. embassy, as clerics wanted an anti-American soapbox to consolidate their power.

“Istook Live” broadcasts from The Heritage Foundation from 9 a.m. to noon (Eastern) every Monday through Friday. It can be heard from anywhere at www.istook.com. Host Ernest Istook served 14 years as a U.S. Congressman from Oklahoma. Read more reports from Ernest Istook — Click Here Now.

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