The US State Department’s travel alert and closure of more than 20 US embassies in Muslim countries are the result of a failure of US policy in the Arab world, and indicate how powerful Al-Qaeda has become there, author and historian Gerald Horne told RT.
Washington on Friday urged US travelers to take extra precautions due to the “continued potential for terrorist attacks” in the Middle East and North Africa. The alert, which warned of Al-Qaeda activity “possibly occurring and emanating from the Arabian Peninsula,” is applicable until at least August 31.
More than 20 US embassies and consulates have been temporarily closed in Muslim countries due to a “specific threat,” while the “increased threat” of Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks has prompted the UK and Germany to shut down their embassies in Yemen.
The global terror scares clearly show that the US policy in Middle East and North Africa has backfired, says Horne, who is Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston, Texas.
RT:With 21 embassies closing it doesn’t appear that the threat is that specific. What could we be talking about here?
Gerald Horne: Recall September 11, 2012, when the US Consulate in Benghazi, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens, were subjected to attack. Mr Stevens, as you recall, was killed. What this alert basically reflects is that US policy in that part of the world has backfired. For example, in Syria, the United States has encouraged, if not supported, a war against the Damascus-based regime of [President Bashar] Assad. This has involved a number of US nationals and European nationals going into Syria to fight with the so-called jihadists. This is giving a shot in the arm to Al-Qaeda backed forces, such as the al-Nusra Front in Syria, which is tied to Al-Qaeda in Iraq… In the last month [they] have been engaged in a spate of car bombings in Baghdad and the surrounding region. So it seems to me that the State Department alert reflects a failure of US policy.
RT:And this is indicative of how powerful Al-Qaeda has become?
GH: Absolutely. The rumors about Al-Qaeda’s death have been greatly exaggerated. It is not only the fact that you have the US collaborating with the so-called Islamists in 2011 to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. It is the fact that those Islamists then spread their tentacles into neighboring Algeria, where there was an attack on an energy installation a few months ago, and into neighboring Niger, where the so-called Islamists attacked a uranium facility leading to a number of deaths. And into neighboring Mali where they took over basically Northern Mali before being expelled by the French forces. All this is a direct outgrowth, and a direct result of a failed US policy.
RT:What are the consequences of these embassies being shut? Could they be closed for a longer period – beyond Sunday?
GH: It is unclear how long these embassies and consulates will be closed down. But August is the month when US nationals, generally speaking, take vacations – and many of them take vacations and tours in that part of the world. Now with US embassies and consulates basically shuttered, this means that if they encounter any difficulties abroad they will not be able to go to their taxpayer-supported embassies and consulates to get assistance.
RT:Apart from embassies, what else or who else could be a target?
GH: Well, I am afraid to say, there might even be attacks, let’s hope not on the US mainland. I recall when there was a similar alert a few years ago, you had armed guards with machine guns in the Los Angeles airport, for example, because they were expecting some kind of attack. Obviously there are all sorts of US corporate facilities in that region that could be subjected to attack. It is a very dangerous turn of events.
RT:Is this a sign that US intelligence is actually working?
GH: Well, we’ll know within days or weeks. I don’t think so. Despite the drones, and the National Security Agency which monitors the Internet and bugs telephone calls, it is still astonishing how much the US intelligence agencies do not know about those who are plotting against US interests.