US embassies that would normally be open this Sunday - including those in Abu Dhabi, Baghdad, Cairo and Tel Aviv - will be closed that day because of unspecified security concerns, the US State Department said on Thursday... A quick search of the State Department website showed that these included several US missions in the Muslim world, including the embassies in Abu Dhabi, Baghdad and Cairo. CBS News said US embassies would also be closed in Bahrain, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Bangladesh... "The department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety" [said a State Dept spokesperson] [Reuters]Most, like the BBC's report up right now, make no mention of the words terror, terrorism or terrorist. The "threats" are unspecified. Over at CNN, they quote an un-named US official saying the threat is "credible and serious" and "directed at American targets overseas" and that it might not be confined to main diplomatic facilities.
CBS News expanded on its initial story about three hours ago.
An al Qaeda plot is linked to an announcement by the State Department that it was closing several consulates and embassies around the world on Sunday due to a security threat, CBS News has learned. CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that U.S. intelligence has picked up signs of an al Qaeda plot against American diplomatic posts in the Middle East and other Muslim countries. The intelligence does not mention a specific location, which is why all embassies that would normally be open on Sunday have been ordered to close. That includes embassies and consulates in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, where Sunday is the start of the work week. Martin further reported that officials say this appears to be a real plot in the making and not just the normal chatter among terrorists talking about attacks they'd like to carry out. But these same officials add they are missing key pieces of information... All U.S. citizen services appointments and visa appointments have been cancelled and have been rescheduled on an individual basis." [CBS News]How disturbed should we feel at the knowledge that this threat has been localized to, oh, the entire Middle East "and other Muslim countries"? How reassured should we be that the response is to lock the doors of the offices for a day?
We respect what the US is doing to actively neutralize the terrorists, but when the US president, speaking in May at the National Defense University in Washington ["President Obama Speaks on the U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy"] that "The core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat", how literally are we ordinary folk expected to understand him?
And when he said the US could not wage "a boundless global war on terror" but must face a new reality where threats come from regional jihadists and home-grown extremists, is shutting down US government offices for a day an example of facing?
President Obama also said
"Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organisations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end... That's what history advises. That's what our democracy demands."It would be nice to think this weekend's shut down means the other side in this war agrees it must end and is packing up. But since we're quite sure that's not what it means, let's hope the US will share with the rest of us, those who can't shut down our lives for a day, where the ongoing danger is and what it might mean for the rest of us.