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9 Aug, 2013

Chinese security expert: U.S. exaggerating “terrorism” threat

(People's Daily Online)

Beijing August 09, 2013 – The U.S. recently announced the closure of a number of its embassies in the Muslim world until the end of Ramadan, claiming that it faced “the most serious terrorist threats since September 11 attacks”.

It is standard procedure for the U.S. to issue occasional alerts to its overseas agencies. But the simultaneous closure of up to 22 embassies is an unprecedented move. The U.S. does face genuine terrorist threats in Middle East. But these threats may be exaggerated, said Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

The decision to close the embassies may be based on the fact that the U.S. intelligence agencies have detected indications of possible terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates as well as overseas citizens. But the scale and assessment of this threat are still uncertain, Li Wei pointed out.

Al-Qaeda and other terrorist forces are currently achieving a resurgence in West Asia and North Africa. Whether the threat they pose is sufficiently grave to justify the closure of the U.S. embassies remains to be seen, said Niu Xinchun, director of the Institute of West Asia and North Africa of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

Learning from the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi

According to Yin Gang, researcher in the Institute of West Asia and North Africa of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, the Obama administration is still reeling from the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, in which the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

The current state secretary Kerry has learned the lesson from Hillary Clinton’s experience – when intelligence indicates that U.S. embassies and consulates are at risk of attack, there must be an immediate, secure, and comprehensive response, said Yin Gang.

Yin Gang also pointed out that no one can say whether the U.S. is exaggerating the current level of threat, as no country can specify where its embassies might be attacked. Precautions are therefore necessary at a regional level.

Defusing the U.S. surveillance scandal

German media, however, have reported the possibility that the U.S. has closed so many embassies with the objective of defusing the ongoing surveillance scandal. Some experts have supported the view that the U.S. would take advantage of such an opportunity.

Since the September 11 attacks U.S. embassies and consulates have been under continued threat of attack. But the U.S. has never closed its overseas agencies on such a large scale. This time it appears that the U.S. is warning its own people, and demonstrating to European allies, that PRISM is a necessary response to such threats – “For your safety, you have to sacrifice your liberty.”

It is quite possible that there is some substance behind the German media speculation. Shifting the media focus from Edward Snowden and PRISM to terrorist attacks might help to ease domestic and international pressure on the U.S. government’s Internet monitoring activities, said Qin An, Head of the China Institute for Cyberspace Strategy.

Since September 11 the U.S. has collected intelligence by monitoring network communications with the purpose of preventing terrorist attacks. This new round of anti-terrorist measures is aimed at demonstrating to its people as well as to its allies that monitoring is an important part of its anti-terrorism strategy.

Edited and Translated by Yao Chun, People’s Daily Online

Read the Chinese version: 美国关闭多处使馆:过分恐慌还是借题发辉?, source: China Youth Daily