U.S. Orders Non-Essential Staff Removed from Sudan, Tunisia
"Given the security situation in Tunis and Khartoum, the state department has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel from both posts, and issued parallel travel warnings to American citizens," said spokeswoman for the state department, Victoria Nuland.
The situation, which began after an anti-Islam video went viral during the 11th anniversary of 9/11, triggered anti-western protests in the capitals of approximately 20 nations from northern Africa to southeast Asia.
The backlash from the video highlighted an intense anti-American sentiment in parts of the Middle East, which President Obama and Mitt Romney are now struggling to address.
Obama who led a ceremony on Friday to honor J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans who died in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, vowed to "stand fast" against the violence, Reuters reported.
"The United States will never retreat from the world," he said in his remarks.
Rhetoric aside though, the New York Times reported Sunday that the Obama administration has “struggled” these past four years to find a balance between supporting democracy and guarding national interests in the Middle East.
The Times reported that a range of analysts say the current situation presents questions about central tenets of Obama’s Middle East policy:
“To the extent that the United States supports greater democracy, it may not defuse anti-American rage in a region with no real history of popular rule, and with deep economic troubles. His citing of Libya as a model of transition now looks suspect, and the United States has been powerless to stop a bloody crackdown in Syria. “
However, Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington said the protests in Cairo are unlikely to hurt Obama’s re-election prospects so long as they are controlled, Bloomberg reported.
“Now, obviously, if things deteriorate, that can change,” Mann said. “Then it sort of gets a little trickier and it depends how the president handles it.”
On the other hand, Mitt Romney who is currently four points behind Obama in the latest presidential poll conducted by Gallop and is perceived to have a disadvantage to Obama when debating foreign policy, has sought to use the attacks in Egypt and Libya to show how he would handle U.S. foreign policy if elected.
A top Romney policy adviser broke down the difference between Romney's foreign policy to that of Obama's in a recent Washington Post article.
“There are things that we can do in terms of what we say, the constancy of what our vision is — pluralism, respect for law, human dignity — these are things that you don’t hear from the administration, and the people in the region want to hear that,” Romney said.
The Post reported Romney’s campaign hopes to force a broader debate about America’s role in the world and to argue that while Obama has been successful in fighting terrorism, his foreign policies have resulted in waning U.S. influence abroad.
During a campaign stop in northern Virginia, Romney kept that strong rhetoric, saying that the U.S. is at the “mercy of events” in the Middle East instead of shaping them, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
“The world needs American leadership,” he said. “The Middle East needs American leadership.”
Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of the Middle East here.
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