Why Did Al-Qaeda Target Ambassador Stevens?
So far, only the last bit is speculation.
But what if Turkish, Jordanian, Russian, or Israeli concerns about the appearance of MANPADS close to their borders made the administration decide that it had to exercise more control over weapons shipments to the Syrian rebels? What if the State Department told Ambassador Stevens to clamp down on the shipments or to stop them all together? If Stevens had told his militia allies that he was cutting back or cutting off the CIA-organized shipments to Syria, could they have been angry enough to kill him?
Al-Qaeda operatives knew of the ambassador’s presence in Benghazi -- either because they had operatives in Tripoli or because they had them in Benghazi. They knew where he was and they attacked after the Turkish ambassador left the compound. This raises the question of why Stevens and the Turkish ambassador were meeting in Benghazi at all, when both are stationed in Tripoli.
Another “what if” involves the administration response to the attack, both initially and when senior members -- including the secretary of State, the president’s press secretary, and the U.S. ambassador to the UN -- all insisted that the attack was the result of “the video.” Two full weeks later, President Obama pounded the lectern at the United Nations and denounced “the video.”
What if they needed for Ambassador Stevens’ death to be part of a larger event, unrelated to the specifics of arms, militias, al-Qaeda, and Syria?
Remember, we’re speculating here. But if the truth of an arms relationship came out, the administration would have been caught in a major falsehood right before the election -- that’s not speculation. Mrs. Clinton had flatly told CBS News in February that the U.S. would not arm Syrian rebels, specifically because of the potential for arming radicals with which the U.S. would not be associated:
What are we going to arm them with and against what? We're not going to bring tanks over the borders of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. … We know [al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri] is supporting the opposition in Syria. Are we supporting al-Qaeda in Syria?
It may still fall into the realm of speculation, but it seems we were, and if we were there would be a price to pay.
In what appears to be a related event, in early November Secretary Clinton withdrew U.S. support from the Syrian National Council and proposed a differently comprised coalition that would reduce the SNC’s influence. She said it was needed in part because:
We need an opposition that will be on record strongly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution. There are disturbing reports of extremists going into Syria and attempting to take over what has been a legitimate revolution against a repressive regime for their own purposes.
She didn’t mention their American interlocutors.
That appears to be the final backing-away from an American relationship with al-Qaeda-related militias in Libya that ultimately resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Stevens, former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Greg Doherty, and State Department computer specialist Sean Smith.