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Published on Sep 12, 2012
The U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed and the U.S. embassy in Cairo came under attack in separate incidents apparently spurred by a video made in the United States that disparages Islam and the prophet Mohammad. Isobel Coleman, director of the CFR's Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, highlights three things to know about the attacks:
- Benghazi and Cairo are not Tehran: These attacks are "not analogous to the takeover of the embassy in Iran in 1979," Coleman argues. "In neither case have the governments aided and abetted the protestors in their actions."
- Civil war may erupt in Libya: Unlike the relatively peaceful protest in Egypt, the Libya attack "could be the first salvo in almost a civil war in that country," Coleman says. The attack by a highly armed jihadi group against Libyan and American forces "underscores the problem of maintaining control in a country that is awash in arms."
- More tensions over the video are likely: "This issue is not going to go away," Coleman cautions. The Libyan government's "lack of control over some significant parts of the population" will require increased security and attention for Libya's international partners. Meanwhile, in Cairo, heightened tensions between Muslims and Christians are likely to continue.