Friday, January 10, 2014

There can be only one

The Benghazi obsession is getting stranger. Here's Thomas Joscelyn with a long post for the Weekly Standard which is all about various Tunisian characters with connections to Al Qaeda and the Benghazi US Consulate attack and it's presented as vindication that there is some nefarious cover-up about what really happened at Benghazi. Yet the original focus of the right-wing critique of the New York Times end-of-year in-depth accounting of what happened at Benghazi was an Egyptian named Mohammed Jamal. Neither he or the alleged Egyptian connection is mentioned anywhere by Joscelyn. Another week, another bad guy.

Then there's this phrasing:

Today, according to multiple reports, Ben Hassine is likely in hiding in Libya. According to other unconfirmed press reports, Ben Hassine met with leaders of Ansar al Sharia Libya, AQIM, and Jabhat al Nusrah (an al Qaeda branch based in Syria), in September 2013. They allegedly met to discuss the pipeline of North Africa recruits being sent to Syria. While the details of this putative meeting have not been verified, there is strong reporting on the role the Ansar al Sharia in both Libya and Tunisia play in sending recruits off to Jabhat al Nusrah – that is, al Qaeda – in Syria. In any event, the Ansar al Sharia organizations’ role in the jihadist pipeline to Syria is an important point of operational similarity.

On the one hand, he's using a definition of Al Qaeda which is any group that subscribes to al-Qaeda genre ideology and engages in similar activities to other Al Qaeda type groups. On the other hand, what exactly is the status of Jabhat al-Nusrah (Al-Nusra Front) in Syria? A Reuters factbox explains --

This powerful rebel group is comprised of both Syrians and foreign militants and has been formally recognized by the central leadership of al Qaeda as its franchise in Syria.

So Al-Nusra Front is not "an Al Qaeda branch based on Syria." It's the Al Qaeda branch based in Syria. But for whole Benghazi narrative to hold water, the Weekly Standard needs it to be the case that a country can have all sorts of groups that can be labelled Al Qaeda.