Where is Fathi al-Obeidi?
As we breeze into the second year of Obama-administration stonewalling on Benghazi, details surrounding the abject abandonment of American citizens under fire in that Libyan outpost remain scarcer than hen's teeth.
The developments in the story have trickled out, effectively distracting from the larger picture. Of the reported 37 Americans trapped inside the consulate and CIA annex buildings in Benghazi, congressional investigators to date have been permitted to speak to nary a one.
The CIA weakly maintains that "CIA employees are always free to speak to Congress if they want," yet sources familiar with CIA internal operations indicate that operatives in the know on Benghazi are being intimidated into silence through an unprecedented schedule of polygraph examinations, in some cases as often as monthly.
Clearly, if we are to understand what really happened in Benghazi, we will have to tap non-CIA/ State Department sources.
Perhaps the best available source is Fathi al-Obeidi, the head of the Libyan Special Forces militia unit tasked by the Libyan government with rescuing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens along with any other Americans in peril. Al-Obeidi, according to Sky News Arabia, later met the American security forces from Tripoli at the Benghazi airport and transported them to the stranded Americans at the CIA annex, where the "second phase" of the attack occurred.
Al-Obeidi was on hand for the entire second attack and functioned as the only eyes and ears on the ground for both the American government and the Libyans. Al-Obeidi was there when the first American was shot. Al-Obeidi personally helped pull him behind cover.
Fathi al-Obeidi was also there when a second member of the American Security force was blown off the roof of the safe house, later noting his surprise at the accuracy of the attacker's weapons (attackers whom he described as more than one hundred highly trained militiamen).
Al-Obeidi also witnessed a third American receive a gunshot wound, a man who eventually ended up at Walter Reed Military Hospital. Al-Obeidi mentioned this third wounded American the day following the attack, but that knowledge didn't become "exclusive breaking news" in America until ten months later.
Al-Obeidi was the first to report how many people were in the safe house when the attack began. He was told to bring transport for ten individuals, and according to contemporary news accounts (translation required), he instead encountered thirty-seven trapped Americans. Within four hours of the conclusion of that day's events, Al-Obeidi spoke to the media, even commenting on social media as to the importance of his role. Unfortunately, he has been silent ever since.
After nearly twelve months of handwringing by the Obama administration, formal charges were filed against the leader of the Benghazi contingent of the Ansar al-Sharia militia, an Iranian-financed group of Islamist mercenaries. According to the New York Times, the leader, Ahmed Abu Khattalah, has been charged with murder, though at this point the charges remain sealed and he remains a free man, walking the streets of Benghazi.
Journalists from around the world have found and interviewed Khattalah, who is making no effort to conceal himself, but our government thus far has seen no compelling reason to actually arrest the man allegedly responsible for leading the Benghazi attack. Given the circumstances, it is not unreasonable for the average American to suspect that the Obama administration has something to fear from the information Khattalah and Al-Obeidi might provide under oath.
Al-Obeidi shouldn't be difficult to find, either. Just a few weeks after the Benghazi attack, Al-Obeidi met with CIA operatives who reportedly recruited him to lead a new rapid reaction force to be trained by U.S. Special Forces as part of an $8-billion initiative to stand up a functioning security apparatus in Libya. I would imagine we have some idea as to where we send his paycheck.
While the lack of investigative zeal on the part of the Obama administration raises reasonable suspicions of a cover-up in progress, it doesn't explain why.
It has become clear that Ambassador Stevens was conducting "gun-running" operations through Benghazi to supply rebel fighters in Syria with modern advanced weaponry. While the details may remain in dispute, the fact of the operation is not.
After the raid on 9/11, weapons seized by the attacking Ansar Al-Sharia militia were rumored to have been transported to a Sudanese weapons factory, where they could be transferred to the control of Hezb'allah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese force that has entered the Syrian conflict on the side of the Assad regime. This weapons shipment is reported to have contained 400 surface-to-air missiles.
The presence of these particular missiles could explain the unprecedented cooperation given to Israel by the Saudis, who opened their airspace to facilitate the late October 2012 attack on that same Sudanese weapons factory.
Some have speculated that the reason for the administration's slow-walking of the Benghazi investigation is to hide the possibility that these 400 missiles are presently in the hands of al-Qaeda forces who are aligned with the rebel factions in Syria.
This theory fails on a few fronts, not the least of which concerns why militant groups would steal weapons that are already slated for shipment to them. Likewise, if the weapons were under the control of the rebel-aligned operatives of al-Qaeda, then what motivation would the Saudis have for assisting Israel in destroying weapons that are already in the hands of those who serve Saudi interests against the Assad regime?
It appears to be more plausible that the entire Benghazi/Syrian arms operation had been compromised by Russian intelligence, and the 9/11 attack was mounted to intercept the weapons intended for the rebels, and redirect them to either the Assad regime itself or to Hamas in Gaza for use against Israel should the conflict widen. This would serve Russian interests by once and for all halting the massive arms shipments funneled through Benghazi to Turkey, and from there to the Syrian rebels.
Clearly, in the eyes of the Russians, the Benghazi gun-running represented an unacceptable intervention by the Americans in the Syrian civil war. Russian President Vladimir Putin had repeatedly warned Obama not to meddle in the Syrian conflict. It was widely discussed among the attendees of the G20 summit that Putin feared that the fall of the Assad regime would result in yet another unstable Islamist government, as had already resulted from the other "Arab Spring" revolts.
In fact, the case can be made that only the Russians would've had the intelligence capabilities to sniff out the specifics of the Benghazi operation with sufficient specificity to interdict the operation and seize the weapons in transit.
Ansar Al-Sharia has no such intelligence capability, nor do the Libyan militias in the area, or even Hezb'allah. However, the Iranian-backed militias could function as proxy forces in service of Russian aims.
Could the Turkish ambassador's September 11 visit to the Benghazi mission have been to warn Ambassador Stevens that the Russians were fully aware of his operation?
Ambassador Stevens met with several people during his time in Benghazi. It is possible that one of them was senior Lebanese security official Major General Wissam al-Hassan, who was absent from Lebanon at the time, with no official record of his whereabouts on and around September 11, 2012.
Al-Hassan, no friend of Syria or Hezb'allah, headed up the investigation into Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri's assassination that laid the blame at Bashar al-Assad's feet.
With Hezb'allah fighting on the side of Assad, his victory would certainly represent a threat to Lebanese stability, providing Syria with outsized influence in a nation whose leader they had already assassinated.
If Al-Hassan had discovered that the Russians were onto the Benghazi operation, recognition of the shift in power that would result would have been reason enough for him to add his own warning to that of the Turkish ambassador.
Little more than a month after Benghazi, Al-Hassan was assassinated in a bomb blast that was almost certainly detonated by Hezb'allah, at Syrian request. Perhaps this was his punishment for attempting to deny Hezb'allah and Assad their 400-missile prize.
As interesting as all this is, however, it doesn't explain why Obama abandoned American citizens to the ferocity of terrorist attackers when it has been shown that there were multiple assets that could've come to their aid.
Assume for a moment that the Benghazi raid was in fact, a Russian proxy operation. This circumstance alone would explain the reluctance of Obama, Panetta, and Hillary to engage the Russian-backed forces in defense of an illegal and compromised CIA operation. Under that scenario, it would appear that Obama made the decision to sacrifice the lives of as many as 37 Americans to avoid stoking conflict between the U.S. and Russia.
Perhaps the reluctance of the Obama administration to reveal any particulars regarding Benghazi stems from attempts not to hide their involvement in illegal weapons shipments, but rather to conceal yet another instance of Putin making Obama pay for incompetence and weakness on the world stage. Embarrassment is a powerful deterrent to disclosure, especially for a leader with more than a hint of narcissism.
Senator Lindsey Graham reported that the American public would finally hear from three survivors of the Benghazi attack who are slated to testify before Congress in a closed hearing. I wouldn't bet that Al-Obeidi will be among them.
Joe Herring writes from Omaha, Nebraska and welcomes visitors to his website at www.readmorejoe.com. Dr. Mark Christian is the executive director at the Global Faith Institute, a convert to Christianity, and a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood.