All but one of the 19 U.S. diplomatic missions closed last week because of terrorist threats reopened Sunday, after days of debate about whether the Obama administration overreacted to "chatter" from al Qaeda leaders.
The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed because of threats from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, which closed Thursday, will remain shut because of a "separate credible threat" to that facility, she said.
"We will continue to evaluate the threats to Sanaa and Lahore and make subsequent decisions about the re-opening of those facilities based on that information," Ms. Psaki said Friday. "We will also continue to evaluate information about these and all of our posts and to take appropriate steps to best protect the safety of our personnel, American citizens traveling overseas and visitors to our facilities."
The closures drew criticism from some administration opponents and career diplomats. Observers suspected President Obama ordered the missions shut to avoid a possible repeat of last year's terrorist attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, where militants killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
One retired ambassador who dealt with an al Qaeda attack on a U.S. naval warship suspected that al Qaeda tricked the White House into overreacting.
Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, questioned why top al Qaeda operatives would discuss threats to U.S. diplomatic missions via phones, emails or other communications easily monitored by American spy agencies.
"Al Qaeda is better than this," Ms. Bodine said on a Boston public radio program last week.
She said the intercepts were "almost too easy" and were probably planted to deceive U.S. intelligence agencies: "The fact that this has been so brazen, so easy — what they have done in the past is they will do something like this, and it's a distraction."
Ms. Bodine was ambassador in Yemen when al Qaeda terrorists attacked the USS Cole on Oct. 12, 2000, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 others.
The diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa that reopened Sunday included embassies and consulates in Bahrain, Burundi, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.
TOUGH AT U.N.
Samantha Power, whom many conservatives suspect is an apologist for U.S. strength, is sounding like one of her critics, as she upbraids the U.N. for its Byzantine bureaucracy and confronts Cuba over the death of a human-rights activist.
Ms. Power used her first speech as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to poke the bloated U.N. establishment.
"Bureaucracies are built. Positions become entrenched," she told a Los Angeles conference on children's rights. "And while the United Nations has done tremendous good in the world, there are times when the organization has lost its way."
At a U.N. luncheon last week, Ms. Power pushed Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez for an investigation into the mysterious death of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, killed last year in a car wreck.
Her action impressed Mr. Paya's daughter, Rosa, who expressed her gratitude on Twitter.
"Thank you, Ambassador Power," she said. "The U.N. can help put an end to the impunity of the Cuban government."
• Kingsley Moghalu, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who addresses the Wilson Center on Thursday.
•Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at email@example.com or @EmbassyRow.
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