Libyans worry about Benghazi attack’s role in the U.S. election


Libyan families at a supermarket in Tripoli. (Joseph Eid -- AFP/Getty Images)

TRIPOLI – The United States has enjoyed more popularity in Libya over the past year than it has in most other Arab countries because it played a critical role in supporting the country’s 2011 revolution. Overwhelmingly, Libyans said they were rooting for Obama on Tuesday. “We are very interested in how this election goes,” said Tarek Ali, a gold seller in Tripoli. “Personally, I love Obama.”

“If Obama stays in office, things here will be stable. But a new person could change the laws and bring new resolutions to pass — whatever it is, we don’t want it,” said Mohamed Bin Othman, the owner of a clothes store in Tripoli’s old city.

But many Libyans also said they have paid close attention to this U.S. election this week out of anxiety rather than preference, after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi drew promises of strong action from both American candidates.

“Libyans are really worried right now about their image in the United States, especially after the consulate attack,” said Nizar al-Mutajawal, an anchor at Libyan First TV. “The possible impact of the election is still ambiguous to people here. They don’t understand yet how this government versus a new government is going to deal with the Benghazi attack. People don’t want retaliation. They want understanding.”

Libyan officials expressed regret that events in Benghazi could impact the results of the U.S. election. But some also said that Tripoli’s post-revolution ties with Washington are strong enough to weather the vote, whoever wins.

“I think the relationship between the United States and other countries is a beneficial relationship based on common interests,” said Yusuf Mangoush, the Libyan military’s Chief-of-Staff. “And I don’t think there will be a big change [regardless of who wins] because we’re dealing with a democratic country of institutions, and not with the president himself.”

Abigail Hauslohner has been The Post’s Cairo bureau chief since 2012. She served previously as a Middle East correspondent for Time magazine and has been covering the Middle East since 2007.
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Max Fisher | November 6, 2012