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September 12th, 2012
10:48 AM ET

Power vacuum after Arab Spring leading to violence? Jamie Rubin on leadership issues and Islamic extremism

CNN is following the story of attacks on U.S. Embassies in Benghazi, Libya and Cairo, Egypt from all angles this morning. A rocket attack borne out of anti-American sentiment took the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other members of the U.S. Consulate in Libya. Protesters scaled the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tore up the American flag. The outrage is stemming from an amateur online film produced in America that’s offended millions of Muslims. Fmr. Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin joins Brooke Baldwin on “Starting Point” this morning to discuss the political implications of the attacks.

Baldwin mentions the issue discussed last year over who would fill the vacuum in countries of dictators ousted during the Arab Spring, either Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, or Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Those dictators had kept the radicals in their respective countries under control, “and now that they are gone, here they are,” Baldwin says about the radicals. “That was the argument that was given, and is still given to some degree, by some of the monarchies in the Persian Gulf, the Saudis, the Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates. They say, ‘Look if you didn’t have us, you would have either chaos, you would have Islamic extremism,’” Rubin says. “What we’re seeing is that some of the things that they worried about were true, but some are not true.”

Rubin points out Egypt’s democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood. “He has been relatively calm, relatively measured. He condemned the Iranian president recently.” Morsi has yet to speak out on last night’s protests in Cairo, however. “We’re waiting to see what he’s going to do about Egypt now,” Rubin says. “And I think that will be a big test of how he sees his country’s responsibilities to protect foreign embassies.”

“The place where the Mubarak and Gadhafi and the other dictators’ arguments were correct is they had a terribly effective secret police,” Rubin says. “There was a degree of control of these areas that allowed for some quote “security” that had its benefits, and we’re losing some of that.” Rubin says the situation in Libya is particularly tragic, because not enough has been done to help them develop “the institutions and the support to develop real security” after they won their freedom.

Baldwin finally asks Rubin about a possible post-al-Assad Syria in comparison to Libya and Egypt. Rubin says Syria is “even more difficult, because the ethnic tensions between the Sunni, Alawite and others are very, very strong in Syria,” he says. “The failure to stop this war early, and with each month that passes, that risk of real civil war in Syria, where you have neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, going on for many, many years may happen.” While there currently is a civil war, Rubin says it may reach the next level and resemble the decade-long war in Beirut, Lebanon. “And I think we’re all hoping that doesn’t happen in Syria.”

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