Americans may think about U.S. embassies in terms of diplomats meeting with foreign officials and negotiating on items of U.S. national interest, but for most locals, the embassy and its attached consulate is just the place one needs to go to get a visa. Whereas most Europeans and some other nationals can get visa requirements waived, the process throughout the Middle East is onerous, involving interviews and background checks and can take weeks.
If locals attack the U.S. embassy, one response should be easy: Closing the consulates. There is no reason why U.S. diplomats should put themselves at risk for the convenience of nationals whose governments refuse to abide by their commitment to protect diplomats and diplomatic property. This does not by any means ban Egyptians, Yemenis, or Libyans from receiving American visas, but like their Iranian counterparts, it would force them to travel to a neighboring country—sometimes repeatedly—to undertake the visa application and interview process. Let Libyans travel to Tunis or Egyptians and Yemenis to Jeddah. If they can’t afford the trip, too bad.
Such a sanction is reversible. The State Department could return visa services to such countries after their governments prosecute those who violated the embassy and when host countries make restitution to the United States for the attack on its property. It should be a priority to identify those criminals involved in the riots and attacks. Those who attack the embassy—and their immediate families—should be banned in perpetuity from any U.S. visa, be it for medical reasons, education, or tourism. It is shameful that no such sanction, for example, exists for Iranians involved in the hostage crisis. Under no circumstance should U.S. consular officials risk their lives to convenience countries in which mobs violate American embassies and consulates.