NEW YORK - The White House is girding itself for an extended period of turmoil in Muslim countries that will test the security of American diplomatic missions and President Barack Obama’s ability to shape the forces of change in that part of the Arab world, The New York Times reported on Sunday.Although the tumult subsided on Saturday, senior administration officials said they had concluded that the sometimes violent protests in Muslim countries may occur like a sustained crisis with unpredictable diplomatic and political consequences. While pressing Arab leaders to calm down the unrest, Obama and his advisers are left to consider whether to scale back diplomatic activities in the region, the Times said in a dispatch. “The upheaval over an anti-Islam video has suddenly become Obama’s most serious foreign policy crisis of the election season, and a range of analysts say it presents questions about central tenets of his Middle East policy: Did he do enough during the Arab Spring to help the transition to democracy from autocracy? Has he drawn a hard enough line against Islamic extremists? Did his administration fail to address security concerns?.“These questions come at an inopportune time domestically as Obama enters the fall campaign with a small lead in polls. His policies escaped serious scrutiny in the initial days after the attack that killed four Americans in Libya last week, in part because of the furor over a statement by Mitt Romney accusing the President of sympathising with the attackers. “White House officials said they recognised that if not for Romney’s statement, they would have been the ones on the defensive.” the dispatch said.As of Saturday night, it pointed out, the worst of the crisis appeared to have passed, at least for now. The Egyptian government, responding to administration pressure, cracked down on protesters in Cairo on Saturday, and in Libya the government rounded up suspects in the violence that killed four Americans on Tuesday. Leaders in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia appealed for calm.“After Obama’s success in killing Osama bin Laden, in killing Gaddafi and in not blowing up Iraq, I think Obama and his aides figured, ‘We’ve got this box pretty well taken care of,’ ” Michael Rubin, a Middle East scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Bush administration official, said, referring to Gaddafi of Libya.“Now that gets thrown up into the air,” he said. “Instead of Obama being the successful guy that got Osama bin Laden, we’re talking about Obama as the second coming of Jimmy Carter, and that’s not something the campaign wants to see.”Obama came to office vowing to recalibrate America’s relationship with the Muslim world after the Iraq war and gave a high-profile speech in Cairo outlining a new era of fraternity. Caught off guard by cascading revolutions in the Middle East, he eventually supported rebels who overthrew Egypt’s longtime President and ordered airstrikes that helped bring down Colonel Gaddafi, who was later killed.“But his administration has struggled to find a balance between supporting democracy and guarding national interests in the region as authoritarian governments have been replaced by popular Islamist parties much less tied to Washington,” the Times said. “To the extent that the United States supports greater democracy, it may not defuse anti-American rage in a region with no real history of popular rule, and with deep economic troubles. His citing of Libya as a model of transition now looks suspect, and the United States has been powerless to stop a bloody crackdown in Syria,“ it added.But the White House is insisting that the deadly attack on US diplomats in Libya and violent protests targeting US facilities in Egypt and several other countries are entirely the result of an anti-Islamic video on YouTube.“This is a fairly volatile situation and it is in response not to United States policy, not to obviously the administration, not to the American people,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Friday.  “It is in response to a video, a film that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.  That in no way justifies any violent reaction to it, but this is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large or at US policy.  This is in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims.”Questioned at length about the causes of the anti-American violence, Carney insisted it was all about the movie.“The reason why there is unrest is because of the movie,” he said at one point.  “This is in response to the movie. ”At another moment, he said, “the cause of the unrest was a video.”But analysts said events in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere are not cooperating with Obama’s vision of the region.