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Where is Tunisia Heading?

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by Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah …

by Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
It's not clear what role Libya is playing in developments in Tunisia. Mu'ammar Qaddafi, a close friend of deposed Tunisian President Ben Ali, contended that the Ben Ali regime was preferred by the Tunisians.
The elected Tunisian prime minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, is himself a product of the Ben Ali system and his perspective is not assumed to differ from that of his predecessors. The composition of the interim Tunisian government demonstrates the direction the regime has chosen. The new faces in the government are all members of the legal opposition.
At this stage, Ghannouchi did not bring into his government any Islamists, whose flagship party, the Tunisian Islamic Party, al-Nahda (Renaissance), has been outlawed. The exiled leader of al-Nahda, Rached Ghannouchi (no relation), announced that he wanted to join the unity government. Rached Ghannouchi has visited Tehran in recent years on a regular basis. He also carries a Sudanese passport, provided to him by the authorities in Khartoum at Iran's request.
Iran has maintained a presence in the Tunisian arena for years. In 1987, documents found in the possession of an official of the Iranian Embassy arrested on the border between France and Switzerland testified to the ties that Iran maintains with Tunisian fundamentalists. As a result, Tunisia expelled Ahmad Kan'ani, the Iranian charge d'affaires in Tunis. That same year, a Tunisian named Lutfi, who had been recruited by Iran and underwent training there prior to joining a local network in Tunisia, unveiled to French police precise information regarding Iran's subversive activity in Tunisia.
Many Tunisians have joined the ranks of Islamic extremists in Algeria and Afghanistan, and trained in camps in Pakistan before they returned to North Africa or were dispatched to Europe. Since 2008 Tunisia has become a target for Islamic terrorists. WikiLeaks documents revealed that the Americans were particularly concerned that a group which penetrated from Algeria had managed to recruit over 30 local activists in less than six weeks.

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  • Most around the world figure this to be an Islamic incident. That is simply wrong. Yes the Islamic brotherhood wants complete control of the region, however that is simply one part of the plan.

    1) Its long been a plan of the global socialists that one world peace can be achieved through a global socialist government with borderless countries (Soros open society). The meetings which occurred in Greece in July of 2011 concerning the future of the Middle Eastern State, bear this out

    2) The muslim brotherhood have long been after their counter part the Sunni in order to gain control of the Middle East as a Shia Caliphate. Since the goal was a United Middle East, the Shia joined with the Socialists to achieve like goals, however the Shia still plan on Muslim theocracy.

    3) The real truth is bound in those who are behind this action and their purpose for being involved. Being simply the reserve currency for which most of the Middle Eastern oil transactions occur alone would make a country wealthy beyond its wildest dreams. However when you couple this with the additional role of refining oil and supping it to the EU and Asia, one starts to understand the vast potential these two prospects bring.

    Many around the world are ignoring the purpose behind the Middle Eastern uprising, laying blame simply on tyrannical government officials. This is simply incorrect. In order to force the USA out of the Middle East and replace the US dollar as the oil transaction currency, one would have to stir up discontent between the Middle East and the USA. So the question is who benefits from the USA being ousted from the Middle East? The answer lies in answering the question who has already secured oil refining contracts with Iraq? You will find that to be Russia.

    Yes Russia will benefit greatly once the Muslim Brotherhood controls all of the Middle East. Iraq and Iran will rise to power with their new partner Russia. All Middle Eastern oil will be refined in Russia and sold to the EU and Asia. Pipe lines already exist between Russia and the EU and one is being built between Russia and China. Second if all the oil contracts in the Middle East suddenly are the soul property of Russia via Iran (Persia) and Iraq (Media) then all of those transactions will undoubtedly take place in Russian Rubles and not US dollars. The wealth and power generated by this deal to Russia and its allies will be enormous as will be the power the Russia will posses over the EU and all Asia. The thought alone of this vast power and wealth being wielded by Russia and its allies Iraq and Iran is very frightening for both the State of Israel and the USA. Imagine what a very wealthy Iraq and Iran can do with vast material wealth at its disposal. Imagine what Russia can do if it controls all of the oil and natural gas being provided to the EU and Asia.
    And I am afraid it does not stop there. Russia has its eyes on Africa and all of its mineral wealth as well as the state of Alaska and its vast oil reserves. Once these countries become vastly wealthy from their control of Middle Eastern oil, the results for the State of Israel and the USA could be devastating, especially since the current US president is controlled by Russia

    I am aware that those students and young people in the Middle East are expecting freedom, however I am afraid that all they are going to experience is another dictatorship, one far more evil than any they have seen in history. The Middle East is in a state of Soviet induced subversion called 'crisis' if they do not wake up from now, they will become the subjects of the tyrannical Muslim Brotherhood which will have the full faith and backing of Russia. I can not imagine a more evil empire for these people to exist under than that.
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  • 1. No. 581 January-February 2011 Where Is Tunisia Heading? Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah  It’s not clear what role Libya is playing in developments in Tunisia. Mu’ammar Qaddafi, a close friend of deposed Tunisian President Ben Ali, contended that the Ben Ali regime was preferred by the Tunisians.  The elected Tunisian prime minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, is himself a product of the Ben Ali system and his perspective is not assumed to differ from that of his predecessors. The composition of the interim Tunisian government demonstrates the direction the regime has chosen. The new faces in the government are all members of the legal opposition.  At this stage, Ghannouchi did not bring into his government any Islamists, whose flagship party, the Tunisian Islamic Party, al-Nahda (Renaissance), has been outlawed. The exiled leader of al-Nahda, Rached Ghannouchi (no relation), announced that he wanted to join the unity government. Rached Ghannouchi has visited Tehran in recent years on a regular basis. He also carries a Sudanese passport, provided to him by the authorities in Khartoum at Iran’s request.  Iran has maintained a presence in the Tunisian arena for years. In 1987, documents found in the possession of an official of the Iranian Embassy arrested on the border between France and Switzerland testified to the ties that Iran maintains with Tunisian fundamentalists. As a result, Tunisia expelled Ahmad Kan’ani, the Iranian charge
  • 2. d’affaires in Tunis. That same year, a Tunisian named Lutfi, who had been recruited by Iran and underwent training there prior to joining a local network in Tunisia, unveiled to French police precise information regarding Iran’s subversive activity in Tunisia.  Many Tunisians have joined the ranks of Islamic extremists in Algeria and Afghanistan, and trained in camps in Pakistan before they returned to North Africa or were dispatched to Europe. Since 2008 Tunisia has become a target for Islamic terrorists. WikiLeaks documents revealed that the Americans were particularly concerned that a group which penetrated from Algeria had managed to recruit over 30 local activists in less than six weeks.Tunisia is currently in a transitional stage. Until the dust settles, various political forces willattempt to put down markers in the internal Tunisian arena. Many represent ideologicalcurrents that have been absent since Tunisia’s deposed president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, cameto power in 1987. A number of political forces have demonstrated that they are now on thepolitical map or that they intend to enter it as soon as circumstances will allow.The Forces Loyal to Ben AliThe forces loyal to Ben Ali are currently engaged in a rearguard action, attempting to sowdestruction, confusion, and fear among the masses. On January 16, Ali Seriati, the commanderof the Presidential Guard, was arrested together with Slim Chiboub, one of Ben Ali’s brothers-in-law, and accused of plotting a revolution. Ben Ali’s nephew, Imad Trabelsi, who commandedthe militias loyal to Ben Ali, was stabbed to death by one of his soldiers. That same day it wasreported that the Tunisian army had taken over the presidential palace where a few hundredBen Ali loyalists had fortified themselves. The army arrested about 1,700 militiamen, but a fewpockets of resistance remained throughout the country.1Many Ben Ali loyalists attempted to flee to Libya, where Mu’ammar Qaddafi, a close friend ofBen Ali, contended that the Ben Ali regime was preferred by the Tunisians. Qaddafi declaredthat Ben Ali remained the legal President of Tunisia, and that he was saddened by the fall of theBen Ali regime. Qaddafi contended that WikiLeaks documents that described the corruption ofthe ruling family, and reportedly contributed to inciting passions against Ben Ali, were intendedto “sow chaos” in Tunisia. Qaddafi wondered about the objective of the revolution: “What’s thepurpose of it? Didn’t he [Ben Ali] tell you that he would leave power in another three years? Bepatient for three years.” Finally, Qaddafi recommended to Tunisians to adopt the model of theLibyan regime “that constitutes the final objective of nations seeking democracy.”2One cannot rule out the possibility of active Libyan intervention in Tunisian affairs. Libya’ssubversive capacity was demonstrated in the past during the rule of Habib Bourguiba. Thissubversion did not manifest itself under the Ben Ali regime which did not constitute a threat toLibya. The Libyan Republic does not want on its western border a regime that is either too 2
  • 3. radical, too democratic, or too Islamist. Therefore, one cannot rule out the possibility of Libyaninvolvement in Tunisian affairs in an effort to stabilize the situation and primarily to ensure thatLibya’s neighbor will be tolerable and won’t cast a shadow on the internal Libyan arena. Itwould be a surprise if Ben Ali’s henchmen think they will find a Libyan haven for their continuedactivity.The Tunisian Political SystemThe Tunisian political system is confronting an extremely arduous task. Modern Tunisia, whichexperienced the extended rule of Habib Bourguiba and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, has neverknown democracy. Since independence, Tunisia has been managed by an authoritarian regimecamouflaged by an easy-going veneer. The transition to a multiparty and democratic regime is atotally different game. The elected prime minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, is himself aproduct of the Ben Ali system and it is difficult to assume that his perspective essentially differsfrom that of his predecessors. But reality dictates, first of all, patching the splits in the old rulingsystem and rallying around a formula that will produce relative tranquility until the presidentialelections take place, as prescribed by the constitution, in less than 60 days.A constitutional misstep that was previously committed, by declaring Prime MinisterGhannouchi the provisional president of Tunisia, was quickly remedied and the 77-year-oldFouad Mebazza (the president of the lower house of parliament) was sworn in as thetemporary President of Tunisia, a day after Ben Ali’s flight.3The leaders of the two opposition parties said the timetable set forth in the constitution wasunrealistic and called for holding presidential elections within 6 to 7 months under internationalsupervision. They want guarantees that the elections will be free, and want sufficient time toconduct an election campaign throughout the country, as the power of the rulingRassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique (RCD) weakens. Ahmad Ibrahim, the leader ofthe opposition el-Tajdid (Renewal) party, noted: “The main thing for us at the moment is to putan end to all this disorder. We are in agreement on a number of principles for the newgovernment” (i.e., not on all of them).The New Tunisian GovernmentThe composition of the Tunisian government announced on January 17 demonstrates thedirection the regime has chosen. Interestingly, the Ministry of Information has been abolished.Some of the ministers who served in the previous government remain in their posts, such asMinister of Industry and Technology Afif Chelbi, Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane, Minister ofthe Treasury Nouri Jouini, and, most importantly, Minister of Interior Ahmed Friaa and Ministerof Defense Ridha Grira. 3
  • 4. The new faces in the government are all figures who were members of the legal opposition:Minister of Regional Development Najib Chebbi, Minister of Health Mustafa Ben Jaafar,Minister of Education Ahmed Ibrahim, Minister of Justice Lazhar Kraoui, and Minister ofReforms Yadh Ben Achour. Ministerial posts were also given to three members of the GeneralUnion of Tunisian Workers (UGTT): Hassine Demassi, Abdjelliel Bedoui, and Anouar BenKaddour. However, a few hours after the new government was presented, the three UGTTrepresentatives resigned in protest over the inclusion of ministers that had served in theprevious government.Ghannouchi also appointed personages from outside parliament to his government, such asmovie personality Moufida Tletli, who received the Ministry of Culture, and Slim Emamou, awell-known blogger who was appointed Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports.Upon appointing the government, Ghannouchi announced that he intended to free all thepolitical prisoners (without specifying who he was talking about) and grant full freedom ofexpression in Tunisia. Likewise, he canceled the prohibition on the Tunisian League for HumanRights.At this stage, as expected, Ghannouchi did not bring any Islamists into his government, whoseflagship party, al-Nahda (Renaissance), has been outlawed. Al-Nahda spokesman Houcine Jazrideclared from France that the party will not present its own candidate for the Tunisianpresidency. Nonetheless, the Islamist party plans to take part in the parliamentary elections, forif not, “there will not be a transfer of power [to the new parliament] without al-Nahda.”Many other opposition elements were also left out of the new Tunisian government includingLe Congres pour la Republique, Parti Communiste des Ouvriers Tunisiens, and La LigueTunisienne pour les Droits de l’Homme.The leftist Munsef Marzouki said from his exile in Paris that we were dealing with a“masquerade” and announced his intention to contend for the presidency. Marzouki had triedhis luck against Ben Ali in 1994 and failed to raise the required number of signatures to presenthis candidacy.“The composition of the government is an outrage,” declared journalist Amira Yahyaoui,pointing to the appointment of six ministers from the previous government. True, new faceswere appointed, but no one from the outlawed opposition was added. Finally, she expressedher concern over the possibility that “someone will steal the Tunisians’ revolution,” hinting thatthe brief time before the next presidential elections could work to the detriment of newcontenders who did not belong to the governing apparatus.4It should come as no surprise that opposition bodies demand an extension of the time set forthe election of a new president. The longer the extension, the greater the prospects for acandidate who does not currently belong to the ruling establishment. Elections within 60 daysconfer a substantial advantage on the regime’s descendants. 4
  • 5. The Tunisian MilitaryOne cannot ignore the role of the Tunisian ground forces. Ben Ali saw to it that there would beno single commander for the Tunisian army on the model of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs ofStaff. Ben Ali, who himself was a graduate of the intelligence world, turned Tunisia into a stateruled by the police. He contented himself with appointing separate commanders for air, seaand land, with the ground forces comprising nearly 27,000 troops.It was precisely the ground forces that brought about Ben Ali’s downfall. On January 13, Ben Alidemanded that the commander of the ground forces, Rachid Ammar, fire live ammunition atthe demonstrators. Ammar refused and was summarily dismissed, but Ben Ali fled that verysame day to Saudi Arabia and Ammar was restored to his post and became a national hero. 5Since then, Ammar has been managing the campaign against the militias loyal to Ben Ali and istrying to impose order in the streets. Ammar is not known to have made political comments,nor are his ideological tendencies clear. One cannot rule out the possibility that he will beelected president or, if the disturbances persist, that he will try to take over the country inorder to restore order.The Islamic FactorA major question involves the domestic and external Islamic factors and their involvement inthe Tunisian government. Already on January 14, from his place of exile in London (since 1993),the leader of al-Nahda, Rached Ghannouchi, who is not related to the prime minister,announced that he wanted to join the unity government and voiced surprise that no one hadyet approached him. Rached Ghannouchi (born in 1941) studied philosophy in Damascus andthen at the Sorbonne in Paris, and heads the party that he established in 1981. Thousands of itsmembers were arrested in Tunisia during the 1990s. According to Amnesty International, nearly100 of its members sat in Tunisian prisons in 2006, and this was after the release of 54members that year. In November 2008, the last 21 al-Nahda prisoners in Tunisian jails werereleased. A few weeks later, Sadok Chourou, the de facto leader in Tunisia, was againimprisoned due to a newspaper interview, after having just been freed.Rached Ghannouchi was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in 1991 for his role inplanning an assassination attempt against President Ben Ali. Ghannouchi to this day proclaimshis innocence and that in reality this was a political show trial managed by the regime after hissuccess in the parliamentary elections of 1989 when he captured 17 percent of the vote.Ghannouchi has announced that he intends to return shortly to his homeland. After the primeminister announced that members of the opposition and political exiles would be allowed toreturn to Tunisia, he stated: “I am preparing myself, I am preparing my return,” adding that“the Tunisian intifada succeeded in toppling the dictatorship of President Ben Ali….The West, 5
  • 6. led by France, supported him because they viewed him as a barrier against Islam, as performedby his predecessor, Habib Bourguiba.”6Ghannouchi, who is well aware of the voices expressing reservations about his return, addedthat his party belonged to the Islamic-democratic current “that closely resembles” the conceptof the Turkish AKP party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.7 Nevertheless, one should remember thatGhannouchi has visited Tehran on a regular basis in recent years. He also carries a Sudanesepassport provided to him by the authorities in Khartoum at Iran’s request. During a conferencethat took place at a university in Algeria with visiting Iranian students, Ghannouchi declaredthat “efforts by Iranian youth provided inspiration to the Tunisian students in their oppositionto Habib Bourguiba.8In general, Iran itself maintains a presence in the Tunisian arena. In 1987, documents found inthe possession of an official of the Iranian Embassy arrested on the border between France andSwitzerland testified to the ties that Iran maintains with Tunisian fundamentalists. As a result,Tunisia expelled Ahmad Kan’ani, the Iranian charge d’affaires in Tunis. That same year, aTunisian named Lutfi, who had been recruited by Iran and underwent training there prior tojoining a local network in Tunisia, unveiled to French police precise information regarding Iran’ssubversive activity in Tunisia. In March 1992, the Tunisian intelligence services uncovered agroup that called itself “Islamic Jihad,” whose activities were supervised by a leader of thebanned al-Nahda party.A few months previously, Tunisian newspapers reported the arrest of 80 members of an Islamicmovement with ties to Iran who were expected to engage in subversive activity throughoutTunisia. During a visit by an Iranian parliamentary delegation to Tunisia at the beginning of1992, the Tunisians voiced complaints over Iranian support for fundamentalists throughout theMaghreb, and especially over Iran’s support for the party of Rached Ghannouchi.9There can be no doubt that the main enemy of the Tunisian establishment during the years thatBen Ali ruled was the extreme Islamic element, which was repressed cruelly and with an ironhand, though he did not manage to prevent its sporadic appearance over the years.Many Tunisians joined the ranks of the Islamic extremists in Algeria and Afghanistan, andtrained in camps in Pakistan before they returned to North Africa or were dispatched toEurope. The Tunisian Serhan Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet was reputed to be the coordinator of theterrorist attacks in Madrid on March 11, 2004. In Tunisia, a number of terror incidents wererecorded including the suicide attack by Nizar Nawar against the synagogue in Jerba on April 11,2002, that killed 21, the takeover attempt on a town in south Tunisia on January 3, 2007, thekidnapping of two Austrian tourists in southwest Tunisia at the beginning of 2008, and theirrelease for ransom in Mali.10Since 2008, Tunisia has become a target for Islamic terrorists. At the end of January a group ofSalafists-Jihadists threatened terror attacks against the “Crusaders.” Some communiqués by 6
  • 7. these organizations also singled out the regime of the “secular Ben Ali” and called for damagingthe Tunisian economy by attacking tourist venues.WikiLeaks documents revealed that the Americans closely monitored the regime’s activityagainst armed Islamic groups and against Islamic elements in general.11 The Americans did notlike the fact that the Ben Ali regime did not share information with them regarding certainorganizations or the activities that it launched against Islamic elements. They cited, as anexample, information about a group that arrived from Algeria that planned to attack theAmerican and British embassies at the start of 2007. The Americans estimated that theequipment at the disposal of the Tunisian authorities in their war against the border infiltratorswas poor and inefficient. They were particularly concerned about the porous Algerian borderand the alarming fact that a group which had penetrated from Algeria had managed to recruitover 30 local activists in less than six weeks. The Americans learned from the press that thegroup involved five Tunisian citizens and a Mauritanian who joined them.The Americans were also wary of an NGO called Da’wa al-Taligh, which has existed in Tunisiasince the early 1970s and is engaged primarily in disseminating Islam, fearing that it wouldserve as a recruitment base for extremist activists.In the end, American intelligence evaluators believed they had a lot to lose in Tunisia because“We have an interest in preventing al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – AQIM and otherextremist groups from putting down stakes there.”The Risks AheadIt is clear that the future political orientation of Tunisia is dependent on the army and securityforces standing alongside the secular regime. A hands-off attitude is tantamount to giving agreen light to Islamic groups led by al-Qaeda and Iran to take over Tunisia. This can take placegradually amidst integration into the existing political system or via violent measures. Asidefrom the army and security forces, there is no force in Tunisia that can physically oppose theactivists. The Western powers can help only a little, provided that the determination topreserve a “democratic” regime in the style of Arab countries is also shared by the new leadersof Tunisia. The same applies for Egypt, Algeria, and to a lesser degree, Morocco. * * * Notes1. www.JeuneAfrique.com,16/01/11; www.thetelegraph.co.uk, 16 January 2011.2. Mathew Weaver, “Muammar Gaddafi condemns Tunisia uprising,” Guardian.co.uk, 16 January 2011.3 .Borzou Daragahi, “Tunisia gets another president, its third in 24 hours,” Latimes.com, 16 January 2011; MarkTran, “Tunisian PM Ghannouchi prepares unity government to halt chaos,” Guardian.co.uk, 17 January 2011;“Tunisia seeks to form unity cabinet after Ben Ali fall,” BBC.co.uk 17 January 2011. 7
  • 8. 4. Frida Dahmani, “Premiere liste non-officielle pour un,” www.jeuneafrique.com; gouvernement en Tunisie, 16January 2011; ”Je crainsque les Tunisiens se fassentvolerleur revolution,” L’express.fr, 17 January 2011.5. Wapedia.mobi/fr/Rachid_Ammar.6. Fundamentalism in the Arab World, http:// Islamic-fundamentalism.info/ch 8, htm; “Rached Ghannouchiou leretour de l’Islamisme en Tunisie,” www.jeuneafrique.com, 15 January 2011.7. Jeune Afrique, 16 January 2011.8. Fundamentalism in the Arab World.9. Ibid.10. “Nouveau nid de l’Islam radical,” La Tunisie, www.narosnews.fr, 22 March 2008.11. Al-Akhbar, Tunis, no. 1287, 9 December 2010. * * *Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center forPublic Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and DeputyHead for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. This Jerusalem Viewpoints is available online at: http://www.jcpa.org Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaacov Amidror, ICA Chairman; Alan Baker, ICA Director; Mark Ami -El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2- 561-9281, Fax. 972-2-561-9112, Email: jcpa@netvision.net.il. In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 7 Church Lane, Suite 9, Baltimore, MD 21208; Tel. 410-653-7779; Fax 410-653-8889. Website: www.jcpa.org. © Copyright. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The Institute for Contemporary Affairs (ICA) is dedicated to providing a forum for Israeli policy discussion and debate. To unsubscribe from the Jerusalem Viewpoints list, go to link: http://www.list-jcpa.org/mail-brief/forms/optoutform.asp 8