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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.