Tunisia: From Arab Spring to ISO String

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By Abdennour Toumi


Photo Courtesy Abdennour Toumi

Ankara, Turkey — The Bardo Museum massacre shocked Tunisians who thought they were safe from ISO dystopia. Years ago a dynamic change took place in the streets of Tunisia that launched a concerted struggle that is still taking place, whether in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt or Yemen.  But this change is obstructed by solid pockets of resistance fueled by regional power actors and agents deep within the state.

These agents, supported by the arrogant elite and scornful Western governments and media, are creating a nuanced judgement, so the outcome is made worse and contributes further to the political turmoil.

This can be seen in Libya, Egypt and Yemen, not to mention Syria and Iraq. For Libya and Egypt, two neighboring countries with different political cultures and systems, the level and intensity of chaos is about the same. Whereas in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, it has become clear that Iran is harvesting what the U.S. and pivotal Gulf countries sowed for their quarter-century of bad geo-political analysis and policies.

In this context it is difficult to determine whether Arab countries are actually capable of achieving a peaceful political transition to a semi-democratic state, especially given the latest political chaos on the ground. One had hoped Tunisia would become a model, given the short period of time since the revolts were sparked.

Tunisia, alas, is still a colonized department for the West, particularly France, like Puerto Rico for the U.S.  One recalls the statement of Madame Alliot Marie, then-Foreign Minister, who suggested the French “savoir-fer” during the 2010 riots — metal sticks and modern helmets — for the police to restore law and order.


Photo Courtesy Abdennour Toumi

On Sunday Tunisian President el-Badji Caïd Es-sebsi, in a live interview on Europe1iTélé-Journal le Monde, a weekly French political show (Le Grand Rendez-vous), after made it clear Tunisians stand together against terrorism. Further, their united effort will bring a halt to the strife and allow the transition to continue toward a successful form of democracy with the help of the former colonizer — on this stance, he implicitly asked the annulation of his country’s external public debt.

So far, the only hopeful developments of the Arab Spring have come from Tunisia, considering the circumstances of a country that has enjoyed only four years of freedom in which to re-shape its future following a half-century under one ruling party and rampant nepotism.

Meanwhile, Libya is in societal disorder; Egypt is suffering from relative political violence due to the polarization between Islamists and the military/so-called “liberals”, and the diabolizing campaign between the two main political antagonists.

Tunisia, however, is in a process of forging a stable, political structure and a working, economic system, a sort of social contract that offers an end to political assassinations and violence.

Such a civilized act could be extended to Libya and Egypt and lead to a peaceful, political transition for those countries as well. Unfortunately the Bardo massacre has sparked a renewed sense of fear and doubt. Yet Tunisians have shown courage to overcome the terrorist attacks. In spite of the political upheaval and ensuing turbulence, there is a valiant effort underway.

Symbolism in politics is like a pawn in a vicious game.

This goes for ISO as well who emerged strongly from the ongoing Arab “violence string.” Its militants want to knock out the Tunisian economy by punching it in the lungs, hence pushing for anarchy. But the real cause and effect of the Bardo attack remains the $64,000 question. The official aim was to keep el-Gadhafi’s forces from obliterating the revolutionaries in Ben Ghazi and the neighboring cities.

Certainly the ultimate objective was to overthrow el-Gadhafi and his clan. Yet the truth is, it simply resembles the Iraq case. The West’s pretext for war was to destroy Saddam’s WMD arsenal, introduce democracy to the region (MENA), and protect U.S. strategic interests, in this instance, oil.

That said, the Arabs “get” it: when oil is needed that much in the West, democracy and socio-economic reforms can wait. As a result Iraq today is in total anarchy, and ISO is destroying the country’s social structure web and heritage, including ancient art and museums.

Previously the narcissism of el-Gadhafi forced the point of intervention and took away the beauty of the jasmine scent that was blowing through Arab gardens. Ultimately this served to undermine the credibility of civilian movements in other countries.

Former President Sarkozy used this justification to escape from Marine Le Pen’s  shadow and virtually to “contain” the U.S. presence in North Africa. France lost Algeria and Tunisia, although Morocco is still under its thumb — so Libya appeared to be a perfect alibi.

Then, surprisingly, President Hollande put on the military uniform and acting as Commander-in-Chief ordered Operation “Serval” in 2013, an effort to establish law and order in Mali, a bombing mission against radical Islamists based throughout the Sahara.

Later he called for a mini-summit in Paris of Western and African-nation leaders to declare “war on Boko Haram” in Nigeria. Notice Nigeria is not a former French colony — France holds a peculiar position in sub-Saharan Africa, with strong political, diplomatic, economic and strategic ties with its allied African countries.

As the situation in north Nigeria, Mali, and Libya goes, so goes the Algerian Sahara. In the wake of turmoil in the sub-region, Algiers has been forced to become a major player in this asymmetric war, despite its denial to the Algerian street and the fuzzy picture given to the West regarding disorder in Mali and chaos in Libya.

In spite of Algier’s’ diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing antagonists in Mali and Libya under control for the sake of its national security, so that of Tunisia.

Although the premise of operations “Odyssey Dawn” and “Serval” remain a “humanitarian” objective, their outcomes transform these operations into an occupation, creating a chaos of which the Tunis-Bardo massacre is the result. Former President Sarkozy’s amateurish actions, President Hollande’s Sahel foreign policy adventurism, and President Obama’s careful prudence regarding foreign and defense policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, simply transplant a “Somalia”, create a “South-Sudan”, and transpose el-Qae’eda’s franchise-conversion ISO from the Sahel to the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

In that case, quite another so-called Western coalition, aligned with the passivity of the North African and sub-Saharan amnesiac regimes, has a solid excuse to protect its petroleum tankers from dawn to dusk, leaving Tunisia a cadelle of the Arab Spring and next in line for the ISO violence string. 

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Abdennour Toumi
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Abdennour Toumi

Abdennour Toumi:
- France correspondent for The Arab Daily News.
- www.bareed-areej.com Editor-in-Chief
رئيس تحرير مجلة بريد الأريج
- Political consultant at IMPR a Think-Tank based in Ankara, Turkey.
- Member at the European Observatory for Arabic Language Teaching based in Paris, France.
- Affiliated with Sociology of Islam Journal and contributor at Middle East Studies / International Studies, Sociology of Islam and Muslim Societies Center, Portland State University in Portland, OR.

EDUCATION: Diplôme des Études Approfondies (DEA) in Political Science from Toulouse University I, France. Master’s degree in Law from Algiers University, Algeria.

Email im at: nourhty@gmail.com
Abdennour Toumi
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