Tunisian crisis should be a wake-up call for America

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It all started in Tunisia.

In 2010, the spark of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ began from this North African country where the people protested corruption, poverty, and oppression. The unrest forced the former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country, inspiring other nations to rise against their own authoritarian governments.

By February of 2011, a wave of massive protests swept the region which presented a golden opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood to present itself as an alternative to these oppressive regimes.

Tunisia’s Islamist political party, the Ennahda, founded by Rached Ghannouchi, slowly but surely led the country into turmoil. Ghannouchi, who returned from exile in 2011, portrayed himself as the smartest and the most pragmatic Islamist leading figure in the new political environment.

Serving as speaker in the Tunisian Parliament, he failed to manage the country’s political, economic, social, and health crises, especially with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which claimed the lives of more than 18,000 people, according to the Tunisian Ministry of Health.

Following widespread protests in Tunisian cities against the misconducts of the Islamist Ennahda party, which holds the majority in Parliament, President Kais Saied decided to stand by his people, announcing strict but wise measures to save the country from the control of the corrupt Islamists who used religious slogans to cover up their crimes.

President Saied, a retired professor of constitutional law, invoked emergency powers based on the 80th article of Tunisia’s constitution. This included dismissing Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and other ministers, suspending parliament for 30 days, and stripping the lawmakers of the parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

July 25, 2021 will be remembered as historic date in which the political Islamists were defeated in the last Brotherhood’s bastion in the region, leaving the Ennahda’s leader and members flabbergasted and incapacitated.

Saied also fulfilled one of his most important promises from his 2019 presidential campaign to combat financial and moral corruption – a pledge which gave him a landslide victory against his Islamist opponent.

On July 28, he alleged that 460 people embezzled some $4.8 billion U.S. dollars from Tunisia’s public wealth before proposing leniency if the funds were returned. “I propose a penal reconciliation with businessmen involved in looting the people’s money and tax evasion in exchange for their commitment to projects, instead of being prosecuted and imprisoned,” he said. The Ennahda party currently faces a corruption probe on allegations of foreign funding and illegal campaign donations.

Ghannouchi responded in true Muslim Brotherhood fashion, threatening violence if Saied does not comply with his demands. “If there is no agreement on the return of parliament, on the formation of a government and its presentation to parliament, the Tunisian street will undoubtedly mobilize and we will invite the Tunisian people to defend their democracy,” Ghannouchi stressed, describing the president’s move as nothing but a “full-fledged coup.”

Ennahada has been accused of engaging in political violence in the past, including assassinating members of rival parties.

In the past 10 years, the Muslim Brotherhood proved that its ideology is not better than the regimes it has been fighting for decades. On the contrary, Brotherhood members could not hide their hunger for power and wealth, which led to their failure in every country they have publicly operated from or ruled. Nor have they been able to hide the bloodthirstiness with which they assault those who opposed them.

The Brotherhood failed miserably in Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and in several other countries in the region. These failures caused it to lose popularity among moderate Muslims who were temporarily fascinated by its sham idealistic rhetoric and its fake adoption of terms like: justice, democracy, equality, and tolerance.

The Ennahda Party has lost its political balance, which is reflected in the divisions of its ranks. It is expected for the party to try to resurface in a new form led, most probably, by Elyes Fakhfakh, a former minister in the government of former Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh. Zitoun who resigned from the party’s Shura Council last year, following a personal dispute, considers Ghannouchi an old-fashioned rival who should be retired or removed.

So far, the global reaction to the Tunisian political developments is very promising for the people of Tunisia, if Saied implements the reform steps he promised and succeeds in maintaining the country’s stability. However, countries that are known for supporting the Brotherhood, like Turkey and Qatar, are skeptical about Saied’s moves.

While the White House has refrained from describing these moves a coup, the far left was outraged by the defeat of the Islamist group.

Rep. Ilhan Omar called on the Biden’s Administration to suspend all U.S. security aid to Tunisia if President Saied does not reverse his course. “If we believe in democracy and human rights, we should be loudly decrying the current assault on democracy in Tunisia—the heart of the Arab Spring,” Omar tweeted.

Omar’s colleague Rep. Rashida Tlaib expressed her concerns about the country’s democracy, “Tunisia’s Parliament must be allowed to resume its duties immediately. All actors must follow the Tunisian constitution and work to preserve the democracy so many sacrificed so much to achieve,” Tlaib tweeted.

Omar and Tlaib ignore the human rights violations committed by the Muslim Brotherhood in and outside Tunisia, forgetting the fact that the Brotherhood has been designated as a terrorist group by U.S. Muslim allies such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared Talib’s concerns during an interview with the Qatari government-funded news network Al-Jazeera in which he warned Tunisia about deviating from its democratic path.

“Our strong hope and expectation that Tunisia will return to that democratic path, act consistent with the constitution, unfreeze the parliament, have a government in place to do the work of the people, to be responsive to their needs,” Blinken concluded.

It is the needs of the Tunisians which motivated the president to take these drastic measures to prevent the Islamists from robbing the country’s public wealth and abusing the civil liberties of his people. The move even forced Ghannounchi to admit that his party has made economic and social mistakes and it bears a part of the responsibility based on the power it held.

The Tunisian crisis is a wake-up call for the Biden administration and a reminder that moderation is not one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s traits. The Brotherhood continues to operate globally and seeks to manipulate the western system, under the pretext of democracy, human rights, and victimization, to pillage the wealth of those they would rule over while enforcing their totalitarian ideology.

Washington should take seriously efforts by leaders in the Middle East to address the danger of the Brotherhood’s influence and should seriously investigate the role of the group’s influence in the West as well. The Brotherhood remains a serious national security threat and the Biden Administration should finally designate it as a terrorist group.

Better late than never.

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