Tunisia’s elections represent yet another Muslim Brotherhood defeat

DEFEAT OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IS A DEFEAT OF OBAMA

By Avi Issacharoff, TOI

One can assume that Tunisia’s new president, Essebsi, will enjoy the help of the two strongest moderate Sunni rulers in the Middle East — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and Saudi King Abdullah. What’s more, the regime in Tunis, along with its counterparts in Cairo, will try to help their apparent ally in Libya, which sits between them.

Supporters of Tunisian party Nida Tunis (Tunisia Calls) celebrate their victory in parliamentary elections in Tunis, October 28, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Hassene Dridi)

[..] At the beginning of the week, Tunisians were informed that their president-elect was Beji Caid Essebsi, 88, a former interior minister during the days of Habib Bourguiba, the dictator who preceded Ben Ali, and former parliament speaker during Ben Ali’s rule.

It should be mentioned, perhaps, that an interior minister in Arab countries isn’t just a functionary responsible for giving out passports, but is the man in charge of internal security, including intelligence bodies. That is, the flesh and blood of the previous regime.

 

Essebsi, whose advanced age could give Shimon Peres some encouragement to run in Israel’s elections, won 55.7 percent of the vote, while his Islamist-affiliated opponent, Moncef Marzouki, garnered 44.3%.

Essebsi’s victory led to a wave of protests, primarily in cities in southern Tunisia, seen as more religious, poorer, and largely cut off from the modern, Western capital of Tunis.

Tunisia is the second Arab country to experience an Arab Spring revolution, followed by electoral victory by pragmatic Islamists affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, only to see them pushed out in favor of members of the old regime.

It happened in Egypt as well, after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi came to power, and was replaced by a second revolution that returned the army to its position of power in the country. Officials from the old political and security apparatus, who are nicknamed “a-doula al-amika,” or the deep state, have returned to power. They are from the same institutions that deepened their hold on the state over the decades, and after the fall of the dictator (Ben Ali or Mubarak) were left behind, and are now re-taking their positions of power.

One can assume that Tunisia’s new president, Essebsi, will enjoy the help of the two strongest moderate Sunni rulers in the Middle East — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and Saudi King Abdullah. What’s more, the regime in Tunis, along with its counterparts in Cairo, will try to help their apparent ally in Libya, which sits between them.

After the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya stopped functioning as a country. Its territory is divided between major tribes from Misrata, and radical Islamist groups like Ansar al-Sharia.

In recent months, Khalifa Haftar, a former general from Gaddafi’s army, who lived in exile for almost two decades, joined the battle for Libya. Haftar managed to clean out large areas in eastern Libya, including Benghazi, from Ansar al-Sharia, and he is now focusing his efforts on the western part of the country, near the Tunisian border and around the capital of Tripoli, currently in the hands of Misrata tribes. He supports the representative assembly that sits in Tobruk, while the tribes support the government in Tripoli, made up primarily of former members of the National General Congress.

The losers
It’s difficult by this point to talk about coincidences. The Muslim Brotherhood camp has been suffering one political defeat after another. The Arab public, which has been watching the madness that has gripped the region in the wake of the rise of the Islamic State (which was born in the same ideological womb as the Muslim Brotherhood), decided in Tunisia and Egypt, at least, to stay away from anything that reminded them of radical Islam (less radical than IS, but still radical). In some ways, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and their counterparts in Tunisia are now paying the price for the success of IS.

These developments do not, of course, portend the demise of the Muslim Brotherhood. In Arabic, there is a wealth of proverbs that talk about sometimes being up, sometimes being down. But without a doubt, it is one of the low points in recent years for the organization that was seen, not long ago, as President Barack Obama’s hope for a better Middle East, especially given Qatar’s decision to bow its head to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

In this file photo taken Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, Egypt’s former President Mohammed Morsi sits in the defendant cage during a court hearing in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Mohammed al-Law, File)
Egypt’s former president Mohammed Morsi sits in the defendant’s cage during a court hearing in Cairo, Egypt, November 3, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Mohammed al-Law, File)

The Muslim Brotherhood’s main patron (with the exception of Turkey) surrendered to pressure from Riyadh and Cairo and chose to move away from its hostile tone toward Sissi. This didn’t happen overnight, and doesn’t come from good will. The recall of ambassadors from several leading Gulf States (Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia) from Doha did its work, and Qatar decided to appease the strongman on the Nile.

How will this affect the Middle East? It’s still too early to say. Senior Egyptian sources have expressed great caution over the move. “First let’s see their actions, then we’ll know their true intentions,” said one official regarding Qatar’s move.

One immediate indication will be the line al-Jazeera takes about the Egyptian government. Until now, al-Jazeera has aligned itself with the Muslim Brotherhood camp against Cairo. It stands to reason that the station will take a more moderate line toward Sissi and his supporters.

Turkey could find itself even more isolated as the last country waving the flag of political Islam in the Muslim Brotherhood-style. But the weakening of the movement isn’t necessarily good for the West or Israel. Hamas in Gaza, which subscribes to the Brotherhood ideology, will seek support elsewhere, like Iran, and Hamas leaders have already been speaking about this openly.

Second, supporters of radical Islam could bring their support to even more radical groups, like the Islamic State. Still, the strengthening wave of moderate, Western-oriented Sunni Arab leaders could be an important factor in stopping IS.

A Kurdish fighter takes position in Kobani, Syria, November 1, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Jake Simkin)
A Kurdish fighter takes position in Kobani, Syria, November 1, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Jake Simkin)

And another word on the Islamic State: This week, the Israeli TV show “Uvda” showed a remarkable video of Israeli reporter Itai Anghel accompanying Kurdish fighters as they battled IS in Syria and Iraq. Anghel brought back from the field reports that gave a rare peek into the conflict. For the first time, we were able to see the fight against IS from up close. Instead of frightening YouTube videos of heads being cut off, suddenly we see IS fighters retreating from the Kurds. The enemy, IS, is not so terrible when seen through Kurdish eyes, almost the polar opposite from the way they are portrayed in the Western press. The footage shows them as barbaric, cowardly, fighting over scraps of meat, and high on drugs.

The Kurds, and especially the female fighters, in Anghel’s video are not especially intimidated by the acts of IS, and seem determined to fight them. With minimal arms, they are winning.

The report shows the unacceptable ease with which hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers enter Syria to join IS, while Washington’s ally Turkey — one of the last survivors of the Muslim Brotherhood-style governments — either turns a blind eye or even cooperates.

Maybe someone in the White House will wake up from the Brotherhood fantasy, and start putting resources and energy into helping the Kurds in their just fight.

December 26, 2014 | 1 Comment »

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  1. an interior minister in Arab countries isn’t just a functionary responsible for giving out passports, but is the man in charge of internal security, includinthere ig intelligence bodies.

    Sisi headed intelligence in Egypt prior to his coup. Perhaps the CIA is working overtime. 😛

    What’s more, the regime in Tunis, along with its counterparts in Cairo, will try to help their apparent ally in Libya, which sits between them.

    there is a CIA trained General operating in Libya also, lets see if he gets the nod.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khalifa_Haftar
    Haftar moved to suburban Virginia outside Washington, D.C., living in Falls Church until 2007 and then in Vienna,[15] where he was ostensibly trained by the CIA in Langley.[12][14]