Tunisia Falling

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Unfortunately, all these political fights come at a time when Tunisia’s transitional government – nearly paralyzed by the nation’s skyrocketing unemployment and inflation — is at its weakest point. So, in an attempt to take full advantage of this political instability comes al Qaeda, in particular its North African offshoot, al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM).

While Tunisian security forces under Ben Ali had been fairly effective in keeping a tight lid on this terror outfit — despite some raging battles with the group in 2006 and 2007 — his departure has created an opening for the terrorist organization to further exploit. According to Tunisia’s Minister of the Interior, Naji Zairi, al Qaeda has been “extremely active” along its borders with Algeria and Libya.

For example, only days ago several armed al Qaeda members tried to attack Tunisian security forces along the Tunisian-Algerian border in attempt to gain entrance into the country. That incident followed two earlier ones in May 2011: the capture by Tunisian security forces of two al Qaeda members carrying several bombs and explosive vests; and a shootout between nine al Qaeda insurgents and Tunisian forces in the Tunisian town of Rouhia.

Of course, the influx of al Qaeda has been exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in Libya, one which has sent over 400,000 Libyan refugees fleeing into Tunisia. Regional security officials have long suspected AQIM of using the chaotic environment to smuggle weapons out of Libya into Tunisia, Mali, and Algeria.

In fact, Algerian officials have been calling Libya an open arms market that is being used strictly to strengthen AQIM. The result, according to Algeria’s Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel, has been an escalation in clashes between AQIM and the security forces of Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Sadly, al Qaeda doesn’t necessarily need to smuggle too many of its operatives into Tunisia. That’s because shortly after Ben Ali’s ouster in January, some 11,000 inmates escaped from Tunisian prisons, many of whom were captured AQIM and other Salafist insurgents. The latest and most noteworthy escapes came in April when over 800 inmates escaped from two Tunisian prisons; and in May when 58 inmates escaped from the southern Tunisian city of Sfax.

The bitter irony in these events is that the Tunisian ouster of one tyrannical regime may in all likelihood result in an equally, if not more, repressive group in its place. However, while that outcome may be disheartening for many in Tunisia’s pro-democracy movement, it certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise.

It’s a scenario similarly being played out today in Egypt, one in which Egypt’s military has just announced that it will likely move its own parliamentary election from September to November. Unfortunately, one can only delay the inevitable for so long. For Tunisia, its day of reckoning is now in October and the outcomes becoming distressingly clear.

Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.

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  • Med

    Baloney analysis. Very little knowledge of Tunisia. Wrong on many basic facts (Ben Ali wasn't president in 1981). Generalizations and unproven statements and pronouncements presented as "analysis". : C minus

  • touareg 121

    I’m not pro enahdha. This article must be one of the worst analysis of what’s happening in Tunisia.

  • Tunisian

    This is unfortunately the view shared by all anti-ISLAM. Anything related to Islam has the tags of al qaeda and extremism thrown at it. There’s nothing intellectual about this article, just someone trying to make a name for himself.

  • Jamel

    The writer should do some research before start analyzing and not base his entire writing on other published news. This is totally a superficial analysis based on wrong facts. As mentioned above, Ben Ali wasn't president in 1981, second and most important, Ennahda is not inspired by the Egyptian Brotherhood. At least now, they are associating their views to the Turkish party.
    Besides, the writer lack understanding of the Tunisian society. One thing worth noting, the Tunisian who led the revolution weren't Islamist or Salafist. Those are the real Tunisian and the true power of the country. What make you think those guys won't go out again and get the Ennahda out. I m a Tunisian myself, and will tell you only one thing, Tunisians are majority Muslims, BUT it will never be a religious pure Islamic country and will never have Islamic law. That is just not going to happen.

  • scum

    So your argument is that the organization should be banned? You're all for Big Gov?

  • Hannibalbarca

    Very poor artcile. Very shallow analysis

  • Gil

    Fortunately the Tunisia described in this article does not seem to match the Hip Hop and House music dancing country I visited a week ago. The general consensus I heard from everyone I had spoken to, is that the vast majority of all Tunisians are not willing to replace Ben Ali’s dictatorship with just another form of dictatorship which is what an Islamist state would amount to. The second good news is that although I do not completely trust everything they are currently saying, Ennahda is really not as extreme as other Islamist movements in other countries. So what, even if they should get about 20% of the parliament seats, that corresponds about to the share the Christian democrat parties hold in many European countries.
    Right now Tunisia has many problems, from unemployment to weak tourism to the civil war next door in Lybia, fortunately homegrown religious extremism is not one of them.

  • Observer

    "an increased al Qaeda presence" How, Where? Show me ! You are trying to discredit a geuine democratic revolution by resorting to lies! You are litterally a liar!

  • Wesley69

    The presence of the Muslim Brotherhood, in coalition with other Radical Islamist groups could steer this country toward a state based on strict Shariah Law. The ultimate goal of becoming part of an Islamic Caliphate would gain momentum, once other countries unite to establish it. How their revolution turns out is up to the people of Tunisia. Do they want a secular democratic country where voices from all sides of the political aisle can be heard or do they want one where their lives are governed by political-religious law? Can a theocratic state actually function as a democracy, I don't know. Maybe the people of Tunisia may discover a middle path.