World View: Arab Spring Destabilization Increases with Tunisia Crisis

This morning's key headlines from

  • Tunisia's government crisis grows with pro-government rally
  • Growing tensions in Tunisia reflect the fault line across the 'Arab Spring'
  • Food fraud surges in America and Europe

Tunisia's government crisis grows with pro-government rally

Ennahda supporters hold up Tunisian flag on Saturday (AFP)
Ennahda supporters hold up Tunisian flag on Saturday (AFP)

Thousands of supporters of Tunisia's governing Islamist party Ennahda ("Renaissance") marched in Tunis, the capital city, on Saturday, chanting pro-Ennahda slogans, many carrying the Ennahda flag.

There were large "riots and clashes with police on Wednesday," after word spread that popular secular leader and outspoken left-wing government critic Chokri Belaid was shot dead in the morning with three bullets fired from close range. There were larger riots on Friday, the day of Belaid's funeral, with protesters accusing the Ennahda party of responsibility for the murder.

So Saturday was a pro-Ennahda demonstration to counter the anti-government demonstrations of the preceding three days. There was a large anti-France component to Saturday's demonstrations, with protesters accusing the French of behaving like a colonial power again, especially after France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned of rising "Islamist fascism" in Tunisia.

Ennahda has repeatedly denied any responsibility for Belaid's murder. The party's leader, Rached Ghannouchi, even threatened lawsuits against anyone who accused Ennahda of the murder. VOA and Euro News

Growing tensions in Tunisia reflect the fault line across the 'Arab Spring'

Tunisia and its "Jasmine Revolution" has been considered the model of the Arab Spring. The long-time dictator President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali stepped down from power peacefully, and there were democratic elections in October 2011, bringing the Ennahda party to power. The Ennhada party is usually described as a "moderate Islamist" party, to distinguish it from the secularists on one side, and the conservative Salafists on the other side. But there have been several acts of violence against secularists and artists, culminating in Belaid's murder, and the suspicion has been growing that Ennahda's claim of being "moderate" is really just a show to gain support from the West, and that Ennahda is really in league with the Salafists after all.

These tensions are splitting Tunisia's government itself. Tunisia's prime minister Hamadi Jebali has proposed replacing his government with a "technocrat" government of ministers with no party affiliation, to govern the country through the current crisis, until new elections can be called. However, Saturday's pro-Ennahda demonstrators demanded that the Islamists remain in power, and ministers in Jebali's government are refusing to relinquish power. Jebali has threatened to step down if the "technocrat" proposal is rejected.

There is a growing political fault line growing in Tunisia, and it's the same fault line that's growing in other Arab Spring countries. It's not a fault line between Muslims versus Jews and Christians. It's a fault line between moderate Islamists versus radical Islamists. We're seeing this in Mali, in Libya, in Egypt, and in Palestine, with a Shia Alawite versus Sunni fault line in Syria.

When the Arab Spring began, it was hoped by the Pollyannaish Western dreamers that it would bring freedom and democracy to the Mideast. That was never a possibility, with much of the Mideast in a generational Crisis era. Instead, what we're seeing is a steady, continuing increase in instability across the region that will, at some point, descend into total war. AFP and BBC

Food fraud surges in America and Europe

A major food scandal is spreading across Europe with the discovery, verified through DNA tests, that many ready-made meals, such as beefburgers or lasagna, contain horsemeat rather than beef. The Brits are blaming it on a French supplier, Findus. Findus is blaming it on another French supplier, Comigel. Comigel is blaming it on a supplier in Romania. Britain's environment secretary Owen Paterson said that the scandal was caused by gross incompetence, or by an international criminal conspiracy. Guardian and Food Business News

At the same time, the non-profit U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention has found a huge increase in food fraud in the United States since 2010. Fraud is a significant problem in seafood, while olive oil, milk, saffron, honey and coffee were also affected. Food fraud refers deliberate substitution of ingredients in food, or deliberate mislabeling of food ingredients. Food Business News

This comes after thousands of babies got sick in 2008 because Chinese milk producers added melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics and fertilizer, to their milk products, in order to give the appearance of higher protein levels. (See "A generational view of China's growing melamine food disaster" from 2008.) As we've recently reported, China mainland mothers are still distrustful of milk powder and baby formula manufactured in China, and so they're buying these products from Hong Kong, creating a shortage for mothers there.

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