World View: Arab Spring Destabilization Increases with Tunisia Crisis

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 thatpopular secular leader and outspoken left-wing government criticChokri Belaid was shot dead in the morning with three bullets firedfrom close range. There were larger riots on Friday, the day ofBelaid’s funeral, with protesters accusing the Ennahda party ofresponsibility for the murder.

So Saturday was a pro-Ennahda demonstration to counter theanti-government demonstrations of the preceding three days. There wasa large anti-France component to Saturday’s demonstrations, withprotesters accusing the French of behaving like a colonial poweragain, especially after France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls warnedof rising “Islamist fascism” in Tunisia.

Ennahda has repeatedly denied any responsibility for Belaid’s murder.The party’s leader, Rached Ghannouchi, even threatened lawsuitsagainst 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 ofthe Arab Spring. The long-time dictator President Zine al Abidine BenAli stepped down from power peacefully, and there were democraticelections in October 2011, bringing the Ennahda party to power. TheEnnhada party is usually described as a “moderate Islamist” party, todistinguish it from the secularists on one side, and the conservativeSalafists on the other side. But there have been several acts ofviolence against secularists and artists, culminating in Belaid’smurder, and the suspicion has been growing that Ennahda’s claim ofbeing “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’sprime minister Hamadi Jebali has proposed replacing his governmentwith a “technocrat” government of ministers with no party affiliation,to govern the country through the current crisis, until new electionscan be called. However, Saturday’s pro-Ennahda demonstrators demandedthat the Islamists remain in power, and ministers in Jebali’sgovernment are refusing to relinquish power. Jebali has threatened tostep down if the “technocrat” proposal is rejected.

There is a growing political fault line growing in Tunisia, and it’sthe 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, witha Shia Alawite versus Sunni fault line in Syria.

When the Arab Spring began, it was hoped by the Pollyannaish Westerndreamers that it would bring freedom and democracy to the Mideast.That was never a possibility, with much of the Mideast in agenerational Crisis era. Instead, what we’re seeing is a steady,continuing increase in instability across the region that will, atsome 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 asbeefburgers or lasagna, contain horsemeat rather than beef. The Britsare blaming it on a French supplier, Findus. Findus is blaming it onanother French supplier, Comigel. Comigel is blaming it on a supplierin Romania. Britain’s environment secretary Owen Paterson said thatthe scandal was caused by gross incompetence, or by an internationalcriminal conspiracy. Guardian and Food Business News

At the same time, the non-profit U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention hasfound 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 refersdeliberate substitution of ingredients in food, or deliberatemislabeling of food ingredients. Food Business News

This comes after thousands of babies got sick in 2008 because Chinesemilk producers added melamine, an industrial chemical used to makeplastics and fertilizer, to their milk products, in order to give theappearance 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 stilldistrustful of milk powder and baby formula manufactured in China, andso they’re buying these products from Hong Kong, creating a shortagefor mothers there.

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