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Arab Moderation Murdered in Tunisia

In Tunesia, where non-Islamists are actually the majority, the elimination of Choukri Belaid wasn't just a crime, but a political strategy.
The coffin of Chokri Belaid is carried through the streets of the Djebel Jelloud district of Tunis.

The coffin of Chokri Belaid is carried through the streets of the Djebel Jelloud district of Tunis.

Some decades ago, the killing of a left-wing leader by what Marxists would have called “clerical-fascist” forces would have provoked an outcry from the Western left. Nowadays, they don’t even blink—as we also saw in Iran–unless some misdeed can be blamed on the United States or Israel.

While Belaid stood firm, the two other main moderate parties were willing to try working with the Muslim Brotherhood, Belaid said “no” and warned that the Islamists were determined to create a dictatorship. He was the man to kill, an event which also has an intimidating effect on the other moderates.

As Belaid’s brother put it: the killing was “a clear message to Tunisians….Shut up or we kill you.”

I don’t think the assassination was the result of a high-level conspiracy and especially not from the Brotherhood itself. Most likely, it was done by a small Salafist group.

But that’s the point. The Obama Administration views the Brotherhood as the bulwark against the Salafists, In fact, it is their big brother, often using the Salafists as shock troops to attack Western embassies, oppositionists, secularists, moderates, churches and women who seek equality.

Ideally when the leader is going to be murdered the masses should stand up and say, “I am Spartacus.” In reality, particularly in countries with anti-democratic political cultures, it doesn’t happen that way. Even if the four moderate parties do well in elections, they will still have to cooperate, having to face a wave of Salafist violence, too.

Now if the Tunisian army were to stage a coup that would make a difference. But what do you think would happen if the generals went to the U.S. embassy and asked for America’s support to overthrow the Brotherhood? In Egypt, we do see a sort of uprising against the regime. But without the army’s support it doesn’t seem to have a chance of taking power. Still, one must keep an open mind and see what happens.

Yet few in the West will be aware that Belaid is the second moderate opposition leader killed in Tunisia during the last three months in Tunisia. During decades of Arab nationalist dictatorship Tunisia-style, murder was rarely employed.

The Islamists have no such inhibitions. They are the people to be afraid of. Consider that in Libya, the most obvious American client in the Arabic-speaking world, there’s no hint of arresting anyone for the murder of the U.S. ambassador and three American officials which happened five months ago! So don’t hold your breath.

A similar strategy to what has just happened in Tunisia took place in Lebanon a few years ago, where the Syrians and their Hizballah and other local allies murdered opposing parliamentarians, journalists, and judges until they came close enough to a legislative majority and to intimidating critics that they won the election and currently form the Lebanese government.

And what about Syria where Islamists are headed for power with America’s blessing? Or Washington where the main lobbyist for supporting the Brotherhood is becoming head of the CIA? And what about Egypt where dozens of demonstrators have been murdered by the Muslim Brotherhood regime as the West still proclaims that government’s democratic credentials, the international institutions negotiate the supply of billions of dollars and the United States sends advanced fighter planes and tanks as gifts?

Originally published at Rubin Reports under the title, Arab Moderation Is Murdered: An Assassination in Tunisia.

About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.


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