Monday, February 7, 2011

Tunisia and "Moderate Islamists": This Says It All

By Barry Rubin

It's true that Tunisia's Islamist movement is less radical than that in other Arab countries. But it really says a lot that Rachid Ghanouchi, the most important Tunisian Islamist, who has just returned home after a long exile thanks to the anti-regime revolt there, can say:

"Why do people want to compare me to Bin Laden or Khomeini, when I am
closer to [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan?"

So Ghanouchi is not going to attack New York and Washington, nor is he going to try to get nuclear weapons, spread Islamist revolution, and help take over Lebanon. That's the good news.

If he's like Erdogan, however, he might just align with Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah, along with the possible new radical Egyptian regime, while subverting U.S. policy.

But this is a good point. The threat is not only from reckless states obsessed with spreading Islamist revolution but also  hostile states that take part in that bloc. This is a more likely outcome for Egypt than a Muslim Brotherhood Jihadi state.

But of course the Islamists are far from being able to take any power in Tunisia and that country has a real chance of succeeding at democracy.

So let's put it this way:

There are states that are active on the anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Israel, revolutionary Islamist side: Iran, Syria, Lebanon under Hizballah, and the Gaza Strip under Hamas.

And there are states following the Turkish regime model that merely tilt more toward the new Islamist bloc. A post-Mubarak regime Egypt might well be in this category but with a specific mission in trying to help Hamas and the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood overthrow the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian monarchy, respectively, and try to wipe Israel off the map.

As the Western mass media tell us how wonderfully things are going the entire U.S. and Western position in the Middle East is going down the drain.

Feel better now?

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