Escalation of confrontation likely to push the birthplace of Arab Spring towards Egypt's way
Tuesday marked the 57th anniversary of Tunisia’s personal status code, in which President Habib Bourguiba granted rights to Tunisian women that were unparalleled in the Arab World at the time.
It was feared these rights would come under threat as Islamist groups rose to power in Tunisia following the fall of the Ben Ali regime.
Opposition forces feared that the country’s new rulers would seek to implement strict Islamic laws that would allow for the return of such practices as polygamy and child brides that had been banned in Tunisia under the 1956 law.
As divisions grew deeper, both the ruling Ennahda Party and the opposition forces called on their supporters to take to the streets in two rival demonstrations in the capital, Tunis, on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, talks between Rached Ghannouchi, the Ennahda chief, and Houcine Abassi, the head of the Tunisian General Labor Union, to discuss divisive issues had failed.
In an editorial yesterday under the title Will the Egyptian scenario repeat itself in Tunisia? the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi drew a comparison between Tunisia and Egypt, as both countries are experiencing turmoil due to popular outrage over Islamist policies.
Leftist opposition is not the only challenge the Tunisian rulers are facing.
The other big challenge is the armed Salafist movement that was responsible for the killing of eight Tunisian soldiers in an altercation with the Tunisian army recently.
“Ennahda is trying not to repeat the mistakes of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. For this reason, it sought the mediation of the powerful labour union in order to reach an agreement with the opposition,” the editorial said.
“It can’t be accused of alienating other political players as the Brotherhood has done in Egypt,” the paper added.
The conflicting parties in Egypt are both conservative, whereas the players in the Tunisian confrontation are followers of a moderate form of Islam that is seeking political agreements. However, the secular extreme left doesn’t want to stop until Islamists are banished from the political arena.
Tunisia’s turmoil doesn’t draw as much international attention as the Egyptian situation does these days. World powers that have a stake in the Tunisian situation don’t seem to be enthused by the extreme polarisation in the country, the paper noted.
Egypt and Tunisia are two different cases. Nonetheless, should confrontations escalate further, the birthplace of the Arab Spring may head towards chaos. Only then would the differences between Tunisia and Egypt disappear, Al Quds Al Arabi said in conclusion.
US has a new strategy for the Middle East
When US President Barack Obama announced his second term strategy of shifting focus from the Middle East to Asia Pacific, it became clear that the regional situation would see some changes, editorialised the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.
The US will not intervene directly or wage fresh wars in the region. But this does not mean it has washed its hands of the region. Its role will be secured through Israel, the paper said.
Abandoning the region would give the chance to other powers, namely Russia, Iran and Turkey to fill the void, which would cause great damage to US interests.
Israel being the sole strategic ally of the US is from the American perspective the only irreplaceable guarantee for protecting its interests; in every US step in the region, Israel must be involved.
To secure the shift of focus onto South Asia, in anticipation of a face-off with China, and at the same time ensure Israel is capable of protecting its interests, the US adopts a two-fold plan.
It includes, on the one hand, calming the Palestinians by launching new talks to give the Arabs the impression that it is serious in its efforts in that matter and, on the other hand, fomenting chaos, particularly in the countries close to Israel, to build a safety belt around Israel to help it pursue its expansionist policies, the newspaper said.
Brotherhood's tactics in Egypt dangerous
The statements of the Muslim Brothers since the removal of Mr Mohamed Morsi reveal their plan to escalate the crisis and drag the army into a clash they can use to justify violence, wrote Othman Mirghani in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.
The Muslim Brotherhood leaders have hitherto rejected all local, regional and international mediation efforts to end the crisis; they have also turned a deaf ear to calls for dialogue, the latest of which was an inclusive reconciliation bid from Al Azhar.
Instead, they insisted on unrealistic demands, including cancellation of early elections and the return of Mr Morsi as president. They said that what happened was a military coup, not a popular uprising.
The Brotherhood leaders are aware of the consequences of their strategies, as well as of the impossibility of having their demands met. Yet they also know that they get nothing if the crisis is solved.
And so their bet is on escalation and time. If the stalemate ends now, when their popularity is down and most people have gone against them, they gain nothing.
Their goal is to disrupt the government in a bid to turn people away from it, to their benefit. Such a policy can paralyse the economy and leave the peoples’ demands unmet.
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk