x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Tunisia faces serious challenges, despite a promising start

Tunisia's new goverment faces profound challenges, even after the smooth transition of power, writes Al Quds Al Arabi. Other views: All sides in Syria are showing fatigue (Abdul Rahman Al Rashed) and the US is being dragged by congress into conflict with Iran (Mazen Hammad)

Three years after the revolution that led to the fall of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country is finally working its way towards democracy, the pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi’s editorial stated on Sunday.

Following the resignation of what is known as the troika government, Mehdi Jomaa was commissioned on Friday as prime minister to form a transitional non-partisan cabinet of technocrats.

But, without national consensus between all political factions in the country, the road ahead for the soon-to-be-formed cabinet promise to be arduous, the newspaper remarked.

Should Mr Jomaa’s cabinet win the vote of the Constituent Assembly, it would have to set the circumstances adequate for holding free parliamentary elections.

But its biggest challenge will be introducing economic reforms to reduce the budget deficit and to deal with popular dismay at soaring living costs, a deteriorating economic situation and escalating unemployment, which is what triggered the revolution in the first place.

A state of instability has taken hold of Tunisia following violent clashes between protesters and government forces, which erupted as a reaction to the announcement of additional taxes, the newspaper said.

The appointed PM would have to tackle the mounting threats that armed Salafist groups pose in Tunisia.

“These are tasks that no man – no matter how astute, wise or popular – could hope to carry out successfully without full cooperation from all segments of society, political and union powers and civil society organisations,” the paper opined.

“This isn’t only Mr Jomaa’s challenge, it is a challenge for the new Tunisia as a whole,” it added.

In tandem with the formation of a new government, the Constituent Assembly continues to vote on the draft constitution, which will embed the democratic experience in Tunisia, the birthplace of the first constitution in the Arab World in 1861.

Despite heated controversy over a number of articles, Tunisia was able to maintain its pioneering and distinguished position on various issues. In an unprecedented move, the assembly adopted articles pertaining to gender equality before the law.

Equally important, the constitution guarantees intellectual freedom and prohibits takfeer and instigating violence.

The Islamic movement’s approval of this item implies that they see no contradiction between Islam and democracy, the paper noted.

“This is the essence of the Tunisian model that prioritises agreement and dialogue as a way to address crises. The outcome is a quasi-civil constitution that all stakeholders can accept,” the paper concluded.

Will all Syrians accept a political solution?

All camps involved in the Syrian war are showing visible signs of fatigue, noted the columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

“The past three atrocious years were the worst in Syria’s history. They reflected an immovable desire among the majority of the Syrian people to get rid of Bashar Al Assad and his regime on one hand, and, on the other hand, they proved the regime’s ability to survive,” he said.

Meanwhile, the regional power struggle between Tehran and Riyadh has come to a head, yet neither side showed readiness to back down. Iran has exerted itself to support Al Assad at every level, and so did Riyadh to support the opposition. And so the struggle continues, with deadlock translating into mutual weariness on the field and continuation of the status quo.

Meanwhile, the various stakeholders, excluding the Assad regime, may agree to negotiate and shorten the distance between the warring camps. This is where the Geneva conference could play a significant role in reviving the transition of power solution that assimilates all players except Al Assad and some of his group.

“Political solutions are usually potent only when all parties involved have become exhausted and their energy, battles and promises depleted. At this point, the public becomes more realistic and more open to middle solutions,” Al Rashed concluded.

US is getting dragged into yet another war

The White House is reportedly in a state of rage as increasing members of Congress seem to support a bill imposing additional sanctions on Iran – a decision that pushes the US towards another war in the Middle East, columnist Mazen Hammad suggested in the Qatari daily Al Watan.

In an official statement, the National Security Council said pro-sanctions members of Congress seeking to drag America into conflict with Iran will have to stand before the American people and tell them the truth.

If the door to diplomatic actions closes, it will lead to one of two options: Washington would have to look into military action against Tehran or Tehran would be able to press ahead with its nuclear programme.

From the Obama administration’s point of view, alienating Iran and imposing new sanctions would sabotage the international negotiation process that ultimately aims to control the Islamic republic’s nuclear ambitions.

The White House went as far as accusing Congress of pushing a hidden agenda to push the country to war. Despite the American people’s firm rejection of US involvement in any new wars, support for stricter sanctions against Iran seem to be gaining momentum within Congress and the White House will need to prepare for a heated struggle of wills.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem