The Arab Spring Come Full Circle

1.The Bardo Museum in Tunis is the most important in North Africa after the Cairo Museum. It houses the largest collection of Roman mosaics in the world and in addition, Star Wars was filmed there; tens of thousands of tourists visit it yearly and is an important source of income for Tunisia, a country heavily dependent on tourism. In fact, some 6.1 million people flocked to Tunisia in 2014. On March 18 terrorists stormed the building and after the siege that ensued ended, 20 tourists and 3 Tunisians were dead, not  including the terrorists shot by the Tunisian security forces, and dozens wounded. Some hours after the siege ended, thousands of Tunisians congregated in downtown Tunis’ Bourguiba Avenue for a night  rally and sang “Free Tunisia”, the national anthem. In a televised address to the nation Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi called the terrorists “savage minority groups” and further stated “I want the people of Tunisia to understand firstly and lastly that we are at war with terror and these savage minority groups will not frighten us. The fight against them will continue until they are exterminated”

2.The Tunisian President’s words echo those of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls after the barbaric Charlie Hebdo attack and the killings in the Jewish delicatessen in Paris “France is now at war with radical Islam” and he further stated “If Jews flee (France) the Republic will be a failure” The White House’s Press Secretary Josh Earnst read the following bland statement: “We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of today’s heinous violence and condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attack which took the lives of innocent Tunisians as well as visiting tourists” Almost a word by word repetition of the one issued after the Paris attacks.

3.Tunisia was ground zero of the 2011 movement that triggered the so-called Arab Spring. Tunisians overthrew their authoritarian president and after some tussles with Islamic fundamentalists, succeeded in establishing the basis of a democratic government -as democratic governments go in Arab countries. The White House gloated and the mainstream press fawned over what they perceived to be the beginnings of fundamental changes in the Arab world which would finally bring forth democratic institutions, women’s rights and freedom of expression; that no one in any other Arab country asked for or even favored those institutions seems not to have made any impression on the residents of the ivory towers. Amid the utter failure of the Arab Spring, Tunisia stands as the lone beacon of success. Traditionally, Tunisia is the most liberal of the Arab countries, where women enjoy a great deal of freedoms and has one of the most educated populations -as those institutions go in the Middle East- and the closest thing to a secular government in the region. Tunisia has a long history going back thousands of years before the coming of Islam; it was the seat of Carthage, the ancient power that fought bloody wars against Rome for supremacy in the Mediterranean and whose ruins are today a great tourist attraction. It is also the gateway to Italy; additionally, Tunisian security forces have had a great deal of success against Islamic militants. On the dark side of the ledger, however, Tunisian recruits in ISIS number between 3000 to 4000.

4.Tunisia is in a very vulnerable position, sandwiched as it is between Algiers and Libya, both hotbeds of Islamic extremism and its Achilles heel is the tourist industry, the obvious target of the terrorist attacks. There were veiled warnings in social media going back to March 11 in tweets “warning Muslims to avoid places frequented by unbelievers” and that “there will be good news for Muslims soon” which is terrorspeak for brutal attacks against what they perceive to be soft targets frequented by “infidels” There were 9 arrests made and it was determined that the Libya trained terrorists were able to cross the porous border without difficulty. ISIS claimed responsibility for the “blessed event” and as a follow up, they bombed 2 mosques in the Yemeni capital of Sanna resulting in 137 deaths and scores of wounded.

5.It should be obvious by now that the Arab Spring movement has been a colossal disappointment, at least to those who, while looking through the rose colored lenses of wishful thinking, saw in it attributes it never had. While Tunisia has been -up to now- a success, it must be noted that part, if not all of it, can be credited to the unique conditions in the country; elsewhere it has been an utter failure. It is high time to take off the rose colored glasses and look at the world as it really is, not as we wished it to be. We are at war against Islamic terrorism, not against some vague and ill-defined “violent extremism”. It is not a criminal matter where we can go and arrest terrorists, bring them to the US, read them their Miranda rights and, if convicted, incarcerate them among the general prison population, perfect recruiting ground for Islamic extremism. They have to be captured, interrogated and then kept in a place like Camp Justice in Guantanamo for the duration, where they can be kept from contaminating others with their poison. We must stop referring to “foreign fighters”. In Islam, there is no such thing as “nationality” rather, House of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and House of War (Dar al-Harb); therefore, it makes no difference whether they are called ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab or al-Qaida. We must stop undermining our allies and helping our enemies, thus eroding our credibility. We must stop treating Vladimir Putin as the second coming of Stalin; he is not, and we do need his cooperation in the war against terror. We must realize that it was our premature withdrawal from Iraq that created the vacuum that allowed Iran (Shiite) to extend its influence in Iraq, therefore opening the door for a Sunni reaction. It should be apparent by now that ISIS is hardly “junior varsity” but a fully grown, brutal and fanatical foe that will stop at nothing to impose their own view upon the whole world, Incidentally, ISIS replicates the tactics that Mohammed and his followers employed when they burst out of Arabia in the 7th century.

6.ISIS was hatched in Syria as a result of the bloody civil war taking place there -where we still cannot tell the players without a scorecard- and spread to Iraq after doing short work of the Iraqi army and now has metastasized into Libya and Tunisia in North Africa and Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula. To counterbalance, Iran has taken control of the Iraqi offensive in Tikrit and of Yemen via the Houthi rebels take over of that nation’s government, thus threatening Saudi Arabia from two sides and setting the stage for a vicious Shiite-Sunni blood letting of monumental proportions. It could also turn into a a three-way civil war which would pit the Shiite and Sunni extremists not only against each other but also against the moderate Arab governments, such as Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. The 900-pound gorilla in the area is Turkey, which so far has been content to stand on the sidelines, biding its time, waiting for just the right moment to intervene decisively. Turkey’s President Erdogan has traveled to Latin America and has made bizarre comments about Islamic presence in the Americas predating Columbus. Is he setting the stage for a possible revival of the Turkish Caliphate? Iran has also spread its influence into Latin America in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. In the meantime, we sit at home and have politically correct debates on Islamophobia and on how to best discourage terrorists by perhaps creating jobs and opportunities for them.
7.We are facing an existential threat to our way of life and by that I mean the sum total of Western Civilization. We have to decide on what is enough and then have the intestinal fortitude to say “We will not be passive, we will not go quietly into the night. You want to destroy us? Just try. We will fight you every step of the way until we send you back to the particular cauldron of hell from whence you came” The choice is ours. The storm is blowing our way.

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