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DOW JONES     Qatar the most dangerous for democratic world (Christina)

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Christina     posted : 26/09/12   09:38 pm


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Stuck between Iran and Saudi Arabia is Qatar with the third largest natural gas deposit in the world. The gas gives the nearly quarter of a million Qatari citizens the highest per capita income on the planet and provides 70 percent of government revenue.

The price has been to allow the United States to have two military bases in a strategic location. According to Wikileak diplomatic cables, the Qataris are even paying sixty percent of the costs.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafiq Abdulsalaam was head of the Research and Studies Division in the Al Jazeera Centre in Doha. His father-in-law Al Ghanouchi is the head of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood party.

Qatar's foreign policy made an abrupt shift when the kingdom entered the war against Qaddafi. The kingdom sent aircraft to join NATO forces. On the ground, Qatari special forces armed, trained, and led Libyans against Qaddafi's troops

Qatar approached Bashar Al-Assad to establish a transitional government with the Moslem Brotherhood.






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Christina     posted : 26/09/12   09:44 pm


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One year after the revolution, many in Tunisia hence fear that their country is slowly turning into an Islamist-oriented dictatorship manipulated from Qatar

by Anna Mahjar-Barducci (*) da Haaretz.com

Tunisia has a new caliph: the emir of Qatar. Although a year has passed since the inspiring Jasmine Revolution, and dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is no longer in power - Tunisia's democracy is still in danger. Now the problem seems to be the emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who many perceive as a threat to Tunisia's sovereignty.

At the center of this perception are the increasingly intimate relations between Ennahda, Tunisia's Islamic party, which won a relative majority in last October's elections, and the oil-rich Qatari emirate. Qatar's state-run satellite channel Al Jazeera has played a major role in encouraging the Arab world's revolutionaries to rise up against its various dictators. However, liberal Tunisians say that, despite their gratitude toward Qatar, they would now be grateful if the emirate stopped interfering in their country's affairs.

Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi is a celebrated figure in Qatar, enjoying good relations with the ruling family and with the emir's "super-adviser," Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world. The alliance between Ennahda and the emirate results from a convergence of shared religious values and ideals. In fact, the emir is regarded as a major "patron" of Islamist movements, supporting not only Ennahda but also the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It therefore comes as no surprise that, according to Tunisian sources, Qatar funded Ennahda's entire electoral campaign, thus helping it to defeat the penniless and fragmented liberal opposition.

On JanuaBarducci, a Moroccan-Italian journalist and author living in Israel, is president of the Rome-based Association of Liberal Democratic Arabs. (www.haaretz.com)ry 14, when Tunisia celebrated the first anniversary of the revolution, Ennahda did not miss the opportunity to invite the Qatari emir to be a guest of honor at the official commemoration. The Tunisian people did not remain silent, however: Left-wing liberal forces organized a demonstration in which 3,000 people welcomed the guest of honor - or "guest of horror" as they called him - with cries of "Qatar, go away!"

On the social networks and in the media, hundreds condemned the small emirate's "far-reaching hegemonic ambitions" vis-a-vis Tunisia, warning that Qatar is using Ennahda as a tool to spread its influence and promote political Islam. One of the comments stated: "On January 14, we hoped to see a Nelson Mandela. Instead we got another dictator."

Liberal Tunisians claim that Hamad bin Khalifa is a dictator who at home rules over a country with no elected parliament, and is using petro-dollars to impose his influence upon their country as well. When Ghannouchi's son-in-law, Rafik Abdessalem, formerly a top executive at Al Jazeera, was appointed minister of foreign affairs in Tunisia's new government, many saw this as a result of Qatari interference.

Now the emirate has pledged Tunisia $500 million to help shore up its faltering economy. Some commentators welcomed this move, saying that Tunisia is collapsing and desperately needs the money. But others harshly denounced it, saying it would be more helpful if Qatar simply extradited Bin Ali's son-in-law, Sakhr el-Materi, who is suspected of plundering $5 billion from the Tunisian treasury - 10 times more than the sum Qatar has pledged - and who has found refuge in that country.

The communists in Tunisia are especially critical of Qatar: They argue that their country could more effectively exploit its own natural resources, such as its phosphate reserves, rather than become a vassal of the emirate, which is itself seen as a servant of the Americans, who have a large military base there.

This climate of aversion against the emirate has given birth to several allegations, some of them arguably conspiratorial. According to one, the United States, having lost its former allies (the Arab dictators ), is now backing the new rising power in the region - namely the Islamists - in order to preserve its influence there, and is using Qatar as a means to provide support to Islamist forces. A Tunisian cartoon that has been circulating on the social networks shows Uncle Sam, the Qatari emir and Ghannouchi defecating onto a plate of Tunisian people. Crude and repellent, perhaps, but the image reflects the Tunisians' feeling that they are being abused both by Qatar and by the United States.

Not all liberal Tunisians accept the theory of a U.S.-Qatar-Ennahda plot, but most share the feeling that their country is in the grip of the Qataris and that their camp has been abandoned by the West. There is the general feeling that, though the emirate's financial aid might help the Tunisian economy for a while, it will be detrimental in the long run to the country's democratic transition - especially in the absence of any financial and political support for the liberal opposition.

For its part, Qatar shares Ennahda's Islamist policy and won't condition its financial assistance on the Tunisian party demonstrating respect for human rights and international conventions. Meanwhile, Ennahda has passed a provisional constitution, in which it ensured for itself the maximum institutional powers, a move that was described by all new-media outlets as an autocratic "coup."

One year after the revolution, many in Tunisia hence fear that their country is slowly turning into an Islamist-oriented dictatorship manipulated from Qatar.

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Christina     posted : 26/09/12   09:46 pm


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Another source of strength in Ennahda’s elections campaign was–according to Tunisian media–Qatar’s financial help to Ennahda. Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi is a celebrated figure in Qatar, enjoying good relations with the ruling family and with the emir’s “chief advisor,” Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world. The alliance between Ennahda and the oil-rich emirate results from a convergence of shared religious values and ideals. In fact, the Qatari emir is regarded as a major “patron” of Islamist movements, supporting not only Ennahda but also the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. It therefore comes as no surprise that, according to Tunisian sources, Qatar funded Ennahda’s entire electoral campaign, thus helping it to defeat the penniless and fragmented liberal opposition. Tunisia’s Higher Political Reform Commission, which was charged with overseeing legal and constitutional reform in the post-revolution, passed a bill stating that “foreign and private [campaign] funding is prohibited.” However, it was reported[5] that during the course of its election campaign, Ennahda moved its headquarters from a “dilapidated office outside Tunis to a glossy tower block in the city centre, which used to house the state telephone company, Tunis Telecom. The party’s campaign was organized, widespread and unsustainable on the limited public funding made available to all political parties. While Ennahda profited from a wealth of resources, other parties did not receive their complete share of public funding.”[6]



THE ELECTORAL SURPRISE



The party al-Aridha Chaabia has been the surprise of the Tunisian elections. The party headed by Tunisian billionaire Hechmi Hamdi, obtained 26 seats in the NCA. This result ranks the al-Aridha party as third place in terms of seats. Hamdi had conducted a populist campaign promising to give free health care, a subsidy of 200 dinars (100 Euros) for each of the half million unemployed Tunisians. He had also promised to inject 2 billion dinars (approximately 1 billion Euros) of his own money into the Tunisian budget.

This result is even more remarkable considering the fact that the electoral commission decided in the first place to cancel seven of the lists of this party for alleged infringement of the electoral law. It was alleged the party had received campaign financing from private sources, whereas the law prescribes that only public or personal funding is permitted. It must be stressed that electoral controllers had found that all major parties had violated the electoral law and that even Ennahda has been accused of allegedly having received funds from Qatar. However, only al-Aridha was sanctioned.

The decision to cancel seven lists angered al-Aridha supporters in the town of Sidi Bouzid, where the list was disqualified. Almost 2,000 supporters set fire to a court-house, a police headquarters, the mayor’s office, and the offices of the rival Ennahda party. As a result, Tunisian authorities decided to impose a curfew in Sidi Bouzid, which was lifted only four days later. On November 8, 2011, the Tunisian court of appeal reversed this decision, giving back the seven seats to al-Aridha.

Soon after the electoral results were known, a sort of witch hunt began with the goal of destroying the party’s image. The enormous fortune accumulated by Hamdi has actually arisen more than one suspicion. Derogatory rumors also insist that Hamdi belongs to the so-called “list of Mounachidine,” a term that in Tunisia indicates all those who have invited ex-president bin Ali to run for the 2014 presidential elections. As a businessman, in 1993, Hamdi founded a weekly magazine al-Mustakilla (“The Independent”); in 1996 the quarterly magazine The Diplomat; in 1999, he founded the London-based al-Mustakilla satellite TV channel; and in 2005, a second London-based TV channel, “Democracy.” The party’s campaign was actually run almost completely from London. “From this West London base, Aridha Chaabia’s promise of an ‘economic el dorado’ was transmitted to the citizens via Hamdi’s television channels, Al-Mustakilla and the Democracy channel,” wrote the Think Africa Press.[7]

The Tunisian daily La Presse,[8] formerly the mouthpiece of the regime, published an article dedicated to Hamdi significantly entitled, “Serial retourneur de veste” (The Serial Turncoat) in which it narrates the life story of the Tunisian entrepreneur. Born into a middle class family in the province of Sidi Bouzid in 1962, he earned a degree in Arabic literature in the early 1980s from Manouba University in Tunis. In 1983 and 1984, he spent two short terms in prison due to his Islamist affiliations. In 1987, he fled the country to escape the repression of Islamism. In London, he continued his studies in Islamic history and literature and continued to be very close to Islamist exiles, including Rached Ghannouchi, the head of Ennahda.

However, his partnership with Ghannouchi did not last long. In fact, in his Ph.D. thesis, he divulged secret documents concerning the Islamist movement, which, according to Hamdi’s detractors, were eventually used by the British secret services. Considered a traitor, Hamdi was expelled by Ennahda and began to seek out new connections. Later, he was accused of having developed close ties to former President bin Ali, although he has always denied this allegation.

In spite of his alleged ties with Bin Ali, Hamdi frequently hosted, eminent members of the Tunisian opposition on his satellite channels. They were given the opportunity to express their opinions on a program called “The Great Maghreb,” which had a large audience in Tunisia. The Tunisian regime at that time reacted angrily once again calling Hamdi a traitor and a spy. Hechmi Hamdi may well have “turned his coat” often during his lifetime, but while the left-wing parties have coped with this, it seems Ennahda is not ready to forgive this, especially in light of the al-Aridha’s electoral success.



THE NEW GOVERNMENT



As soon as the electoral results were made public, it was clear that Ennahda, having won a relative majority, should have formed a coalition. Behind Ennahda, the two parties with more votes were the CPR and al-Aridha. However, Ennahda’s leaders expressed their categorical refusal to negotiate with al-Aridha. Conversely, Hamdi declared that he would stay in London and would not return to Tunisia as long as Ennahda were in power.[9] Negotiations for the formation of the new government hence started among Ennahda, the CPR, and Ettakatol.

Ennahda nominated as prime minister Hamadi Jebali, secretary general of the Islamist party and former political prisoner, who had spent more than a decade in a solitary confinement. Rached Ghannouchi, Ennahda’s leader, preferred not to take a public role, but to maintain his position as Ennahda’s “intellectual leader.”[10] CPR head Moncef Marzouki became president of the Tunisian republic, whereas the founder of Ettakatol was made president of the Constituent Assembly.


http://www.gloria-center.org/2012/04/understanding-the-%E2%80%9Cislamist-wave%E2%80%9D-in-tunisia/
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