Washington, D.C. – Today, just ahead of Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa’s state visit to Washington, the Center for American Progress released a report on the latest security and political dynamics in Tunisia. The second in a series on Islamists in the Middle East, this analysis was informed by extensive interviews conducted by CAP staff on the ground in Tunisia in December 2013.
For Tunisia’s transition to remain on track, the country’s political class must continue to work together to tackle the country’s structural problems. Tunisia matters for the United States—it is a country where U.S. engagement remains welcome and U.S. investments can have a real impact. Next door, Libya is slipping toward internal chaos. Egypt is gripped by the existential struggle between the country’s military and the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria’s civil war continues unabated. Amid this upheaval, Tunisia remains a partner for the United States in countering terrorism and violent extremism in North Africa. Tunisia also provides an important example of a country where Islamists and non-Islamists are largely settling their differences through politics.
“Tunisia provides an important example of a country where Islamists and non-Islamists are largely settling their differences through politics,” said Hardin Lang, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “But the country remains a work in progress, and the United States should stand ready to bolster the ongoing transition.”
President Barack Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Jomaa this Friday represents a chance for the United States to highlight one of the few success stories that has emerged from the past three years of upheaval in the Middle East. Tunisia represents one of the few countries in the region where Islamists and non-Islamists have been able to co-exist and work through their differences largely through the country’s political institutions. But Tunisia remains a work in progress, and the United States should stand ready to bolster the ongoing transition.
The key findings from the research conducted by the Center for American Progress on the ground in Tunisia include:
Ennahda is leaving office, not power.
Salafi frustration is on the rise.
Tunisia’s ascendant non-Islamists are prone to fracturing.
The struggle over the role of religion in Tunisia’s transition continues.
The report also offers several recommendations for U.S. policymakers:
Enhance U.S. diplomatic engagement.
Mobilize economic assistance from bilateral and multilateral donors.
Bolster U.S assistance to help combat extremist violence.
Increase support to security and justice sector reform.