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Tunisia faces challenges as U.S. ally

Editor: Zhang Dan 丨CCTV.com

06-29-2015 11:25 BJT

By Dr. Wang Jinyan, Institute of West Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
During the new Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi’s first visit to the United States last month, President Barack Obama designated Tunisia as a major non-NATO ally. Essebsi has boosted Tunisia-U.S. relations since he assumed office six months ago. Yet, what are the opportunities and challenges that Tunisia should expect from such an alliance?

Since Tunisia’s independence, its successive rulers have regarded western powers as an essential factor for the nation’s stability and development. The country has maintained traditional economic and trade exchanges with EU members, the U.S. and other western countries. After the “Jasmine Revolution” erupted in 2011, Tunisia and the U.S. have drawn even closer to each other.

Tunisia must seek help from other countries due to its domestic predicaments. The “Jasmine Revolution” had overthrown former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from the reigns of power and Tunisia has embarked on a new democratic transition. However, the Tunisian people have also experienced unprecedented economic predicaments including soaring inflation, the sudden drop of marriages and an increase of divorce rates due to high unemployment and high cost of living standards, while coinciding with the rise of elderly care problems due to low fertility rates.

Tunisia struggles with much criticisms from its citizens; as well as challenges from militant Islamic forces. The post-revolution Tunisia has endured obstacles to achieve democracy and to improve the people’s livelihoods simultaneously. Tunisia’s leader has to make a realistic decision on whether it’s a good idea to maintain a closer relationship with western countries for political support and economic aid.

U.S. “generous treatment” to Tunisia is just for its political and economic needs.

The US has frequently interfered in the internal affairs of other countries since the turn of the 21st century, such as its involvement in the wars of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and the US remains too involved to withdraw afterwards while these countries are trapped in political chaos and economic plight . Tunisia is recognized as the only success story of democratic transition in the Western Asia and North Africa regions after the outbreak of the "Arab Spring". The US hopes to redeem itself from major setbacks as a consequence of the Arab Spring.

Tunisia is in a stage of national economic recovery and development, while the U.S. has delivered on “generous treatment” including more US investments going towards Tunisia. The African country stands in an important strategic location as a springboard to North Africa with an important military base that attracts U.S. national interests. Tunisia has also played an important role in the Maghreb in recent years.

Rising regional terrorism has been widespread after the post-war chaos of Libya. Therefore the need for joint counter-terrorism would explain the improvement of Tunisia-U.S. ties.

Tunisia has enjoyed economic benefits from closer relations with the U.S., including witnessing a significant increase of foreign trade exports and acquisitions of foreign direct investment in the first half of the year.

Nevertheless, the warming of the Tunisia-U.S. relationship has caused much discontent and calls for revenge by anti-American forces in Tunisia. Since last month, the political opposition in Tunisia has launched revolts against its government. This month, the Tunisian Consulate in Libya had succumbed to a militant attack as 10 staff members were kidnapped, which could be related to growing discontent from a stronger Tunisia-U.S. relationship. However, no organization has yet to claim responsibility.

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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