Careful What You Wish For…

November 20, 2011 – It has almost been a full year since Tunisia became the first country to undergo a regime change in what has been called the “Arab Spring.” The wave of change which has swept North Africa and the Middle East has been supported economically, diplomatically and in the instance of Libya, militarily, by the United States.  As is our want at The Bench Jockeys – and since the first missiles began to fly in Libya – we have wondered about the unintended consequences of supporting such a compressed series of governmental upheavals.

And this week, we got our first look at how all of this might suss out. Tunisia’s Hamadi Jebali of the Ennahda Party is  poised to become the Arab Spring’s first elected Islamist leader this week. The Ennahda Party currently rejects radical Islamism as a form of governance, considering it inappropriate for Tunisia. That all sounds pretty good so far, right?

Except for the fact that this past week Jebali voiced concern about Ennahda’s commitment to the country’s burgeoning democracy and implied that he sought a return of the Muslim Caliphate, stating, “My brothers, you are at a historic moment in a new cycle of civilization, God willing. We are in a sixth caliphate, God willing.” Uhhh, exsqueeze me?  For those of you who do not know, the Caliphate is the traditional Islamic system of government that existed from the time of Mohammad until the end of the Ottoman Empire. The Caliphate is favored by many extremist Islamic groups including Al-Qaeda which seeks to revive it.

With a representative of Hamas by his side, Jebali also vowed that “the liberation of Tunisia will, God willing, bring about the liberation of Jerusalem.” That kind of sounds like a looming potential conflict in Israel. In fact, Ayman al-Zawahiri – Osama Bin Laden’s mentor and al-Qaeda second-in-command until 2011 – believed that once the Caliphate was re-established, Egypt would become a rallying point for the rest of the Islamic world, leading the jihad against the West. “Then history would make a new turn, God willing,” Zawahiri later wrote, “in the opposite direction against the empire of the United States and Israel.”

Not quite the rosy picture that the moniker, “Arab Spring,” connotes. And yet another reason why the US should not stick its snout in the matters of other nations, especially when we do not understand the historical context of its culture nor can we contemplate agenda of its successor leadership.

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