The Tunisian government has convinced the United States that Islamic extremism is such a serious threat that democratic reform in Tunisia would jeopardize counterterrorism efforts. This and a tarnished U.S. image in the region has allowed Tunisia to avoid serious pressure to introduce significant political reforms.
Barack Obama's election was celebrated throughout the Middle East. But enthusiasm could quickly turn to hostility if the new administration does not back up its rhetoric with concrete changes to U.S. Middle East policy on three key issues: Palestine, Iraq, and political reform.
The National Solidarity Fund has succeeded in reducing poverty and building a culture of solidarity, despite limited political participation.
Is America serious about democracy and political reform in the Arab world? Does the neo-Wilsonian dimension of the Bush administration's policy toward the region presage a decisive departure from the longstanding realist policy of "regime maintenance"?
Tunisians took to the streets in February protesting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's scheduled visit to their country in November 2005 to attend the World Information Summit. Inviting Sharon, seen as a war criminal by many Tunisians and other Arabs, was an undemocratic decision by the Tunisian regime exercised against the popular will of the Tunisian people.
There is broad consensus in Washington that a "war of ideas" is a central component of the larger war on terror. And in this war, a prime target is the "poisonous" Arab media environment, particularly the new satellite television channels , which are blamed for spreading anti-American sentiment.
To the surprise of no one, on October 24 Tunisians turned out in record numbers—91.5 percent of the country's 4.6 million eligible voters—to re-elect President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali to a fourth consecutive five-year term. Voters also gave his ruling party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD-Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique), an overwhelming victory in parliamentary elections.
The choice of Tunisia to host the November 16-18 second World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) has provoked much controversy. The idea behind the Summit is to bridge the gap between rich and poor countries in a field that has proven to be one of the focal points of present and future progress.
The second of June marked the second anniversary of the assassination of Lebanese writer Samir Qasir, with no indication of who ordered the car bombing that silenced one of the loudest Arab voices criticizing autocratic Arab regimes, particularly the Assad family in Syria.
Until recently Western assistance programs aimed at strengthening political parties were less present in the Arab world than in almost all other areas of the developing world. As part of the heightened U.S. and European interest in promoting Arab political reform, however, such programs are multiplying in the region.