Crimes, bombings and killings are a basic ingredient of Arab news channels these days. However, the symbolism and effects of some crimes go beyond mere news. Their dimensions go way beyond the limits of normal crimes in their awfulness, making them a sign of a wider agenda that goes beyond the local time, place and effects.
When a bomb exploded recently at Tunisia's Bardo National Museum, more than twenty people, mostly tourists from Europe, were killed; many more were wounded, including a Tunisian security guard and a museum employee. This was the worst crime in Tunisia's modern history committed by terrorists, with wide-ranging effects; it is part of a much broader context.
It is also a sign that there is an agenda to create chaos in Tunisia and other countries which have seen popular revolutions over the past few years. The wish to see such chaos in the Arab Maghreb region is obviously an effort to block the transition towards fairer and less oppressive societies.
The museum attack was perhaps the first time that such a crime has been committed in the heart of the capital, just metres from the National People's Congress, one of the most important centres of Tunisian sovereignty. It is not, however, the first time that tourists have been targeted. In April 2002 foreigners were attacked in front of a synagogue on the island of Djerba; a similar attack on an inn in the city of Monastir was foiled in 2013.
This latest crime is a dangerous qualitative development in the nature of the operations that target Tunisia's national security, especially in a fragile social, economic and regional context. This intensifies the direct and indirect effects of such a bloody incident.
It also suggests that terrorism is spreading towards usually safe urban areas, a breach that calls for a full reconsideration of the security in place to protect visitors and residents alike. Security in Tunisia still suffers from ousted President Ben Ali's corrupt legacy, with scores being settled through leaks and suchlike. If it can overcome this disabling condition, it would become the nucleus of effective national security rather than operating as a proxy for one aggrieved party or another.
In attacking tourists, the criminals have delivered a serious blow to the already weak Tunisian economy, which the ousted dictatorship made completely dependent on cheap tourism. The government now has the opportunity to promote economic alternatives which liberate the economy and the country from dependence on foreign travel agencies. It can open the door to a new intellectual and technological economy that gives Tunisian workers more options apart from being service industry employees.
We cannot separate the terrorist attack in Tunisia from the general Arab context, especially from the interactions resulting from the Arab Spring. This includes the chaos that has been engineered since the US-led war on Iraq. Nor can we view this attack in isolation from the current war in Libya, the consequences of the Egyptian coup or the crimes being committed in Syria and other places in the region.
Tunisia was the cradle of the Arab Spring and has succeeded, despite the return of the deep state to government, in achieving qualitative political progress with very little cost compared with other revolutions. In addition to this, Tunisia's demographic and cultural composition allows it to show rare unity, unlike any other country in the region. This unity has persevered in the face of the systematic marginalisation of over three-quarters of the population, especially in the northern, western and southern areas of the country.
Innate Tunisian culture deplores violence and terrorism despite the political and police repression suffered under Ben Ali, and Bourguiba before him. The people suffered torture, rape and execution for more than half-a-century, so it is inaccurate to suggest that Tunisia has been independent for so long. The revolution revealed the extent of deceit and misguidance exercised against the people in order to please a handful of corrupt individuals led by the fugitive president's entourage. Today, after a bloody revolution and the return of the deep state in its new form, the terrorist threat to the revolution and the area has emerged as the most prominent challenge facing Tunisia; it is the legacy of the ousted regime, which gloried in violence and extremism against ordinary people.
The foundations of terrorism in Tunisia are fed by the corrupt state that loots public funds, destroys the education system, deepens inequalities and spreads the culture of contempt and scorn, which the shameful national media has been successful in doing. The city of Kasserine and the rugged heights of Jebel ech Chambi is a terrorists' stronghold; their funding remains a mystery. These areas are impoverished, as the authoritarian regime marginalised them, focusing on making them breeding grounds for extremism and violence, despites the peaceful nature of the people, even in the face of the regime's brutal snipers witnessed in the early days of the revolution of freedom and dignity.
From the mountains to the city, from the countryside to the heart of the capital, and from the margins of the margins to the centre of the centre, this is the distance travelled by the chaos. These are now the points being explored by the forces of Arab destruction in order to solidify the post-Arab Spring state.
The engineers of chaos and its godfathers, both within and beyond the region, are those sitting on billions of dollars' worth of the nation's wealth. They know very well that aborting the Arab Spring and ending the battle against the people's revolutions can only be done by redistributing engineered chaos in the east and west in order to achieve three central goals.
First, involving the international forces, especially Europeans, in the on-going battle between the revolution and the counter-revolution by threatening Europe's backyard and areas of strategic importance. Hitting Tunisia at its heart is a message to the Europeans that their southern borders are not safe and that the troubles of the region may spread to the southern shores of Europe.
The second goal can be achieved by threatening the rebellious nations and calming them by means of giving them the choice between accepting tyrannies or facing the plague of terrorism; they must choose between oppression and a lack of freedom or chaos and terror. This threat has found its way into the collective conscience of the Arabs, which has been damaged by the deep state's media. The Arabs did not realise that this chaos is the deep state's weapon to seize freedom from the people once more.
The third goal is facilitating and restoring the security state built on oppression, the foundation of the deep state. This includes beginning to restore the issues against which the people rose up. Chaos and control in its various forms and extent are nothing but the deep state's way to drive the people "subliminally" to accept the deep state and even call for its return.
The Arab Maghreb is on the verge of radical changes that are occurring in the almost complete absence of the forces concerned with the spreading chaos and within a context in which the governments of the region have been unable to protect their states. This is due to their belief in the eternity of oppression and tyranny and their failure to overcome their petty historical differences; sometimes they contribute to exporting the chaos to their neighbours.
This situation has created the likelihood that the chaos will escalate and spread from the south of the desert into the heart of the regional capitals; all countries are threatened. This is a serious threat. Nowadays freedom, social justice, the fair distribution of wealth and ending the looting and corruption are no longer social and political demands as much as they represent the only lifesaver that can save us from death, destruction and the flames which will consume the entire region, just as fire burns dry wood.
The only way to dry up the causes of extremism and the natural and artificial terrorism resulting is to go beyond just a security solution. It must include the elimination of tyranny; offering desperate youth some hope; a purge of terrorist media platforms; and putting in place the basic requirements for social justice.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.