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The Gulf crisis and the settling of scores in Tunisia

Supporters of Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed attend a demonstration against corruption in Tunis, Tunisia on May 26, 2017 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Tunisians attend a demonstration against corruption in Tunis, Tunisia on 26 May 2017 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Shortly after the crisis between Qatar and its neighbours took an unprecedented turn in the history of Gulf relations, some people in Tunisia rushed to voice positions characterised by vengeance and a lack of good judgment. Some went so far as to directly undermine Tunisia's strategic interests. A number of intellectuals exchanged accusations of being mercenaries for this or that Gulf state. The same disease has also spread among politicians, seeing an opportunity to eliminate their opponents once and for all, in the hope that they can inherit their positions in a country that is still fragile. These moves are unfortunate, shameful and unworthy of an elite who (thanks to a set of unforeseen events) have been given the responsibility of managing a transition in a country that the world has honoured after it succeeded in bringing down an authoritarian regime.

Most of the news circulating currently is of questionable reliability, amidst a plethora of rumours and fabrications. However, a degree of rationality still exists that has allowed this sensitive and complex issue to be managed calmly so far. The current Gulf crisis started at a time when Tunisian diplomacy is trying to restructure its relationship with all of the Gulf Cooperation Council members. Although the degree of responsiveness varied from state to state, the efforts made by the Tunisian president were not in vain, and ties were maintained with all parties.

When the latest raft of terrible decisions was issued against Qatar, Tunisia's foreign policy makers were surprised but they kept calm. They did not cave in to the hostile demands made by some within the country, which threatened to create further tension and completely lacked awareness of the importance of choosing one's words carefully in a time of crisis and confusion. These voices did not consider the interests of Tunisia and Tunisians. Instead, they were fixated on what they saw as a golden opportunity to wipe out a tenacious political opponent at home, represented by the Ennahda Party; they forgot that Tunisia is larger than Ennahda and that Tunisia's interests must be given priority.

Read: What's behind the UAE-Saudi escalation against Qatar?

Instead of pushing for greater national unity, a new division is being advocated. These people did not recall, in their excitement, that it is not in Tunisia's interests to sacrifice an important partner. It is undeniable that Qatar has stood by Tunisians in difficult times; has never rejected a request by Tunisia; and was not influenced by the in-fighting of local politicians, intellectuals and media. At the same time, it is in Tunisia's interests to develop relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Nor did these people ask about the fate of some 30,000 Tunisians who work in Qatar, and who have had all sorts of unacceptable accusations made against them. They also forgot that, in the world of politics, short-sightedness and the rush to react often carry a high price for individuals and for the country. The players currently involved in this conflict are an extended family, with their own traditions and values. Their previous differences were resolved judiciously and calmly, restoring relations to what they were before. Thus, those who hurriedly and opportunistically intervene in a dispute between brothers will find themselves out in the cold once the conflict is resolved and all wounds have healed. They will lose all credibility and never be trusted again. Yes, we should make an effort to resolve this conflict. If we cannot, the least we should do is avoid fuelling and deepening differences.

#QatarGate

The problem is that some are placing an oversized gamble on the new US administration instead of waiting to be sure of its final direction, which could be changed at any moment by many factors. This tendency to put all of one's eggs in one basket is a political failing that indicates an unbalanced approach to analysing events and reaching conclusions. Instead of Trump facing his political crises alone, he may drag all those who signed up to support his choices along with him and throw them to the dogs. It would be difficult for them to renounce their views once they reach the point of no return.

A piece of advice to those who may choose to accept it or not; reflect on the lessons of the past, observe closely events around the region and in Europe, and even within the United States, then correct your positions and give priority to Tunisia's higher interests. These interests are the compass that should guide your actions.

Translated from Alaraby, 14 June 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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AfricaArticleMiddle EastOpinionQatarSaudi ArabiaTunisiaUAE
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