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Tunisia Crisis – The Crux of the Matter; How to Emerge from the Depths? A live interview with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince.

August 6, 2021
The Gate to the old city – Tunis. (November 2011. R. Prince photo)

Tunisia Crisis – The Crux of the Matter; How to Emerge from the Depths? A live interview with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. Thursday, August 5, 2021. 8:30 pm Mountain States Time.

The current all round crisis in Tunisia has been in the making for as long as 40 years: the country’s failure to address the continually deepening socio-economic crisis which has fueled its other problems: constitutional gridlock, debt repayment, massive and unrestrained corruption, collapse of the country’s social net. Washington, Paris and the institutions they dominate (World Bank, IMF) are not neutral observers in these events but have done much to aggrevate Tunisia’s crisis. How to emerge from the depths?

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(Ibrahim Kazerooni is an Imam at the Islamic Center of North America in Dearborn, Michigan. He received a joint Phd. in Religion and Social Change from the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies and the Iliff School of Theology. He is originally from Najav, Iraq.)

(Rob Prince is a retired Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. He is a former Peace Corps volunteer and staff member in Tunis and Sousse, Tunisia. Living in Colorado for the past 52 years, he is originally from New York City.)

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2021 6:21 am

    Interrupted all the time.


  2. kerim permalink
    August 6, 2021 10:02 am


    Thank you, as usual, for your contribution to the ongoing discussion about Tunisia’s Future .
    I’ve heard some interesting points of view in your video, but, there ’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that this is a Putsch, a premeditated attempt to deal the final blow to the last stronghold of the Arab Spring .

    Everyone can see and feel that this political decision by K.Saied was being sponsored and approved by totalitarian regimes who consider a “Democratic Tunisia” a threat to their existence .
    I never understood this empty argument for which these guys are waging wars, and spending massive amounts of cash . If they’re afraid of Tunisia becoming democratic, then why don’t they break their ties with other democratic countries, if they truly believe that Democracy represents a threat to them ?
    This is by the way, the main reason why I couldn’t agree with the opinion of Nawaat’s Chief Editor, with all due respect, because he’s completely oblivious to the major role the UAE has been playing, in the last decade, and more oblivious to its mingling in Libya, Syria and Yemen, and the enormous chaos and systemic destruction it has left behind .
    In that regard, I believe that Nawaat’s position is not very different from that of mainstream Talkshows, and other Government owned Media outlets . They all walk unanimous “behind the Leader” . The fear is still there ; the fear to be persecuted by the newcomer and loose their licenses .
    So, one of the characteristics of any Authoritarian regime, is immediate demand of Loyalty . That’s what the country is going to be prepared for, from now on . Loyalty is the keyword .
    Unless the President renounces to his whole plan asap, the situation is very much susceptible to spin out of control . One single incident may be sufficient to declare a more tightened state of Emergency, where the Army springs into action .
    Indeed, like Ibrahim said, this doom scenario had to occur on July 25th, after the calculation that Ennahdha supporters will be drawn to get into the fight, against those in favor of the new measures taken by Saied. But Ennahdha summoned their basis to go back home, and not to take the bait . And so the motive for the Putsch is no longer there, and upon which Saied and his Administration would present their case to the general public, based on the number of casualties, as result of the clashes that would’ve happened, in front of the Parliament, on July 25th .
    A civil war could have easily occurred, but, thank God it was averted just on time .
    I must add that I have no affinity with Ennahdha Party, and it’s not Ennahdha that worries me. I am rather worried about the unity of this country that threatens to split in two .

    • August 6, 2021 7:22 pm

      As always good to hear from you… Here is what I’d like to hear your ideas…

      1. How should Saied deal with the parliamentary paralysis?
      2. How should he deal with the COVID-19 crisis (other than how he is dealing with it, activating the military, I presume”
      3. Any ideas of how to free Tunisian from the grips of the IMF-WB clutches it has been in so long.

      Best to you.

      Rob P.

  3. kerim permalink
    August 7, 2021 11:22 am


    I’ll try to gather facts, most importantly .

    Well, by taking the unwise step to suspend the Parliament, to sack the Government and to start a campaign of arrests of his critics, reporters, members of Parliament, Judges, the President is walking right into a minefield, because when you’re elected President, and you don’t have your own Party behind you to provide you with the right advice, but also to prevent you from committing such a flagrant breach of the very Constitution that you say you respect, you will sooner or later be at the mercy of the consequences of your decisions, particularly when you know you’re literally walking on thin ice, with a population badly hurt economically, and battered by the pandemie, through considerable lack of basic means to fight it, fractured politically and ideologically .

    In order to bring Law and Order, inside the Parliament, and to finish with the never ending quarrels, and uncalled for interruptions, and all kinds of exchanged insults between Members, the President could’ve spared us all this trouble . If he really cared, he could at least have allowed the Presidential Guard to take swift actions against the Destour Party who deliberately prevented tens and tens of sessions from being debated, during those two years. In fact, Saied remained idle, and refused to let the Presidential Guard do its work and intervene to reinstall order . Not even the Police Department, nor the National Guard were given the task to protect the Parliament . This sounds like he contributed in the creation of the overall chaos, that looked exactly like a Putsch in the making, which Middle East Eye mentioned two months ago in a publication, and which has now taken place on July 25th, the day Tunisia is supposed to celebrate the Day of the Republic . A strange coincidence, or perhaps on purpose, as if to declare the birth of the Third Republic (we’re now still in the Second one) .

    But, the scariest thing about Saied, is that he is slowly getting used to the technique of denial, despite his “trademark” among the general public, of being the honest man, with a clean slate . Nonetheless, he denied the claims of the published report of the Middle East Eye, without blinking an eye . But Denial doesn’t rhyme with honesty, as far as any self respected human being may argue .
    Two years ago, this retired Law teacher came out of nowhere (just like you’ve said in the video), he rolled the dice, and by sheer luck wins the Presidency, albeit with some 72% of the votes, but keep in mind that his opponent, responsible for having participated in bringing Essebsi and Nida to power back in 2014, was seen as a worse choice for the presidency . That led almost all Parties to instruct their basis to vote for Saied, including the Parties he’s now clashing with .
    Suddenly, he’s turning into an absolute Monarch, in the classical sense . That is to be the President, to be the chief of all armed forces, to be the chief of Government and to be acting as Tunisia’s Attorney General . How about that (!)
    And how about shutting down the Government, closing down the Parliament, sending in the Army with tanks to implement the presidential order of a total closure of the highest Legislative Power, elected by the People, and to keep the tanks parked in front of the building, until further notice .
    In my opinion, we’re witnessing the biggest plot ever, against the stability of this country . Success of the plotters will bring us back to square one, or maybe worse . If the plot fails miserably, there will be high tensions and anger towards K.Saied and those involved .
    Either way, Saied will face the consequences . He’s a Law Professor, he should’ve known . To be honest with you, he does not know what he’s doing, politically speaking . No surprise, he does not know about Politics, and that is the reason why he seems to be acting according to a time-table, presented to him by his sponsors in the Gulf. BTW the KSA, Egypt, and the UAE, were the first to welcome the news of July 25th . These countries do not even have Parliaments, and were so cheerful about what’s happening to us . With such friends / brothers, who needs enemies ?

    We’ve elected someone with no experience in any field of Politics, he has not yet presented his long-awaited-Plan to address the social-economic issues . And ever since he’s sworn in, he’s been somehow behaving like he is being compromised . His “Sponsors” seem to know his weak spots, and know exactly how to approach him . He never gave an interview to local Media . When he finally agreed to talk to the three reporters of NY Times, last week, they were told not to ask any questions . Instead the President was lecturing them about US Constitution, and didn’t even give the Translator a chance to translate , in real time, while he speaks . It was an embarrassment .

    As for the Covid crisis, confusion is all over the place . No one knows where the frights of vaccines are kept, while the President insisted on giving the Army the priority to deal with the stock (various vaccines, oxygen, PPE, test devices etc..) , and to Carry out the vaccination of the population. It is a signal the President wants to give, to prove on purpose, that he doesn’t trust this Government, or its Ministry of Public Health . Mind you, the Government he just sacked, was a Government of his own choice ! He is the one who appointed Mechichi as his Prime Minister, in the first place, then stubbornly refuses to take the blame . Anyway .

    You have asked about the IMF and the heavy burden it has caused, with regard to all aspects of life, in Tunisian Society as a whole .
    There are two main ills, in Tunisian Economy . Namely Corruption, sustained by Mismanagement, and vice-versa .
    Obviously, the previous Regime & the Trabelsi Clan, founded a perfect system of self enrichment, outside the rule of Law, and that became a “culture” and to some extent, became a way of life too . Just like you’ve said, in your video, that you can’t achieve anything here without paying a bribe . It’s a bitter truth, but rooting out this scourge, is purely a Government’s task .
    Then if we take a closer look, we would clearly learn that the Nida Government had made things worse, by increasing the national debt from 40% of the national income, in 2014 to 75% today . Prime Minister Chahed, not only he borrowed many Billions, but he went on recruiting more than 200.000 new civil servants . That was irresponsible, by all means . Chahed , as you may recall, was appointed by President Essebsi, back then (2014-2019) . But this is just one aspect of the deterioration of our Financial system . Can you believe that we’re importing phosphate, while we own the world’s second largest phosphate mines? Why? The answer is Mismanagement .

    The Alternative on the short term, would be to install a Government asap, without having this President, appointing whom he wants, based on loyalty to him, alone . The President knows we’re in a mess, one of a kind . And he knows very well that he cannot turn the tide, in the middle of this Covid plague . If he still wants to be the President of all Tunisians, he ought to carefully follow the Constitution, and what it exactly says .
    FYI, article 80 to which the President is referring, doesn’t give the President any authority to dissolve the Parliament, and/ or, to sack the Government . On the contrary, article 80 says that, in case of calamities, the president can act, although with the clear notion that ” both of the Legislative and Executive Bodies, must always be kept in permanent session” .
    But the President is in a state of denial, and likes us to believe that article 80 gives him all the powers to overrule whatever the article is actually stating, which is totally mind buggling .

    We have to understand, that the state of Emergency he has called for, didn’t look like an acute danger is facing the country, strictly according to article 80, but it was a very selective excuse to claim more powers . ( Remember how Trump pushed so hard to demand more powers, and oftentimes succeeded, except when he, on a false premise, tried to flip the election results)

    In reality, all Tunisians know Saied’s hidden plan . He has the intention of canceling the system of Political Parties altogether . He is not satisfied with the current Constitution, and his famous quote “the Constitution has been eaten by the donkey”, speaks for itself, without realizing that, only because of this Constitution that he became president . The core idea behind all this, is his wish to introduce a new form of government , whereby committees will be put in every small community, countrywide, and people can choose whom they trust, to represent them . The Committees then report to a higher committee, after which a selection of representatives will be made . Those selected will act as “mediators” between the citizens and the highest Authority, which is the President himself . Does it ring any bells ?
    It’s a plagiarism on Kaddafi’s Green Book . Nevertheless, with one major difference though. Kaddafi had oil, and lots of it . Our president has none . This rather twisted plan, would put him right on a boat to nowhere .
    We’ll see how far can he go, and if luck will be on his side, or maybe not on his side, this time. All remains to be seen . But I am fairly skeptical .

    • August 7, 2021 11:30 am

      Thanks Kerim… will study this and get back to you. Kaddafi’s green book? How interesting

  4. kerim permalink
    September 15, 2021 12:10 pm


    Fifty-one days and fifty-two nights have passed, since the country is being put on hold, and we haven’t moved an inch forward, yet. No Government formed, no Parliament back at work, no Prime Minister, no hint on what’s next. We’re left in total darkness, and our Media plays deaf & dumb to the real issues, clearly with bad intent.

    Honestly, this dude is gone weird and hasn’t got a clue on where to go from here. On Saturday september 18th, there will be organized demonstrations against his final decision of throwing the Constitution in the garbage can. The situation might escalate, if thugs infiltrate and cause mayhem. Bloodshed cannot be completely ruled out.
    Saied’s fate is definitely on the balance. All depends on the Army, because without it, Saied can kiss it goodbye, I assure you.

    To be continued…

    • September 15, 2021 12:14 pm

      Kerim… will read up on the past few months… admit to having lost the thread. Thanks for update

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