The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Nicholas Noe in Tablet Magazine: “Another Middle Eastern State Could Collapse, and More Cash and Weapons Won’t Save It”

My latest piece on Tunisia that also includes a critique of recent policy recommendations made by the International Crisis Group as well as a proposal for a joint UN-Tunisian effort to uproot the parallel state in the country:

Another Middle Eastern State Could Collapse, and More Cash and Weapons Won’t Save It

Tunisia, the only democratic success story to come out of the “Arab Spring” revolts once heralded by the United States and other Western countries, is in serious danger. Even the country’s octogenarian President Beji Caid Essebsi seems to agree, warning recently of the distinct prospect that his country could become yet another failed state in the Middle East (and yet another accelerant for the Mediterranean refugee crisis).

Although he quickly walked back his dramatic pronouncement, Essebsi expressed a barely concealed point of view that is increasingly common here: Tunisia is wholly unprepared for another terrorist attack, much less the general increase in religiously tinged violence, social breakdown, and broad economic collapse that has become the norm throughout the region.

What happened? The Tunisians appeared to admirably manage to make it through the transitional period that took place after the revolution of January 2011. A solid new constitution was written. Two elections took place. Power sharing between Islamists and their opposite was secured at the heart of a new national consensus. However, the system that has emerged is still largely anchored on, and increasingly subservient to, the corruption and vast inefficiencies of the old regime, including the police, various business elites, and a homegrown mafia.

And therein lies the core problem: What some Tunisians call the parallel state—the triangle of power assiduously built over the last several decades of a Western-backed dictatorship and that serves as the de facto authority—simply won’t be able to provide security in the new environment of relentless hi-tech insurgency; nor can it stimulate growth or even ensure economic stability for the vast majority of Tunisians.

In fact, the parallel state is structurally incapable of taking on either task effectively. First, unlike several other states in the region, it has very little strategic depth, experience, or demonstrable success in countering sustained violence. Second, the security elite is overwhelmingly resistant to any kind of reform or oversight that might make their agents more capable and accountable, preferring instead to double down on inept, heavy-handed methods, alongside deepening corrupt practices, that only breed greater resentment—already at exceptionally high levels—within the civilian population.

And then there is the issue of the rapidly disintegrating Tunisian economy: How can the parallel state be expected to enact the kinds of desperately needed reforms that might help stem the country’s decline but that would also necessarily undermine its own financial interests?

In early 2012, of course,



Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 22, 2015 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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