Tunisia’s President, Moncef Marzouki, asked President Obama to sell the North African nation 12 Blackhawk helicopters in advance of its upcoming elections, a request which the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency had previously approved in principle. The lone remaining success story of the Arab Spring, Tunisia is now facing a growing terrorist threat, and is concerned its elections will prove a tempting target. Al-Monitor reports:
Marzouki, in Washington to attend US President Barack Obama’s Africa summit, warned an audience at the Atlantic Council that Tunisia was entering “the most dangerous three months in our history. […]A small, homogeneous country with a well-educated population, it has managed to incorporate both secularists and moderate Islamists in a steady if slow transition to democratic rule. A new constitution adopted by a large majority of parliament earlier this year has been widely praised for enshrining minority rights. Both secularists and Ennahda, the largest legal Islamic party in Tunisia, agreed to formation of a technocratic government to oversee parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for October and November, respectively. However, the country’s economy has not fully rebounded since the overthrow of long-time strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and Tunisia is being buffeted by Islamic extremists trained in Mali and Syria.
Tunisia found the transition to democracy easier than its neighbors. But this success has also drawn the ire of Muslim radicals, both inside and outside the country. Tunisia has produced a disproportionately high number of terrorists fighting for ISIS in the Middle East, who will likely return home battle-hardened and very dangerous. It is also threatened by terrorists who operate out of neighboring North African nations, particularly Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.Meanwhile, the country is suffering from a bleak economic outlook while working to absorb two million Libyan refugees. As Tunisia’s President warns, the next few months may determine whether the remaining success story of the Arab Spring can endure.