BREAKING NEWS: Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood Selects New Prime Minister; Choice Earlier Hosted By U.S. Muslim Brotherhood

Hamadi Jebali

Global media is reporting that Ennahda, the Tunisian political party tied to the Global Muslim Brotherhood and the apparent victor in recent elections, has put forward its Secretary General Hamadi Jebali as the next prime minister. According to a BBC report:

Tunisia’s moderate Islamist party Ennahda, has said it will form a new government within a month. Preliminary results for Sunday’s election give it a commanding lead, but not an overall majority, in the first democratic elections prompted by the Arab Spring uprisings. Ennahda has put forward its number two, Secretary General Hamadi Jebali, as the next prime minister. Coalition talks with secular parties have begun. Mr Jebali, 62, is an engineer by training and a former journalist. He was a co-founder of Ennahda. A vehement opponent of the ousted president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Mr Jebali spent 16 years in jail – 10 in isolation – for his political activities. Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi was not an election candidate and has said he had no government ambitions

In May, an earlier post reported that the Center for the Study of Islamic and Democracy (CSID) had hosted Mr. Jebali at a recent forum. According to a CNN report at that time:

One of the few organized bases [in Tunisia] is al-Nahda, the largest Islamic party. Much of the nervousness is over what role Islam will play in Tunisia.Those nerves spilled over into a recent debate hosted by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington.The big draw was Hamadi Jebali, the secretary general of al-Nahda.Jebali spent nearly two decades in prison for being a member of al-Nahda under the old dictatorship. Al-Nahda means renaissance — and it is having one. The party is expected to emerge from Tunisia’s first elections with real power. So Tunisians in this secular society are listening very carefully to what al-Nahda’s leaders say — and what they do not say. Jebali wore wire-rim glasses, a suit, and a soft smile. His speech was filled with the lush language of democratic principles: Equality. Dignity. Diversity.”The Tunisian revolution shows a peaceful democratic way to address the needs of the country,” he told the audience of several dozen. “And that peaceful and democratic change works and gives hope to the whole region. It is possible to build development with justice, dignity, and stability without violence and without wars.”He spoke this way for 15 minutes. Big beautiful words. Few specifics.

Mahgreb Confidential (source below) had further reported that Jebali also held meetings with U.S. senators and a State Department official:

Jebali managed to squeeze in discreet meetings in the Senate with senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain, as well as with John Kerry ‘s aides. He also met at the State Department with Margaret Nardi, head of the Office of Maghreb Affairs. As a result, Ennahda has become the first Islamic Arab movement to win Washington’s seal of approval at a time when the U.S. is thinking of curbing contacts between American politicians and Egypt’s Moslem Brotherhood.

The Mahgreb Confidential also commented on the role of CSID leader Radwan Masmoudi in bringing the U.S. together with the Tunisian “moderate Islamists”:

A Tunisian engineer living in the United States, Radwan Masmoiudi, is a leading architect of the rapprochement between American diplomats and Tunisia’s moderate Islamists. In 1999, he founded the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) and plans to shortly open an office in Tunis. Championing dialogue between the secular and Islamist worlds, the center is financed by the State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the US Institute of Peace. One of its representatives in Tunis is businessman Mondher Ben Ayed, well connected at the U.S. embassy. Six years of contacts. Masmoudi organized the first meetings between U.S. diplomats and Tunisia’s Islamists as long ago as 2005. The following year an American envoy knocked on the door of Hamadi Jebali, who was under house arrest. Washington bet on the right horses. The militants at the time are now in prominent positions. Saida Akremi represents lawyers on the Haute Commission pour la Realisation des Objectifs de la Revolution ; and Slaheddine Jourchi is vice president of the Ligue Tunisienne de Droits de l’Homme.

The relationship between Mr. Jebali and Ennahda with CSID, an organization close to parts of the U.S. government, raises question about the influence of the Global Muslim Brotherhood on U.S. policy. CSID was founded in 1998 largely by the efforts of Georgetown University academic Dr. Esposito who during the 1990’s served in the State Department as a “foreign affairs analyst” and who has at least a dozen past or present affiliations with global Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas organizations. Many members of the early CSID board were associated with IIIT, the American Muslim Council, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). For example, past CSID board members included Jamal Barzinji and Taha Al-Alwani, both associated with IIIT and both important leaders in the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood who helped to establish many of the most important U.S. Brotherhood organizations. Antony Sullivan, the current CSID Vice-Chair, has many ties to U.S.Brotherhood groups including the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), the United Association for Studies and Research (USAR), and the Circle of Tradition and Progress (COTP), a group whose other founding members included Youssef Qaradawi, the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood. From its inception, CSID has argued that the U.S. government should support Islamist movements in foreign countries and has received financial support from the U.S. State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Institute of Peace. A previous post discussed the 2010 CSID annual conference describing it as representing “perhaps the largest public gathering of Global Muslim Brotherhood leaders and U.S. government officials to date.”

It should be noted that Mr. Jebali had also been hosted by a U.K. organization known as Forward Thinking, also close to the Global Muslim Brotherhood.

Tunisian media have supplied biographical information on Mr. Jebali and his long-term role in Ennahda, formerly known as the Islamic Tendency Movement (MTI):

Hamadi Jebali, born in the coastal city Sousse, is an engineer specializing in solar energy. He is currently the spokesman and secretary-general of Ennahda, Tunisia’s most prominent Islamist party. Since the January 14th revolution, and especially during the campaign for the Constituent Assembly elections, he has appeared in Ennahda’s press conferences several times, to illustrate the party’s positions and explain its plans. Jebali entered politics in the early 1980s, when Ennahda’s high-profile leaders were systematically chased and arrested by former President Habib Bourguiba’s regime. Shura Council (a former wing within the party) chose him to undertake the responsibility of steering and managing the party’s affairs in collaboration with Ali Ariadh. He was also a member of Ennahda’s executive council. In the 1990s, he served as the editor-in-chief of Ennahda’s official weekly newspaper Al-Fajr, before Ben Ali’s regime prohibited its publishing and condemned him to 15 years imprisonment, of which he served 11 years in solitary confinement.

A South African think tank explains in more detail the nature of the charges against Mr. Jebali during the 1980’s:

In the aftermath of these developments, the MTI was implicated in a plot to overthrow the Tunisian government and replace it with a new government based on the Iranian model. Subsequently, in August 1987, 99 MTI members were charged with ‘forming an illegal organisation; plotting subversive actions with Iran; and attempting to overthrow the government’. Five of the seven members sentenced to death were Hamadi Jebali, Ali Laaridhi and Salah Karkar, accused of organising the violent street protests in July; Fethi Maatoug, accused of planting bombs in a hotel on 2 August; and Abdelmajid Mili, charged with direct involvement in the blasts. Another 69 received sentences ranging from two years to life imprisonment. These sentences had international repercussions. For example, in Beirut on 28 September 1987, Islamic Jihad, a pro-Iranian Lebanese group which was holding Western hostages, threatened to kill Tunisian government officials if the death sentences were carried out (The Globe and Mail 1987).

Previous posts have reported on the extremist/Muslim Brotherhood background of Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Ennahda Party who has recently called for the “end of Israel.”

(Source: Maghreb Confidential “Washington ready to play soft Islam card” May 26, 2011)


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