Analysts Call for More Aid to Tunisia as President Essebsi Prepares to Meet Obama

President Essbsi is visiting Washington and will be meet President Obama on Thursday. Photo Credit: The New York Times

President Essbsi is visiting Washington and will meet President Obama on Thursday.
Photo Credit: The New York Times

In anticipation of  Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi‘s meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday, there have been calls to increase U.S. support for the young democracy. Citing security and economic concerns, President Essebsi has stated “we are in a very difficult situation, and if Tunisia is going to get out of that, we need support.” Tamara Cofman Wittes writes that the support Tunisia needs has not been forthcoming in the levels appropriate for the only Arab Spring country that has experienced a lasting democratic transition. Deriding the fact that the support Tunisia has received has been security-focused, Wittes argues that “a relationship with Washington that’s overly rooted in security cooperation risks repeating the same mistake U.S. administrations made for years with other Arab governments and that brought us neither democracy nor stability.”

Similarly, the Center for Islam and Democracy and the American-Tunisian Association issued an open letter to President Barack Obama calling for drastically increased aid; the letter argues that increasing support for Tunisia is critical to the promotion of democracy in the region, stating “this is not always easy in the fog of war and terrorism, but right now Tunisia offers the best democratic example, ever, in the MENA region. We have to show that we care more than all else about elected and accountable governments serving their populations and increasing stability and peace. It is time to invest seriously in the Arab world’s only true democracy.”

Evan Moore  echoes the letter’s sentiments, writing that “Tunisia’s success is also of critical importance to U.S. national security, because it provides a model for resolving the conflicts that have proven so dangerous to the United States.” Meanwhile, Steven A. Cook  adopts a more cautious view of Essebsi’s commitment to long-term democratic reform, opining, “I simply do not believe that Beji Caid Essebsi has any particular interest in building an inclusive, pluralist political system.”