Friday, 10 July 2015 13:26

Tunisia: caught in the crosshairs

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The terrorist act that took place in Tunisia in Sousse is a second strike against the tourist centers of the country. The first one was made in Bardo in March. But we have to understand that these two attacks are the ones that have been widely covered internationally. In fact, there is a constant terrorist activity in Tunisia. Just on the 15th of July, i.e. 9 days before Sousse, four servicemen of the National Guard were killed in a terrorist attack. It was in the center of the country, in Sidi Bouzid. One person was killed in the North-Western region of Jendouba.  The Jihadists have been active in these two mountainous regions for long. However, they did not leave this area where they had equipped their bases. The government accused local groups of the 15th July terrorist act, but the ISIS has also claimed its responsibility. We witness the integration of the Tunisian Jihadism into the global network of the Islamic State and it already has goals different to those the petty Jihadists of Sidi Bouzid and Jendouba had. They are now set up to destabilize the political system and to make the nationhood collapse. Taking into consideration a great share of tourism in the total volume of the budget income, the tourist sector will definitely become a constant target of the Jihadists. According to some estimation the terrorist attack in Bardo has decreased the tourists influx to Tunisia by ¼ compared to the previous year.

The difficulties of the country’s economic development, the ongoing crisis, the delayed impact of the revolution and some other issues become evident only now. The social and economic problems are not resolved. The country faces endless strikes and walkouts. The phosphate industry that had been contributing much to the treasury, now has almost completely stopped its activity. All this makes the country extremely vulnerable.

The position of all the political forces of Tunisia should be mentioned particularly. Primarily the one of the Islamists who have categorically condemned the attack and took a firm anti-Jihadist stance. That means that the country has enough resources to manage the current situation, moreover the governmental institutions are quite efficient. And the situation is unlikely to be completely destabilized.

Of course the Libyan factor plays its role in increasing instability in the country. There are more than a million of Libyans in Tunisia. The border is controlled but without proper efficiency. Smuggling thrives. The black market is flooded with large amounts of weaponry from Libya. An AK can be bought for 1000 euro. All this plays a negative role. Moreover, it is true that the ISIS network is active in Tunisia. More than 3000 Tunisian militants fight in Syria under the flags of the Islamic State.  And as in all other countries there is a problem of these people’s returning to their native country.

However, the most dangerous issue now is not the chaos of terror, but the serious negative impact of the decrease of tourism on the country’s economy. The economic repercussions may lead to a new wave of social discontent and to a new social explosion. This scenario is extremely dangerous. But let’s hope it will not take place.

Returning to the topic of Sousse attack I cannot say that it was absolutely predictable. But the increased Jihadist activity was expected during Ramadan. The question that is intriguing everybody is whether the terrorist acts in Tunisia, Kuwait and France are interconnected. It is an important question that does not have an answer yet.

Taking into consideration the aims that the Islamic State sets, it is clear that the other countries popular among tourists are also under the threat.  Morocco is at risk. Tunisia is still in danger. But despite all this and the tragedy that happened, it should be noted that the special services try to work very effectively. Many terrorist acts are averted. So, we should hope that the international counter-terrorist cooperation would be fruitful.

Read 10238 times Last modified on Friday, 10 July 2015 19:11
Vasiliy Kuznetsov

Head of the Center fro Arabic and Islamic Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.