Following events in Tunisia, euronews spoke to Middle East expert and correspondent for ‘The Independent’ newspaper in Britain, Robert Fisk, about the wider implications of the crisis in Tunisia.
euronews journalist Seamus Kearney:
“What do you make of this warning that the situation in Tunisia is a warning if you like for other authoritarian regimes?”
“Well it should be a warning, particularly to Egypt, to Jordan, it should be a warning to Morocco, which has been clapping its hands at the departure of Mr Ben Ali a bit late in the day, but there you go.
“But I think that at the end of the day, all these dictatorships, and the princes and emirs of the Gulf will rely on us, the West, to keep on propping them up, as Mr Ben Ali did. And at the end of the day, while there are various derivative – copycat we like to call them – demonstrations, people trying to set themselves on fire in Algeria, in Egypt and there is even a threat today in Lebanon of there being a demonstration over the high cost of food, there is no overall plan among the demonstrators, among the opposition to the dictatorships, to have social change.
“And I think that most of the various corrupt dictators of this region will continue to rely on us the West to support them, as France and Britain and other European countries, and of course America, did to Mr Ben Ali, primarily because these people present themselves not necessarily as democrats but as benevolent strong men and dictators who are keeping the forces of violent Islamism and al-Qaeda under control.”
“But things moved very quickly in Tunisia. Were you surprised by the events there?”
“Yes I was. And so – I’m told by my contacts in various Arab countries – were an awful lot of other potentates and corrupt leaders.
“But at the end of the day there was actually a very significant intellectual opposition inside Tunisia, particularly among lawyers – as there is in many Muslim countries, particularly I should say Pakistan, which of course is not Arab.
“But the idea that these manifestations against dictatorship and corruption and so on are going to flip flop across borders I cannot believe.
“You know we’ve had, in various countries, considerable social upheaval, particularly in Egypt, against for example Hosni Mubarak, who is 82 – 82 for heaven’s sake! And he wants to be president at the next elections in September.
“And yet it seems that the security services are so heavily organised and so brutal and ruthless that this can continue. And we, as I say, particularly the Americans, who after all bankroll Egypt for example, they let this go ahead.
“The fear of “Islamism” is so great that the European Union, individual Western Countries, America will not want this to contaminate other countries in the region. But the leaders – they’re shaking in their boots all right, and good for them.”