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Can Tunisia do without American military aid?

In international relations, before burning all your ships and cutting all the bridges, you study with all the rigor required your commitments to other States and the price you risk paying if you take an ill-considered decision, out of the blue or out of anger. (Illustration: Kaïs Saïed receives Mark Esper on September 30, 2020 in Carthage).

By Ridha Kefi

We write this thinking of all the die-hard reactions that have been flourishing for some time in social networks and call on the President of the Republic Kaïs Saïed to continue on the path of tension in Tunisia’s relations with the United States. United, whose senior officials have recently made critical remarks on the situation in our country and on the risk of an authoritarian drift by President Saïed.

These remarks were considered, in Tunis, at best, as interference in Tunisian affairs and, at worst, as intolerable pressure aimed at bringing Tunisia back to the situation before the proclamation of exceptional measures on July 25, 2021. .

A grave ignorance of the realities of the world

Without discussing the merits of the criticisms expressed by the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon (a real crossfire in short), we would like to recall that these criticisms echo those already expressed, in Tunisia itself, by political leaders, civil society actors and intellectual, artistic and media personalities.

We would also like to remind the usual arsonists that their ignorance of the realities of the world cannot justify their headlong rush into a falsely nationalist one-upmanship, which blurs Tunisia’s image with its international partners and therefore harms its vital interests. . Especially since our country does not have the means or the resources necessary to do without international aid in all areas, including security and military, and choose to live in autarky.

To these pseudo-nationalists who risk setting fire to the powder, and to whom President Saïed tends to often lend an attentive ear, we would also like to remind you that Tunisia cannot do without the help of the United States, and in particular military aid, the beginnings of which date back to the 1960s, and which our army still badly needs and cannot do without, at least for the moment, especially since its public finances, which are under pressure (it’s an understatement) do not allow him to rely on his own means to equip himself properly.

Moreover, the proposal made by certain members of Congress to reduce American military aid to Tunisia by 50% from 2023, given the political developments underway in our country and which risk jeopardizing the democratic transition launched in 2011, was very badly received by the barracks in Tunisia.

Tunisia’s international commitments

To return to our pseudo-nationalists, small-time sovereignists, we would like to remind them that our country has previous commitments and that the bilateral and multilateral agreements signed by previous governments remain in force and must be strictly respected. And all the more reason those signed by the government currently in place?

Mention should be made in this context of the military cooperation agreement signed on 1er October 2020, by Tunisia and the United States. This agreement, titled “roadmap for defense cooperation”signed in Tunis by former US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and former Tunisian Defense Minister Brahim Bartagi, is expected to last until 2030.

We certainly do not know the details of this “roadmap”, but we know that it covers the training and after-sales service of sophisticated American weapons, but not only. Because military cooperation between Tunis and Washington, over the last decade, has developed a lot in the areas of the fight against jihadist groups and securing the border with Libya.

Mark Esper and Brahim Bartagi sign the Tunisian-American military agreement. Everything has a price and it is paid for by both parties.

Mark Esper had declared, after his meeting, the day before the signing of this agreement, with President Saïed: “We look forward to expanding this relationship to help Tunisia protect its seaports and land borders, deter terrorism, and keep the corrosive efforts of autocratic regimes out of your country”thus implying that the young Tunisian democracy is threatened by the repeated attacks of the authoritarian regimes of the region.

A stupid and dangerous sovereignism

It’s for “protect” Tunisia – which, moreover, expressly requested it – that Washington offered it, in 2015, the status of a major ally that is not a member of NATO, allowing our country to benefit from enhanced military cooperation. And it is in this context that the two countries regularly organize joint military exercises and that, since 2011, Washington has invested more than a billion dollars to help the Tunisian army meet its obligations, a figure put forward by the US Africa Command, Africom.

By reaffirming, moreover, his country’s commitment to democratic values ​​and the sovereignty of Tunisia, on the occasion of the signing of the military agreement mentioned above, Mark Esper no doubt wanted to underline the political significance of the said agreement, which is the defense and protection of democracy in the world, including in Tunisia.

To tell the Americans today to mind their own business, after having asked for their help, particularly security and military, in the name of the young Tunisian democracy threatened from everywhere, is to show immeasurable bad faith.

We can certainly speak in this connection of conditional aid, but in international relations, no country gives anything for nothing, and even more so in democratic countries, where those in charge are required to justify in the eyes of the taxpayer any public expenditure that they hire in a foreign country.

To conclude, I invite the pseudo-sovereignists, who have said they are shocked by the recent declarations of senior American officials on Tunisia, to examine the content of the bilateral and multilateral agreements signed by their country with its foreign partners before opening the mouth to spout nonsense.

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