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Ghannouchi in Washington... again!

Ennahda's Rached Ghannouchi is again in Washington. I do not recall the exact number of times Ghannouchi visited Washington since the revolution but it is definitely the highest number of visits ever made by a Tunisian political party leader to Washington since Tunisia's independence. The number of visits also contrasts with the lack of presence in more influential capitals like Brussels or Paris.

So why Ghannouchi comes so often to Washington? (If you are meeting him this week, I think you should ask him the question ;-).

First, it is an issue of access. Radwan Masmoudi, The founder of the Center of Islam and Democracy, who organizes most of Ghannouchi's trips, events and appointments has worked in Washington and know people there while his connections in cities such as Paris or London are limited.

Second, Ghannouchi's visits to Washington are covered positively in the Tunisian press regardless of who he meets and what each visit achieves.

Third, there is a whole community of scholars and thinkers in the US and the UK who support the idea that islamists could be democrats and play a big political role in the Middle East. The turn of the events in Egypt, Libya and the rest of the arab world has made Ghannouchi their best candidate and may be their last option. This visit will offer them the possibility to link the recent developments in Tunisia to Ghannouchi and his party while the reality is the total opposite. Ennahda totally failed in governing Tunisia's transition and in finishing the constitution within the expected deadline, it was isolated and a large coalition of parties and civil society movement pushed Ennahda to the resignation and to compromise on the constitution.

While Tunisia's opposition parties offered Ghannouchi a way out of the deadlock Ennahda was in during its tenure and avoided him/ them an Egyptian scenario, in this visit Ghannouchi will try to position himself as a the man and the party that conceded "crucial" demands from his people in order for the democracy to prevail.

With the Muslim Brotherhood in disarray in Egypt, Ghannouchi will also position himself as a regional player and stand for the transnational islamist organization by interfering with Egypt and other arab countries domestic politics.

He will also try in this visit to regain the sympathy of the US government after the attack on the US embassy that Ennahda's government allowed to take place and failed on punishing its perpetrators. He also may visit some pro-israel figures in order to reassure the israeli lobby of his intentions as Ennahda prevented the ban of ties with israel from appearing  in the Tunisian constitution but it is said that many are frustrated because Ennahda prevented a Tunisian Jew, Rene Trabelsi, from being appointed as the tourism minister.





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