Events are moving quickly in Tunisia. Protests that started just a month ago when a street vendor burned himself to death in despair over being unemployed have became massive and countrywide. This weekend its president, Zine el-Abinine Ben Ali fled the country and its protestors. The Prime Minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, who then took power also resigned a day later when the protesters turned on him.
The world’s attention has focused on this Tunisian revolution it was the first time that an Arab leader was overthrown by the “street”. Given that many Arab countries are run by authoritarian and unpopular leaders, it remains to be seen whether this Tunisian uprising will become contagious.
The United States has once again been caught flatfooted by the rapidly changing events in Tunisian. The State Department saw Mr. Ben Ali as an ally in combating terrorism and was seen as a supporter of him. However, President Obama, seeing the changing winds, quickly threw Ben Ali under the bus saying that he applauded “the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people,” and “the United States stands with the entire international community in bearing witness to this brave and determined struggle for the universal rights. We will long remember the images of the Tunisian people seeking to make their voices heard.” Eloquent words Mr. President. Where were you when Iranian people were just as courageous as they attempted to take on the Mullahs early in your presidency?
History has rapidity shown the importance of tipping points. The next few weeks will determine if the Tunisian revolution is one such point.