“Mohammed Dahlan is known as the godfather of the normalization project with the Israeli entity.” 

Haythem Kehili owner of Instalingo Translation Agency 

Dahlan knows Tunisia well ever since he was deported here from Israeli detention in 1988 He wuld return to Ramallah in 2009. Tunisia had been a home for the PLO since the war in Beirut in 1982, then home of the Arab League. 

Tunisia is a tiny country with limited resources or investment opportunities. Situated between two important Arabic-speaking North African countries i.e., Libya and Algeria, that Nahda, a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated political body took place in the government in the post-Arab Spring era and that it has opened its doors to Palestinian guerillas, including Mohammad Dahlan, during the Intifada render the country importance. Dahlan was allegedly involved in a political architecture in the country to disallow Nahda to take full control. It would undermine Dahlan’s efforts to prevent Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated figures from taking over power in Arab countries in case Tunisia remained under Nahda’s control, therefore establishing closer ties with Turkish-Qatari axis rather than with the UAE. 

Dahlan visited Tunisia for the first time in 1988 following his detention and deportation from Israel. The capital city, Tunis, was hosting the abroad headquarter of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLF). Dahlan managed to continue orchestrating protests in West Bank and Gaza against Israel, therefore earning Yasser Arafat’s trust. He stayed in Tunis until his return to Gaza in 1994. Tunisia was the first country in his constantly ascending political career since Arafat asked him to join Oslo meetings in 1993. In an interview, he called Tunisia his homeland, thanking its people for facilitating his and other PLO members’ stay there.

Dahlan was not interested in Tunisian politics until the deposition of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. Tunisia was the birthplace of Arab Spring which quickly spread. Tunisia showed that both Islamists and seculars could win seats within the parliament, establishing a coalition and legitimizing Islamist movements. 

Tunisia’s political evolution was also supported by the West with the 2016 Carthage Agreement creating a working relationship between President Essebsi and Ennahda creating the optimistic idea that Tunisia was a burgeoning “island of democracy in a sea of autocracies.” Ultimately this resulted in a Nobel Peace Prize to reward the efforts to democratize Tunisia. 

This did not sit well with the UAE who were to replicate what they did in Egypt in the spring of 2013 to Morsi. Funding the military to back protests groups and ultimately oust the democratically elected leader by force. Since Tunisia’s military did not have the same support, the use of social manipulation was the preferred tool. 

L-R) Deputy of Khaled Fawzy, Egyptian intelligence chief Khaled Fawzy, Mohammed Dahlan and Ethiopian prime minister's advisor, Getachew Reda, at Addis Ababa airport.

https://twitter.com/marcowenjones/status/1419693580625629187/photo/1

not only wage a proxy war against Islamists in the region and claimed they were ready to spend billions of dollars to topple them. Nahda is a reference to the first Arab awakening brought on by the Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798. Arabs across Africa began to see religion and politics in a different, more modern light across the Ottoman Empire. This historical context immediately threatened the assumed claims of family and autocratic rule in Gulf regions. 

Local officials accused the UAE of instigating several political assassinations in the country in 2013 to repeat the Egyptian scenario in which the president Mohmmad Morsi was ousted in a military coup and, later replaced with Abdelfattah el-Sissi. Failing to topple the Islamists, it is claimed that Dahlan began unifying opposition parties in bid to beat Nahda in the elections. The UAE and Dahlan, allegedly, invested in Mohsen Marzouk, a politician and human rights activist, arranging meetings with UAE-backed figures like Khalifa Khaftar and el-Sissi. This plan did not work as Nahda won the elections in 2016. This time, another allegation emerged, suggesting that Dahlan began planning to “destroy the political structure, spread chaos and thus the Tunisian experience.” It was also rumored that Dahlan was funding certain social media pages and publications that were propagandizing in line with his desires.  

Ghannouchi’s visit to Ankara to confer with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in January 2020 began the process of actively aggression. This may also have triggered by the failure of UAE and KSA proxy Khalifa Haftar’s failure in taking over Libya. Ghannouchi backed the GNA in neighboring Libya. 

Sky News Arabia and Al Arabiya began to publish false stories about Ghannouchi the leader and founder of the Ennahda party. Insisting he was corrupt and worth $8 billion dollars. This attack was also echoed on social media. Shortly after Said’s coup Al Jazeera social media analysts looked at 12,000 tweets from 6800 unique Twitter accounts using the hashtag “Tunisians revolt against the brotherhood” to discover that these emanated not from Tunisia but from Saudi and UAE based sites. 

Was Dahlan behind this? 

Dahlan refused these allegations, saying that he has never visited Tunisia since Arafat era. However, Islamists were beaten in Tunisia through undemocratic means after the incumbent President Kais Saied sacked the prime minister, abolished the parliament and declared the he would rule the country by presidential decrees in 2021.  

Following Saied’s switch to one man rule, Instalingo case shed light on Dahlan’s power in the country. Instalingo, a media company that produces content and makes translations for companies, was raided by the police. During the interrogation of employees, police have asked about the content that was harshly criticizing Dahlan and presenting him as the architecture of normalization deals between Arab countries and Israel. Owner of the company, Haythem Kehili said the investigation was carried out by men in plainclothes. 

Dahlan’s nomadic nature, lack of loyalty to any flag. and mastery of political intrigue did not start in Tunisia, but his background, knowledge and contacts made him the ideal proxy for the UAE to manipulate the political situation to their favor. His specialty is to fabricate, support and organize counter democratic protests and movements, which then require military intervention by a UAE approved strong man. Some have failed, some succeeded. In Tunisia, the home of Arab Spring Dahlan and his backers have succeeded. 

Saied’s soft coup in July of 2021 on Tunisia’s Republic Day can be seen as a sophisticated move meant to restrain the Islamists and still project a democratic face to Europe and the world. The UAE moved quickly to support the destruction of democracy, saying two weeks after the coup “We support the Tunisian state and president in this positive agenda”. By October Saied was seeking funding from his new masters in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. 

The 63-year-old lawyer’s threat to use weapons on protestors, TV stations playing patriotic songs with images of the military, the crackdown on Qatar funded Al Jazeera’s office and pressure on islamist parties, even including the burning of Ennahdha party headquarters look like a playbook from the 2013 coup in Egypt. This time the destruction of democracy was done via influence, organization, money, legal trickery, and dishonest social media without a single shot fired. 

Whoever engineered the coup has successfully extinguished the last Arab Spring democracy.

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