22 December 2011 12:45 pm | | 9


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The Washington Institute for Near East Policy has released a 45 minute recorded audio-statement from their round-table discussion with Tunisian Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi. In the recording, Ghannouchi tells his audience that while this year has been the year that Arab republics experienced revolutions next year will be the year of revolutions in Arab monarchies if Arab monarchs don’t begin to listen more to the needs of their people.

“[In the Arab World], some revolutions have succeeded, others are on their way… Today the republics are on the verge of extinction, next year it will be the turn of monarchies” Rached Ghannouchi declared during the session.

The recording includes Ghannouchi specifically mentioning the Saudi youth and how they have the right to fight for their own freedoms, “Saudi Arabian youth are no less deserving of freedom than the Tunisian or Syrian youth” he remarked as he praised the Tunisian Revolution and the Tunisian people for “having the will to change their government with peaceful means.”

Although the English translation on the recording is not exact, the translator does not mention Syria or Saudi Arabia, the countries are mentioned in Ghannouchi’s Arabic.

Ghannouchi speaking with the Washington Institute For Near East Policy

Ghannouchi also called on Arab political leaders to understand the messages their people were sending them demanding more political freedom and rights.

Rachid Ghannouchi the leader of Tunisian Islamist Party Ennahda

The Ennahda Party leader said that the emerging revolts are putting current Arab leaders in a critical and decisive situation, “Political leaders (in the  Arab World) are facing a critical choice. They must recognize that times have changed and that regimes based on money and power will not last forever. Power should be given back to the people, or the people will change their regimes.”

“If those political leaders had the least of political wit, they would understand the message. Reforms will have the smallest costs if those leaders had the smallest amount of intelligence,” he added.

He labeled the Tunisian Revolution as “a model to be followed [by other Arab people] in the future.”

The Washington Institute For Near East Policy released the recording in response to Ghannouchi’s accusation that the Washington Institute For Near East Policy misquoted him when they reported that “he also warned that Arab monarchs, specifically Saudi Arabia, would soon face overthrow if they did not ‘return power to the people’” in a December 17th interview with the Saudi Arabian newspaper  Asharq Al-Awsat. He told Asharq Al-Awsat, “I utterly deny making such comments… we want only good things for the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia], and our policy is one of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states.”

He accused individuals in the Washington Institute For Near East Policy of having a Zionist bias and accused the think tank of plotting against harmonious relations between friendly Arab countries. He blamed media outlets who reported based on the Washington Institute For Near East Policy’s press statement for trusting a Zionist source before doing careful investigations.

Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy

“It was incumbent upon these journalists [who criticized him] to verify what they published, and not take quotes from known Zionist sources…especially if this harms Arab and Islamic relations” adding “Zionism is not happy to see Islam having good relations [with others].”

It should be noted that the Washington Institute for Near East Policy is a think tank established by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). While the policy shop claims to “advocate a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East,” the think tank has always been known for its strong pro-Israel tendencies.

In a statement addressing the release of the recording Bob Satloff, President of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote that “In the spirit of openness and accountability, The Washington Institute releases this recording to clarify questions surrounding the substance of Mr. Ghannouchi’s remarks during his visit… This was an on-the-record session, with a tape recorder sitting in the middle of the table; at no point did either the Institute or Mr. Ghannouchi indicate that this was an “off-the-record” event.”

Kouichi Shirayanagi contributed to the publication of this report.

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Comments (9)

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  1. Ahmad Makki says:

    I am a graduate of political science and public admin. from AUB, and an MBA student. More importantly i am a Lebanese, without the usual Lebanese prejudices and sick dogma, who lived in the Arab gulf states, and who is a Freemason interested in research that can shed light on human and social evolution in our Global age. I think i can give your institute a unique insight about the Near East, and i would like to prove that for you if you allow me. My dream in life is to write a book about human evolution and i cant do that with Middle Eastern insitutes because Truth is not their goal, while America’s goal is Truth.

    Best regards
    Ahmad Makki

  2. Kouichi Shirayanagi says:

    Afif-

    Thank you for your translation of Sheikh Ghannouchi’s remarks. As you know the Arabic language is very rich with many words that don’t translate exactly into English and we do our best to translate the full meaning of what people say to us in our articles.

    If you have ever seen the movie “Lost in Translation” you will understand the near impossibility of perfect translations across many languages and cultures.

    In the planning of this article, it was very important to me to include the clip of exactly what Mr. Ghannouchi said, precisely because I want to see disagreement and debate about the meaning of Mr. Ghannouchi’s comments in this forum.

    I am sure that you will agree after listening to the recording that even the Washington Institute For Near East Policy’s professional translator did not give Mr. Ghannouchi’s words a perfect translation.

    Again, I appreciate all your comments on this forum and please continue contributing to the public discussion that this space allows!

    • Afif says:

      Kouichi:
      The translator that was used was obviously an amateur, and his translation was both incomplete and inacurate.
      I do appreciate your kind and professional response to my comment, and to the extent the tone of my comment questioned the motives of the writer of the article I apologize. In retrospect, including the actual recording in the article should have been sufficent and the best evidence that the writer of the article was simply doing the job of reporting what was newsworthy.
      Thank you for the website and your efforts in making journalism a better calling in Tunisia.

  3. Faith says:

    I would like to hear Mr. Ghannouchi’s comments now that this recording has been released. He clearly stated that he believes the Saudi’s are next. Why is he denying that to the saudi newspaper? And Mr. Ghannouchi, stop calling everyone a zionist

    • Afif says:

      I challenge the accuracy of this article’s translation. I listened to the actual recording and this is exactly what he said “The Saudis…the Saudi youth does not regard itself as Less deserving of freedom than the Syrian youth or Tunisian youth.” The words “regard itself” were omitted by Televisionlive.net’s article. (God knows why!)
      It is clear that he made this statement in the context of expressing his belief that change will expand to other monarchies and that the old ways of ruling is coming to an end and the rulers need to understand that if they are not responsive to the people’s wishes. He is entitled to his opinion as to what the Saudi youth would think of itself, and we should defend that right. There is a material difference between saying the “Saudis are next,” as it is suggested, which carries an implied threat or export of the revolution, and that the Saudi youth does not REGARD itself as less deserving of freedom…” I do not agree with his views on many levels, but I will defend his right to express them. I remain suspicious of how this was reported as well.

  4. Afif says:

    Mr. Ghannouchi is not a representative of the Tunisian goverment or people. He bears sole reponsibility for his own statements. Tunisia should never interfere in the internal affairs of any country.
    Mr. Ghannouchi should also realize that there are external forces that want to nip the Tunisian revolution in the bud. These same forces fear that the revolution will extend to certain key countries, where any radical change will alter the fate of many economies and even countries. The focus should be on three things: The Tunisian economy, the inclusion of all Tunisians (Muslims and non-Muslims, men and women, young and old) in the process of improving the country, and extending our hand of friendship to all friendly countries in the world.

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