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