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Tunisia's 'Moderate Muslim Brotherhood' Leader Implicated in Assassination of Political Rival

A recent report by Sky News Arabia implicates Tunisian "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi in a Qatar-funded assassination of one of his political rivals and vocal critics, Chokri Belaid, in February 2013:

The report claims that intelligence files finger al-Qaeda operatives working at the direction of Qatar as conducting the assassination, with the coordination and approval of Ghannouchi.

Belaid had uncovered evidence of Qatar's complicity in the Ain Amenas hostage killings in Algeria:

This will be particularly awkward for the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment and the former Obama administration, both of which openly promoted Ghannouchi and his Ennahda party in Tunisia as the model of "Islamist democracy":

Here's a translation of the Sky News Arabia report:

Qatar ... fingers tampering with the stability of the Arab Maghreb

Qatar intervenes in the Maghreb

Over the past few years, Qatar has focused itself on the affairs of most Arab countries through its support of militant groups. The Arab Maghreb countries have not succeeded in spreading Doha's policies of spreading chaos and harming Arab national security.

In Tunisia, for example, intelligence documents and information in 2014 showed that Qatar-funded organizations were behind the assassination of Tunisian trade union leader Chokri Belaid.

The accusation came to Doha after the Ain Amenas terrorist operation in Algeria carried out by the so-called AQIM and its support for other militant groups.

According to security and intelligence sources in reports reported by Tunisian newspapers at the time, the decision to assassinate Belaid was made after he announced that he had information and serious facts about the entry of suspicious parties to Tunisian and Algerian territory via Qatari drones equipped with advanced equipment of the kind granted by Doha to the Tunisian government.

The sources said that Belaid had secret and dangerous documents revealing the involvement of Qatar in the Ain Amenas incident in Algeria, which made Belgian parliamentarian Lawrence Lewis accuse Qatar of involvement in the assassination of Belaid.

Intelligence sources said that the main objective of the State of Qatar during that period was to create an atmosphere of chaos and insecurity in Algeria, as well as to get its hand on the countries of the Maghreb by supporting Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

In the following months the town of Ghadames, located in the border desert triangle between Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, turned into a safe haven for al-Qaeda operatives as cells ready to carry out operations serving the Doha agenda in the region, benefiting from the state of security chaos in the region.

Belhadj

Qatar has also put its hand on the armed Libyan battalions. Abdul Hakim Belhadj, who was included in the Saudi-Egyptian-Bahraini-Emirati-Bahraini last statement on the terrorism list, receives direct support from the Qatari intelligence.

The FBI later arrested the terrorist Abu Anas al-Libi and admitted after questioning that the political assassinations that were taking place in Tunisia, the most important of which was the assassination of the politician Chokri Belaid, involved Abdul Hakim Belhadj, who was coordinating directly With Rachid Ghannouchi, head of the Tunisian Ennahda Movement. This coordination was with the knowledge of the Qataris.

The perpetrators of the kidnappings and killings (assassinating Chokri Belaid) were carried out by men from the battalion of commando leaders, most of whom were directly involved in the Ain Amenas incident in Algeria.

Those involved were in constant contact with the terrorist Haitham al-Tagouri, the right-hand man of Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who controlled the TEC men with the support of the Qatari intelligence service.

The Qatari intelligence arranged the matter with Haitham al-Tagouri and Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who ordered the task force, specifically Khaled al-Basir, to persuade the "Blood-Signers" Battalion, along with terrorist Mukhtar Belmokhtar, to carry out the operation in exchange for substantial financial support.

Thus, the process of Ain Amenas, whose preparation and implementation was vague, was brought back to the fore by the assassination of Chokri Belaid. Investigations uncovered widespread information in the European and American intelligence offices.

Ghannouchi has denied the claims, and filed a lawsuit against Sky News Arabia:

Both Ghannouchi and Libyan militia leader Abdel Hakim Belhadj have been tied to the Belaid assassination. Belaid's widow and brother openly accuse Ennahda of complicity in his murder:

The involvement of Belhadj will prove to be an additional embarrassment for the Obama administration: it had campaigned for his release from prison in 2009.

Senator John McCain has openly allied with and backed the former Libyan al-Qaeda leader:

Before becoming the darling of the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment, Ghannouchi was banned from the United States for his role and his support of terrorists. As Martin Kramer noted back in 1994, Ghannouchi had threatened attacks on the United States in a speech in Khartoum during the Gulf War crisis:

As a senior leader in the International Union of Muslim Scholars, he also backed a 2003 IUMS fatwa that authorized the killing of Americans in Iraq:

More recently, he signed on to other militant statements threatening Western nations:

And yet, the Obama administration -- particularly Hillary Clinton's State Department -- embraced Ghannouchi after the beginning of the so-called "Arab Spring" and promoted his Ennahda (Renaissance) Party in Tunisia. The State Department encouraged his role in brokering agreements between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority:

Ignoring Ennahda's role in sending jihadist fighters to Syria ...

... and Ghannouchi's increased leadership in the international Muslim Brotherhood while the organization was openly advocating violence in the wake of massive protests that ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in Egypt:

Ghannouchi's own Ennahda Party only narrowly averted the same fate in Tunisia by resigning after massive protests in Tunisia following Belaid's assassination:

One feature of Ghannouchi's "dialogue" with Western countries was the double messages he would give: his positions when speaking in English or French contrasted with the more extremist positions he would deliver in Arabic. After the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in September 2012 that killed four Americans, Ghannouchi vocally denounced it. And yet back home in Tunisia, the media there noted that his condemnations of jihadist groups were muted when he wasn't talking to Western outlets:

Just weeks later, secretly recorded video emerged of Ghannouchi talking with hardline Salafist allies plotting to take control of various ministries in the Tunisia government:

Those behind-closed-door comments proved troubling to liberal party leaders in Tunisia:

The problems of Ghannouchi's double-talk became apparent on his first trip to the U.S. in late 2011. During a session at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), Ghannouchi made statements predicting that the so-called "Arab Spring" would spread to countries like Saudi Arabia in the following year; that the new Tunisian constitution should not preclude normalization with Israel; and that the U.S. was not the "Great Satan":

But Ghannouchi was then criticized in the Arab press for his "moderate" statements, and he complained that his statements had been taken out of context:

That prompted WINEP to publish audio of the whole discussion, showing Ghannouchi had indeed made those statements:

On that first trip to Washington, D.C., Ghannouchi was welcomed on Capitol Hill by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), which hailed him as a "Tunisian Revolution Leader" despite the fact he had played no role in it whatsoever. He only returned from exile in London after the departure of Ben Ali:

Ghannouchi has also been embraced by other U.S. Islamist groups, such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA):

He also became the darling of D.C. think tanks such as the Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, and the U.S. Institute of Peace, even leading prayers at the CFR offices:

Some described it as Ghannouchi taking a "victory lap":

Which was due in no small measure to the U.S. public relations and lobbying firms hired by Ghannouchi's Ennahda Party:

That public relations and lobbying money paid dividends in the glowing media coverage from the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, and other establishment media outlets:

And the D.C. foreign policy "smart set" began to fangirl Ghannouchi:

But they didn't want to look at the darker side of Ghannouchi's "Islamist democracy," namely his open, long-time support for the terror group Hamas. In 2010, Oxfam in the UK had to investigate comments by Ghannouchi saying "I admire the Al-Qassam missiles" fired by Hamas at Israeli populations because of the effect "to strike terror into them."

In fact, just a few weeks after Ghannouchi's first trip to Washington, D.C. in late 2011 where he was embraced by the D.C. foreign policy establishment, he embraced Hamas honcho Ismail Haniyeh, a U.S.-designated terrorist, at an Ennahda Hamas rally back home in Tunisia:

At the January 2012 rally, Haniyeh tried to strike an optimistic tone:

But not so optimistic for Israel's prospects:

Rally attendees began chanting "Kill the Jews." Awkwardly, Ghannouchi had to condemn the anti-Semitic chants at the rally his own Ennahda Party sponsored featuring one of the top Hamas leaders:

More recently, he has cheered youth joining Hamas:

In 2014, Ghannouchi appeared on stage at a IUMS event in Turkey with Hamas terror official Salah al-Aruri, who claimed Hamas credit for "heroic actions" in the abduction and murder of three Jewish teens in Hebron:

Ghannouchi always has time to receive Hamas officials in Tunis -- like Hamas head Khaled Meshaal, a U.S.-designated terrorist:

The relationship between Ghannouchi and Hamas is so close that he has had to dodge allegations that he and Ennahda materially support Hamas in storing weapons and fighters:

So it was a bit odd to see the establishment media and the foreign policy "smart set" get lathered up about comments Ghannouchi made last summer promising that his Ennahda Party was going to be separating religion from politics:

Not everybody was convinced, however:

The skepticism about how deep the abandonment of Islamist principles runs with Ghannouchi and Ennahda seems warranted. From the very beginning of the so-called "Arab Spring," Ghannouchi made clear that the Islamist project was what the whole effort was about:

One of Ghannouchi's top deputies hailed at an Ennahda Party meeting that the coming of the "sixth caliphate" that would culminate in the "liberation" of Jerusalem had arrived:

And Ghannouchi himself said that democracy would be the method to bring in Islamic law -- the very heart of the Islamist project:

For those of us who have been watching the Middle East for a long time, there is a bit of déjà vu to the breathless foreign policy fangirls taking to their fainting couches over the prospect of Ghannouchi and Ennahda finally bringing forth a working model of "Islamic democracy" in the Muslim world. If there's a touch of desperation on the part of the "smart set" with respect to their pet project of "Islamic democracy," it's because all subsequent attempts have failed.

None so spectacularly as Recep Erdogan in Turkey. On Obama's first overseas trip, he traveled to Turkey and promised that the U.S.-Turkey relationship could be a model for the world:

In 2010, Obama hailed Erdogan and Turkey as "a model Islamic democracy":

And the foreign policy establishment fangirls got hot and bothered over Erdogan, too:

But now it has all ended in tears:

It turns out that Erdogan, much like Ghannouchi, had said plainly years before that democracy would be how the authoritarian Islamist project would be implemented:

It's no surprise that Ghannouchi is taking Erdogan and Turkey as his prospective model, with the pair visiting frequently:

The Ghannouchi-Erdogan relationship goes back decades, including when they both sat at the feet of Afghan warlord Hekmatyar, the "butcher of Kabul":

Given his lengthy track record of extremism and open support of terrorists, it's not remotely surprising to see Ghannouchi tied to a Qatar/al-Qaeda plot to assassinate one of his top rivals and critics. Those are the circles he has run in his entire public career. That's the reason why he was banned from the U.S. for nearly two decades. Sadly, the full truth of the assassination of Chokri Belaid may never be known.

Ghannouchi's double talk -- giving one message in English and French, and a contrary one in Arabic -- and his backroom dealings with hardcore Salafists are all a matter of public record, there for anyone to see who cares to look.

But the so-called "Arab Spring" and its promise of bringing "Islamic democracy" to the Middle East fed the deepest fantasies of the Western establishment media and the foreign policy "smart set." Instead, it has left the region in near-complete chaos.

For them to continue to fall for Ghannouchi's "moderate Islamist" masquerade in light of the mountain of evidence to the contrary says everything about them.