As the U.S. and Tunisian delegations meet, anti-Americanism is on the rise

Can the U.S. keep its close relationship with Tunisia amidst changing public opinion?

Tomorrow, the United States and Tunisia will hold their third Strategic Dialogue, chaired by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui, the latest in a series of high-level diplomatic moves meant to publicly express U.S. support for the world’s youngest democracy.

The Strategic Dialogue follows the June 14 Joint Economic Commission where officials from both countries discussed ways to increase U.S. private sector investment in Tunisia. And both the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees introduced resolutions in June re-affirming U.S. support for Tunisia.

While this uptick in engagement is a welcome development, following nearly two years of the United States ignoring Tunisia, the nice rhetoric rings hollow in the face of the Trump administration’s repeated request to dramatically cut U.S. assistance to Tunisia. President Donald Trump’s FY20 budget request of $86.4 million is a decrease of nearly two-thirds from the $241.4 million Congress appropriated in FY19. While Congress has consistently ignored the Trump administration’s requested cuts and continued to fund Tunisia at approximately the same levels each year, the administration’s continued desire to slash aid to a country on the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State, who is also facing severe economic challenges and is in the midst of a political transition, does not go unnoticed.

Anti-Americanism on the rise in Tunisia

A recent Arab Barometer survey of Tunisia found that only 45 percent Tunisians agree with the statement that Americans are good people regardless of U.S. foreign policy– an 11 point drop from the previous survey. And three in ten Tunisians think violence against the United States may be justified. This is particularly scary in a country that was the number one contributor of foreign fighters to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Tunisians are increasingly turning toward American’s rivals— Russia and China— for support. The same survey found that only 45 percent of Tunisians prefer stronger ties with the United States—compared to 63 percent for China, 57 percent for Turkey and 50 percent for Russia. Additionally, more Tunisians say they want foreign aid from China and Russia to increase (50 and 46 percent, respectively), than from the United States (45 percent).


Read full article at The Washington Post- Monkey Cage.