Tunisia leader targeted after Libya failure: Turkish state-run news agency

Rached Ghannouchi, the intellectual leader of Tunisia's Ennahda Movement, has become the target of media outlets in some Middle Eastern nations, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Media companies from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt are seeking to tarnish Ghannouchi’s image and provoke a political storm in the country, Anadolu said on Sunday.

The so-called “deceitful reports” published by Sky News and Saudi-financed Al-Arabiya -- both broadcast out of the UAE -- and the Egypt-based Youm7 newspaper claim that Ghannouchi gained financial benefits amounting to $8 billion since his return to Tunisia after the revolution of 2011, according to Anadolu. But Tunisia’s entire government budget does not exceed $16.5 billion, it said.

Turkey is a strong political backer of Ghannouchi and the Islamist-leaning Ennahda, which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Turkish government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has backed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere in the region and is competing with the UAE, Egypt and other regional powers for political and military control in Libya.

The campaign against Ghannouchi, now the speaker of the Tunisian parliament, began with the revolution of 2011, in which his party won power, and has intensified since it became apparent this year that Arab efforts to defeat the Libyan government military have failed, Anadolu reported. 

Ennahda voluntarily relinquished political control of Tunisia in 2014 but became a coalition partner with the larger secular Nidaa Tounes after coming second in general elections the same year. 

"Libya is the password in directing the UAE to launch this fierce campaign against Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi," according to Ammar Fayed, a researcher in Middle East affairs, Anadolu said.

"Although it is easy to refute the accusations on the financial disclosure of Ghannouchi, and announce it by him to the relevant authorities recently, the experience tells us that no matter how naive and funny the accusations are, the intensity of the media influx will make it impressive, especially if they are accompanied by the pro-UAE movements of the Tunisian political and media elites," Fayed said.