By Aaron Klein
U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker recently brought billionaire George Soros to a business roundtable with the president of Tunisia to discuss rebuilding that country’s economy.
Largely unreported is that Soros’ Open Society funded the main opposition voice in Tunisia, Radio Kalima, which championed the riots that led to the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Soros also funded other opposition groups during the so-called Arab Spring revolutions.
Three weeks ago, Pritzker held the roundtable at Blair House, the official state guest house for the U.S. president. In attendance were Soros, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi; Washington, D.C.-based Hilton Worldwide CEO Christopher J. Nassetta and former CIA chief David Petraeus, who is now principal at the global financing firm KKR & Co.
The Capital Intelligence Group reported Pritzker used her personal contacts to arrange the business roundtable for Essebsi, which was aimed at building new business connections for Tunisia’s faltering economy.
Capital Intelligence reported: “An almost immediate game changer for the Tunisian economy will be the upcoming ‘recapitalization’ of the country’s three state-owned banks, Societe Tunisiene de Banque (STB), Banque Nationale Agricole en Tunisie (BNA), and Banque du L’ Habitat.”
Pritzker in March traveled to Tunisia to keynote an Investment & Entrepreneurship Conference held in Tunis. The event also was attended by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who now heads the emerging market private equity fund Albright Capital Management.
Soros was not a bystander to the so-called Arab Spring, which began with the Tunisia Revolution in December 2010 that spread across the Middle East and North Africa.
The Open Society Institute’s Middle East and North Africa Initiative has provided numerous grants to a wide range of projects that promote so-called democratic issues across the region, including in Tunisia.
Soros’ Open Society funded the main opposition voice in Tunisia, Radio Kalima, which championed the riots there that led to Ben Ali’s ouster.
The Open Society Foundations’ Arab Regional Office opened a satellite office in Tunisia.
Also after Ben Ali’s downfall, the Open Society sponsored Al-Bawsala, a public policy organization that monitored Tunisian parliament and local city halls across the country by “using new technologies to make information, such as budget analysis and the performance of officials, accessible to citizens,” according to the official description.
“Al Bawsala also advocates for a better way of governing and citizen inclusion through advocacy and technical assistance to members of parliament and government officials,” the Open Society Institute said.
Sihem Bensedrine, Radio Kalima’s editor in chief, previously discussed how the Open Society funding was critical to keeping her opposition radio station open and broadcasting in Tunisia.
“Funding support from International Media Support and Open Society Institute has also allowed us to pay our journalists and maintain a stable team. This in turn makes our radio more powerful, more efficient,” said Bensedrine.
In December 2011, Bensedrine received the “In Pursuit of Peace” award from the International Crisis Group, an international “crisis management” consortium for which Soros is a board member.
The ICG long has petitioned for the Egyptian government to normalize relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.
U.S. board members of the ICG include Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to Jimmy Carter; Samuel Berger, Bill Clinton’s national security adviser; and retired U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who made headlines in 2009 after meeting with Hamas leaders and calling for the U.S. to open relations with the Islamic group.
Gareth Evans, president emeritus of the ICG, is the founder and co-author of the international “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine.
The doctrine is the very military protocol used to justify the NATO bombing campaign that brought down Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya.
Responsibility to Protect, or Responsibility to Act, as cited by President Obama, is a set of principles, now backed by the United Nations, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege but a responsibility that can be revoked if a country is accused of “war crimes,” “genocide,” “crimes against humanity” or “ethnic cleansing.”
With additional research by Brenda J. Elliott.