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When in Milan last week, my eyes were seduced by big posters showing picturesque coastlines and romantic sceneries with ruins of antique temples in the foreground. Pure beauty, a pleasure for the eyes and the traveller in me craving. „Tunisia“ it said on the posters, „la vacanza piu’ vicina ai tuoi sogni“ – the holidays closest to your dreams.
My emotions still captured by the beautiful images, I started to realize that these were the work of the Tunisian tourist industry, which was running a big scale advertisement campaign in the Metropolitana, the Milanese underground. But not only there: On a piazza close to Milan’s famous Duomo Tunisia Turismo had built a tent where it presented the destination with music, food and folklore.
Whereas the latter seemed corny and did not appeal to me the posters did. But there was one problem. The beautiful images clashed in my head with the notion of Tunisia being a country where civil liberties have been restricted and where government censorship and self-censorship has infected the society. Over the last decade or so, Tunisia has become an autocratic regime under the rule of the president with the poetic name Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
Nevertheless, in times when the Italian people seem to be hit hard by the economic crisis, the advertisers have a very good argument: “Tunisia, un Paese vicino, dall’atmosfera esotica”. Even though Tunisia is very close to Italy (read inexpensive to visit), it is an exotic place.
In what I think is a very good piece of international affairs analysis, Daniel Möckli of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich comments on the new US policy on Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Möckli talks to Swiss-German radio’s Echo der Zeit, Switzerland’s flagship news program, on the impact on Israel of Obama’s policy .
“There are signs that US policy on Iran takes a direction, which does not necessarily meet Israeli interests” says Möckli. “Israel is obviously unsettled”. The interview comes at a time when Israel’s president Shimon Peres voices support of the new US approach, even though the prime minister and his government are tough on Iran and the Palestinians.
Möckli also comments on the Swiss government’s engagement in the Middle East. According to him, the Swiss government has decided to no longer mediate between Iran the West on the nuclear issue, due to domestic political reasons. “I personally regret this, because we’ve been very successful there”.
Daniel Möckli has been a guest of ISN Podcasts, where he discussed Swiss Mideast policy. A policy brief he wrote on Switzerland’s controversial policy in the region can be accessed through the ISN’s Digital Library.
With a note of regret, Kishore Mahbubani predicted that East Asia would not be a priority for the new US administration. In an article published in May 2008, the dean of the Lee Kuang Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore heralded an Asian century in which the US is struggling to find its place:
“No country did more than the United States to spark the rise of East Asia. But paradoxically, America is among the countries leas prepared to handle the rise of East Asia. Evidence of this will likely stream in as soon as a new US president assumes office in January 2009. The president’s schedulers will begin to fill his or her calender with “must attend” events such as Group of eight meetings and a US-European Union summit. The schedulers will fill the “optional” column with events such as visits to Tokyo and Beijing, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summits, and meetings with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). If this happens, it will demonstrate that Washington’s priorities continue to be decided according to old mental maps. Few US policy makers seem aware that Western domination of world history is over – that we are moving into an Asian century […]”
Mahbubani must be surprised by the new US administration, which decided to send their Secretary of State and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to what he supposed to be second-rate destinations in East Asia: Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul and Beijing are the capitals Clinton will be visiting on her first trip abroad this week.