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Profile: US Embassy in Tunis
US Embassy in Tunis was a participant or observer in the following events:
The Guardian publishes a cable drafted by US Ambassador to Tunisia Robert F. Godec in July 2009 containing a description of a meal with Mohammad Sakher El Materi, the son-in-law of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, and his wife Nesrine Ben Ali El Materi. The Guardian obtained the cable through its agreement with WikiLeaks. The cable is primarily a description of El Materi’s political views, which coincide with US positions in some respects. However, there are also descriptions of the couple’s lifestyle. The dinner is called “lavish,” and the ambassador comments that El Materi is “living, however, in the midst of great wealth and excess, illustrating one reason resentment of President Ben Ali’s in-laws is increasing.” Godec also gives a desciption of El Materi’s home, which is “spacious,” “includes an infinity pool,” and has “ancient artifacts everywhere.” In addition, El Materi “hopes to move into his new (and palatial) house in Sidi Bou Said in eight to 10 months.” Further, there is a description of the meal, which included “perhaps a dozen dishes, including fish, steak, turkey, octopus, fish couscous, and much more.” Most startlingly: “After dinner, he served ice cream and frozen yoghurt he brought in by plane from Saint Tropez, along with blueberries and raspberries and fresh fruit and chocolate cake. (NB. El Materi and Nesrine had just returned from Saint Tropez on their private jet after two weeks vacation…).” El Materi also has a large tiger on his compound, which reminded the ambassador “of Uday Hussein’s lion cage in Baghdad.” Godec’s final comment is: “The opulence with which El Materi and Nesrine live and their behavior make clear why they and other members of Ben Ali’s family are disliked and even hated by some Tunisians. The excesses of the Ben Ali family are growing.” [Guardian, 12/7/2010]
The Guardian publishes a cable drafted by US Ambassador to Tunisia Robert F. Godec in July 2009 containing a very candid assessment of the current Tunisian regime. The Guardian obtained the cable through its agreement with WikiLeaks. According to the cable, Tunisia should be a US ally, but is not, because of big problems in the form of “aging” President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, his “sclerotic regime,” the lack of a successor and political freedom, First Family corruption, high unemployment, regional inequalities, and the fact that Tunisia is a “police state.” Perhaps the most startling passage in the cable refers to Ben Ali’s wife: “Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, First Lady Leila Trabelsi and her family. In private, regime opponents mock her; even those close to the government express dismay at her reported behavior.” Some portions of the cable are redacted; the context indicates they contain the names of pro-democracy leaders in contact with the embassy. [Guardian, 12/7/2010]
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