Earlier this week, Senator John McCain visited Tunisia, where he met with Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh. McCain’s visit came on the heels of an escalation in the war of words between Larayedh and Ansar al Sharia Tunisia leader Abu Iyad al Tunisi.
According to accounts of the meeting, McCain thanked Larayedh for his commitment to protect the US embassy [from] any further attempt to attack” it. McCain was referencing the Sept. 14, 2012 assault on the US embassy in Tunis, which was orchestrated by Abu Iyad and Ansar al Sharia members. The attack caused millions of dollars in property damage, and while the Americans had already been evacuated, several people lost their lives.
McCain also urged Larayedh to deal with “extremist groups” in a “transparent way” — an obvious reference to the al Qaeda-linked Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, as well as like-minded groups and individuals.
As you might expect, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia took note. Although the group did not issue a lengthy diatribe (at least none that I have seen), Iyad’s organization did post on one of its Facebook pages (its news page) an image from McCain’s Twitter feed with some accompanying text. The group called McCain “Jewish,” which was evidently intended as an insult, and placed McCain’s visit in the context of other recent events. In particular, the group noted (again) US General Carter Ham’s comments concerning al Qaeda’s efforts to establish a presence inside Tunisia.
A Facebook page named the Talaba Revolution also denounced McCain’s visit. The Talaba Revolution page is not a formal part of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia’s online network, but it does reliably post the organization’s propaganda and clearly shares its worldview. One post contained the graphic below, setting a picture of McCain sitting with Larayedh next to a photo of Gen. Ham’s visit with Larayedh.
Ansar al Sharia Tunisia has denounced cooperation between the Ennahda-led government and American officials on several occasions since late last year.