How the ‘War on Terror’ Undermined Peace in Northwest Africa: The Western Sahara Conflict After 9/11

By | August 2007

Whether we like it or not, the effects of September 11, 2001, can be witnessed in some of the remotest spaces of the Earth. In this essay, I will outline two ways in which post-9/11 U.S. policy has affected the Western Sahara conflict between the occupying power, Morocco, and the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi nationalist independence movement. The most obvious effect of the ‘War on Terror’ is rhetorical; a shift in the way Morocco now characterizes the conflict. Yet this mutation, as I will argue, is mere substitution. Moroccan efforts to securitize the discourse in its favour are an old trick that unfortunately works in Washington. Secondly, I will describe how and why the George W. Bush administration undermined the UN peace process in Western Sahara in the name of the ‘War on Terror’.

Filed under: ACAS Review (Bulletin), Bulletin 77
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Winning Another Front in the War on Terror – What the West Could Do Better in Somalia

By | August 2007

Right after 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan Somalia surfaced on the international agenda again. After nearly fourteen years without any central administration Somalia seemed to have become what some observers have called a second Afghanistan, a failed state that could serve as a potential safe haven for terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda itself. However, international attention shifted to Iraq rather than Somalia, and the U.S.-administration, that had initially been keen to tackle the problem of failed states, set out to change the whole Middle East by intervening in Iraq. But why was Somalia dropped as a major source of concern by the U.S. administration again? Part of the answer is that the U.S. was looking for a means to fundamentally change the Middle East region, which it considered as the major source of threats to its national security. The whole concept of the Broader Middle East Initiative was designed to inspire a process of democratic transformation in the region. The war in Iraq can be seen as part of that particular campaign, although it soon overshadowed the whole initiative. Africa came only second on the agenda. Moreover, another military intervention in Somalia could have caused heavy casualties. Therefore the U.S. administration looked for a way of containing the problem of state failure in Somalia and chose to establish a maritime mission on the Horn of Africa in order to monitor the movements into Somalia and into the Middle East region. But by adopting this strategy the problem of Somalia will not be solved, quite on the contrary the Horn of Africa will remain as volatile and insecure as ever. Keeping in mind the limited resources now available, what could the West do better in Somalia?

Filed under: ACAS Review (Bulletin), Bulletin 77



Ethiopia Rides the Tiger

By | August 2007

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, must have been studying the magnificent successes of the U.S. preemptive invasion of Iraq and Israel’s recent foray into Lebanon. He has clearly decided to emulate them. His argument is exactly that which was given by George W. Bush and Ehud Olmert. We must attack our neighbor because we have to keep Islamic terrorists from pursuing their jihad and attacking us.

Filed under: ACAS Review (Bulletin), Bulletin 77
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In Pursuit of al-Qaeda in Somalia: A Critical Analysis of U.S. Foreign Policy Towards Somalia

By | August 2007

In an attempt to monitor and curb terrorist activity in East Africa, the United States launched an aggressive campaign against the Union of Islamic Courts—a rising political force in Somalia, including a direct invasion, which ensued a failed attempt by the CIA to defuse the movement. In this effort to weave the Horn of Africa into this ever-exhaustive war on terrorism, there has been a tendency to demonize the UIC and portray the organization as another menacing and monolithic Islamist movement without doing justice to the complexity of Somali politics. It is often the case that the UIC is inappropriately linked with other Islamist movements, such as al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. Such allegations have largely been reported as fact in media outlets even though supporting details remain weak. Publications and news stories with headlines, such as, “The Hunt for al-Qaeda in Somalia,”[1] “Al-Qaeda Threat Seen Looming if Government Fails,”[2] and “U.N. Says Somalis Helped Hezbollah Fighters,”[3] dominate media discourses and perpetuate the idea of a menacing movement emerging in Somalia. Additionally, much of the existing representations of the UIC in Western media invoke an alarmist sense of urgency to act and dismantle the group. In this paper, I argue that the U.S. approach to Somali politics has largely been shortsighted and uncritical. I deepen this argument by examining the tactics employed by the U.S. and the ramifications of such policies.

Filed under: ACAS Review (Bulletin), Bulletin 77
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Meeting with Nadia Yassine: Non-Violent Islamists who Threaten the Regime in Morocco

By | August 2007

“Fil Maghrib la tastaghrib/In Morocco do not be surprised,” says an old Moroccan saying. This is true even in politics. Where else would one find the largest Islamist movement in the country having a woman as its most outspoken member? Where else would a grandmother preaching non-violence and democracy constitute the biggest threat to the regime? The lady in question is Nadia Yassine. The movement is the banned Islamist group Adl wal Ihssan – Justice and Spirituality Association (JSA). In August 2007, on the eve of the Moroccan legislative elections, I had the opportunity to visit and interview Nadia Yassine with colleagues from The Economist, BBC World, and MacClatchy Newspapers. At the time, the media was still debating her last court appearance, lips taped with a red X to symbolize the government’s attempt to silence her. She had declared to the press that monarchy was not suitable for Morocco, that she prefers a republic, and that the regime (known by its traditional name Makhzen) was near collapse. In Morocco, where the constitution defines the person of the king as “sacred,” Yassine’s statements were bound to get her in trouble. She and the editors of the weekly where her statements were published now face up to 5 years in prison.

Filed under: ACAS Review (Bulletin), Bulletin 77
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Political Islam in Morocco: The Case of the Party of Justice and Development (PJD)

By | August 2007

The impact of America’s War on Terror on the evolution of the Moroccan democratic initiative and especially on its impact on the moderate Islamic Party of Justice and Development (PJD) is important to comprehending the current political conditions in Morocco. This analysis will look at the evolution of the PJD since the Casablanca bombing in 2003 and will explain how this event has created new political dynamics between the government and the party.

Filed under: ACAS Review (Bulletin), Bulletin 77
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US War on Terror: Reactions from Morocco’s Civil Society

By | August 2007

‘Terror’ and ‘civil society’ are two highly controversial concepts that lack analytical precision. Both are highly value laden, terror is inherently negative and often used to defame one’s opponent;[1] civil society is inherently positive, originally associated to the self-image of European bourgeois society in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Both concepts are analytically related, as the successful implementation of ‘civility’ in societies negates or, at least, reduces the possibility of the use of terror as a means to an end. It is therefore not a surprise that the so-called War on Terror included an instrumentalist approach aimed at democratization of the Middle East and North African (MENA) region by strengthening civil society. This was not only because of civil society’s idealization as a bulwark against terrorism, but also as the lack of democracy, and US support to authoritarian rulers in the Middle East as part of its traditional containment policy, have been identified as one of the underlying reasons for the rise of terrorist groups in MENA.

Filed under: ACAS Review (Bulletin), Bulletin 77
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The Algerian Civil War: Washington’s Model for ‘The New Middle-East’

By | August 2007

The American invasion of Iraq has clearly failed to produce the domino effect that would, as the architects of the war promised, bring all US enemies into line, and create a new Middle East where democracy would flourish. The invasion of Iraq, like Israel’s failed invasion of Lebanon in 2006, has made it clear in Washington, London and Tel-Aviv that conventional military power and hi-tech weaponry are impotent in the face of popular insurgencies. While this fact is widely accepted by experts on low-intensity warfare, hawks in the American, British and Israeli governments preferred to test its validity for the twenty first century. Now that they found out, at a great price one should add, a significant shift in US war strategy is in place. Analysts and government officials are calling this shift “The Redirection.”

Filed under: ACAS Review (Bulletin), Bulletin 77
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