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Ed Webb

Business as Usual in Western Sahara? | MERIP - 0 views

  • potentially promising peace talks took place in Geneva in December, 2018 between the Polisario Front liberation movement of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco in an effort to kickstart the stalled peace process for the nearly 45-year conflict over this North African territory
  • The two claimants to the territory, Morocco and the Polisario Front, sent delegations. In addition, and as at previous talks, neighbouring Algeria and Mauritania were also invited to attend
  • UN peacekeepers have been on the ground in Western Sahara for nearly three decades as part of the mandate of MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), which has been renewed regularly since 1991 even though the Secretariat’s negotiators have made little progress toward a solution to the Morocco-Sahrawi dispute
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  • the forces protecting the status quo, and thus Morocco’s ongoing colonization of Western Sahara, remain durable
  • If formal talks have been sporadic and often lacked clear outcomes, the parties have been pursuing other initiatives in the past few years. Polisario has achieved favorable outcomes in legal cases calling into question Morocco’s exploitation of resources from a non self-governing territory.[3] Morocco is focused on increasing its reach and influence in Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa. In January 2017 the Kingdom rejoined the Africa Union, which it had left in protest at the admission of SADR in 1984.
  • Algeria not only hosts the exiled SADR government, but also the thousands of Western Saharans who were exiled by Morocco’s invasion in 1975 and who now number 173,000.
  • In the world after the September 11 attacks, the North Atlantic community, led by Paris and Washington, began to view the stability provided by the UN mission in Western Sahara as an end in itself. Since at least 2004, the Council—unable to take independence off the table (because of international law) yet unwilling to force Morocco to contemplate it (because of geopolitics)—has opted to keep the parties talking in the hopes that a new reality will someday emerge.
  • Facing a Moroccan military invasion of its desert colony and with the dictator Franco on his deathbed in October 1975, Spain abandoned its plans for a plebiscite and arranged for Morocco and Mauritania to divide the territory. Mauritania renounced its claim in 1979 and later recognized the government for Western Sahara which the pro-independence Polisario Front founded in 1976, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). War between Morocco, supported by France and the United States, and the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, lasted until a ceasefire was established in 1991, which still holds today.
  • While this consensus-based process has been part of the dynamic reinforcing a status quo that has provided international political cover for Morocco’s ongoing colonization and economic exploitation of Western Sahara, it has rarely been met with anything short of a unanimous vote from the entire Security Council and especially the Permanent Five. In breaking with this tradition, the US resolution elicited almost unprecedented abstentions from two permanent members of the Security Council with little historical interest in the Western Sahara issue, China and Russia, as well as the de facto AU representative on the Council, Ethiopia, a state that also recognizes SADR.
  • Operating under Chapter VI of the UN charter, the only material leverage the Security Council has in Western Sahara is to tie the fate of MINURSO’s peacekeeping force to progress at the negotiating table. The Council, however, has always been loath to terminate a mission that appears to be keeping the peace in Western Sahara. In past few years, several nearby countries—Mali, Chad, Niger, Libya, and Nigeria—have witnessed increasing levels of terrorism and armed conflict which have raised international concerns about the possible destabilizing effects of a UN withdrawal from Western Sahara.
  • the new US attitude toward Western Sahara appears to be driven by John Bolton, who became Trump’s National Security Advisor shortly before the April vote on MINURSO. Bolton has a long history with the Western Sahara conflict, from his days in heading the State Department’s UN office at the end of the Cold War, to serving as an aide to Baker’s Western Sahara mission in the late 1990s, to his controversial interim appointment as the US representative to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006. It is no secret that Bolton has been sympathetic toward Polisario, a cause that became popular among the UN-bashing conservatives in the mid-1990s. While Bolton’s “get tough” approach to Western Sahara might be framed in terms of sensible UN cost-cutting, his recent statements on the issue, where he framed the Western Sahara question as a simple matter of organizing a vote on independence, have sent the Moroccan diplomatic corps, Washington D.C. lobbyists and media apparatus into a frenzy.
  • There has been no fundamental change to the basic geopolitical architecture of the conflict to suggest that Morocco and Polisario Front are more willing to accept an outcome they view as existential annihilation (respectively, independence for Western Sahara or some kind of political-economic integration with Morocco).
  • the Sahrawi nationalist movement benefits from a safe haven in Algeria, which serves as a base for pro-independence Sahrawi activism. Recent years have seen this activism flourishing beyond the refugee camps in Algeria: in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara, in the Sahrawi diaspora, and in social media campaigns. The “supply” side of Sahrawi nationalist demand for self-determination seems assured.
  • France has supported Moroccan efforts to decouple MINUSRSO’s primary and secondary functions. Though MINURSO ostensibly exists to facilitate a political solution that respects Western Sahara’s right of self-determination, its secondary peacekeeping function has effectively provided international cover for Morocco’s ongoing colonization of the territory since 1991.
  • Sahrawi activists contesting Moroccan rule continue to provide substantive documentation, now easily circulated by social media, that the Moroccan authorities commit human rights abuses against nationalist Sahrawis.[4] Troublingly, MINURSO is one a few UN peacekeeping missions in the world whose mandate does not include a provision for human rights monitoring, due in large part to French protection on the Security Council. Similarly, some Sahrawis in the Moroccan-controlled territory continue to voice grievances that the economic investment and development of the territory under the auspices of Morocco does not benefit the Sahrawi population but instead go to Moroccan settlers, corporations, and political-economic oligarchs of the makhzan.
Ed Webb

Is Tunisia Abandoning Morocco for Algeria? - 0 views

  • Power balances in North Africa are shifting. The latest indication that Algeria’s star is rising—along with European demand for its natural gas—as Moroccan influence wanes was all but confirmed by Tunisia’s decision to include the leader of the Western Sahara independence movement the Polisario Front in an investment conference, a move seemingly designed to ruffle feathers in Morocco.
  • For decades, Tunisia has looked on, maintaining its neutral stance as both sides jockeyed for dominance. However, by appearing to have unilaterally invited Brahim Ghali, the Polisario leader and president of the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, to a conference it was holding in tandem with Japan, that neutrality has come into question. Moreover, for many observers, the invitation confirmed what many suspected: that Tunisia is growing increasingly close to Algeria, potentially at the expense of its historically close ties with Morocco, while Rabat’s relations with Japan, which Tunis enjoys a burgeoning relationship with, are cast into doubt.
  • His presence appeared to take many by surprise, not least Morocco, which swiftly issued furious missives of the “hurt” caused to the Moroccan people by Tunis’s action. Ambassadors were withdrawn by both countries while Morocco’s newspapers denounced Tunisia’s shortcomings.
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  • Saied and his foreign ministry claimed surprise at the reaction, citing a circular from the African Union, which extended the invitation to all leaders, including Ghali. A statement was issued by the foreign ministry, reaffirming the country’s total neutrality in line with international law, stating, “This position will not change until the concerned parties find a peaceful solution acceptable to all.”
  • Morocco’s King Mohammed VI used a televised address to send what he said was a clear message to the world, telling viewers, “The Sahara issue is the prism through which Morocco views its international environment.”
  • with European gas prices soaring, Algeria—Europe’s third-largest gas supplier (after Russia and Norway) and the Polisario Front’s chief backer—is also enjoying a diplomatic renaissance. European politicians and regional power brokers are all enjoying a renewed interest in Algiers, with Tunisia’s Saied among them
  • Tunis also relies on Algeria for its own gas, buying it at a discounted price, as well as receiving revenue for the transport of Algerian gas across its territory, bound for Sicily and then the rest of Europe.
  • “The war in Ukraine and its impacts on Europe in terms of gas supplies reposition Algeria as an important player in the western Mediterranean,”
  • The plight of the Sahrawis is one of the world’s longest-standing refugee crises. Since 1975, thousands of Sahrawis have been sheltering in the Algerian desert, waiting for the opportunity to return home.
  • the U.N. estimates that around 90,000 “vulnerable refugees” are sheltering in the desert, relying on international aid just for their daily food and shelter.
  • “Weather conditions are especially adverse in this part of southern Algeria, where temperatures in summer can reach up to more than of 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit), which causes casualties among the elderly, children, and pregnant women.”
  • with both Algeria and Morocco having relatively static leaderships, where there is little change in personnel, the dispute was allowed to rumble on
Ed Webb

Obama administration steps into Western Sahara minefield - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the... - 0 views

  • Congress is in effect siding with Morocco, which claims historic sovereignty over its southern half and has proposed an autonomy plan. Native Sahrawi activists, backed by neighboring Algeria, want a referendum on independence as promised by the United Nations a quarter century ago.
  • Thrust into the debate, the State Department has opted to thread the needle by focusing its efforts on democracy-building. In a letter explaining its approach to the congressional mandate, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Julia Frifield made clear that the $1 million grant “does not reflect a change” in the Obama administration’s policy of supporting a “peaceful, sustainable and mutually agreed solution to the conflict.” "This program will address the legitimate needs of the people of the Western Sahara,” Frifield wrote in a Dec. 23 letter to Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the top Sahrawi advocate in Congress. “It will seek to strengthen civil society organizations and local representative bodies to bolster the ability of citizens to play an active role in making decisions that affect their lives.”
  • Mouloud Said, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s US envoy, said Moroccan lobbyists have been trying to legitimize Rabat’s administration of the region ever since the 2004 trade deal with the United States excluded the Western Sahara. With the new program, he said, they’re one step closer to that goal. “This sort of program is very welcome once we find a solution to the conflict. But this is not the right moment,” Said told Al-Monitor in a phone interview. “It’s not a good idea because the real Sahrawi civil society is not going to be a part of it. They understand that this is a game by Moroccans to try to legitimize their occupation by getting the US involved through what appears to be an innocent and genuine program — which is everything but genuine or innocent.”
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  • While it could help strengthen Western Sahara groups, he said there’s also a risk that it could end up legitimizing unrepresentative, pro-government organizations on the ground.
Michael Fisher

US encourages resolution of Western Sahara dispute - 4 views

  • Clinton reiterated the U.S. commitment to facilitating an Israeli-Palestinian peace, and also singled out the Western Sahara dispute, reaffirming longstanding U.S. policy that supports autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty as the only realistic solution to end the 34-year-old conflict.
  • Clinton was sharply criticized for restating what has been U.S. policy for three successive administrations.
  • The Algerian-backed rebel group Polisario Front accused Clinton of misstating U.S. policy on the Sahara and over-praising Morocco for its unarguably impressive record of political reforms, social progress and economic growth over the last decade.
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  • Current U.S. policy on Western Sahara is that “autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty is the only feasible solution to the Western Sahara dispute” and should be negotiated “within the U.N.-led framework.”
  • The U.S. adopted the policy as the only realistic solution to ending the decades-long stalemate over Western Sahara, which continues to be a roadblock to regional cooperation to grow economies in North Africa, address security concerns including terrorism and trafficking, and create a pillar of stability in an unstable part of the world.
  • Failure to resolve the conflict also perpetuates the suffering of tens of thousands of refugees trapped for more than three decades in desert camps in Algeria, held hostage by Polisario leaders and a failed ideology willing to sacrifice a people’s future to score political points.
Ed Webb

How Washington helped foster the Islamist uprising in Mali -- New Internationalist - 3 views

  • Libya was the catalyst for the Azawad rebellion, not its underlying cause. Rather, the catastrophe now being played out in Mali is the inevitable outcome of the way in which the Global War On Terror has been inserted into the Sahara-Sahel by the US, in concert with Algerian intelligence operatives, since 2002.
  • The 9/11 terrorist attacks precipitated a whole new era in US-Algerian relations. Over the next four years, Bush and Bouteflika met six more times to develop a largely covert and highly duplicitous alliance.
  • By 1998, the killing had become so bad that many Islamists abandoned the GIA to form the Groupe Salafiste pour le Prédication et le combat (GSPC) but it soon became evident that it too had been infiltrated by the DRS. Although the ‘Dirty War’ began winding down after 1998, it has never really ended. The GSPC, which changed its name to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2006, is still operative both in northern Algeria and the Sahara-Sahel.
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  • the DRS is still creating terrorists and using ‘false flag’ incidents and ‘state terrorism’ as fundamental means of control. The DRS has certainly not changed: its head, General Mohamed Mediène, who was trained by the KGB and once referred to himself as ‘The God of Algeria’,2 was appointed in 1990 and is still in post. He is regarded as the most powerful man in Algeria
  • Some incidents, such as the widely reported Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attack on Algeria’s Djanet airport in 2007, simply didn’t happen. What actually transpired was that a demonstration against the Algerian administration over unemployment by local Tuareg youths ended with the youths firing shots at the airport. It was nothing to do with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
  • As for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, its leaders in the Sahara and Sahel regions, namely Abdelhamid Abou Zaid, Mokhtar ben Mokhtar and Yahia Djouadi (all have many aliases) are either agents of the DRS or closely connected to it.
  • Operation Northwoods remained ‘classified’ and unknown to the American public until declassified by the National Security Archive and revealed by Bamford in April 2001. In 2002, a not dissimilar plan was presented to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board. Excerpts from its ‘Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism’ were revealed on 16 August 2002,3 with Pamela Hess,4 William Arkin5 and David Isenberg,6 amongst others, publishing further details and analysis of the plan. The plan recommended the creation of a ‘Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group’ (P20G as it became known), a covert organization that would carry out secret missions to ‘stimulate reactions’ among terrorist groups by provoking them into undertaking violent acts that would expose them to ‘counter-attack’ by US forces.7
  • The first US-Algerian ‘false flag’ terrorist operation in the Sahara-Sahel was undertaken in 2003 when a group led by an ‘infiltrated’ DRS agent, Amari Saifi (aka Abderrazak Lamari and ‘El Para’), took 32 European tourists hostage in the Algerian Sahara. The Bush administration immediately branded El Para as ‘Osama bin Laden’s man in the Sahara’.
  • The loss of tourism has deprived the region of tens of millions of dollars and forced more and more Tuareg (and others), especially young men, into the ‘criminality’ of banditry and drug trafficking.
  • Around the time of the El Para operation, the Pentagon produced a series of maps of Africa, depicting most of the Sahara-Sahel region as a ‘Terror Zone’ or ‘Terror Corridor’. That has now become a self-fulfilled prophecy. In addition, the region has also become one of the world’s main drug conduits. In the last few years, cocaine trafficking from South America through Azawad to Europe, under the protection of the region’s political and military élites, notably Mali’s former president and security forces and Algeria’s DRS, has burgeoned. The UN Office of Drugs Control recently estimated that 60 per cent of Europe’s cocaine passed through the region. It put its value, at Paris street prices, at some $11 billion, with an estimated $2 billion remaining in the region.
  • the rebellion that began in January 2012 was different from all previous Tuareg rebellions in that there was a very real likelihood that it would succeed, at least in taking control of the whole of northern Mali. The creation of the rebel MNLA in October 2011 (see box below) was therefore not only a potentially serious threat to Algeria, but one which appears to have taken the Algerian regime by surprise. Algeria has always been a little fearful of the Tuareg, both domestically and in the neighbouring Sahel countries. The distinct possibility of a militarily successful Tuareg nationalist movement in northern Mali, which Algeria has always regarded as its own backyard, could not be countenanced
  • ‘terrorism rents’
  • The Algerian intelligence agency’s strategy to remove this threat was to use its control of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to weaken and then destroy the credibility and political effectiveness of the MNLA
  • The leaders of these new groups – Ansar al-Din’s Iyad ag Ghaly, and MUJAO’s Sultan Ould Badi – are both closely associated with the Algerian intelligence agency, the DRS. Although Ansar al-Din and MUJAO both started out as few in number, they were immediately supported with personpower in the form of seasoned, well-trained killers from the DRS’s Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb brigades. This explains why the Islamists were able to expand so quickly and dominate the MNLA both politically and militarily.
  • Foreign military intervention now looks increasingly likely. That is something to which Algeria has always been strongly opposed in that it regards itself, not France, as the hegemonic power in the Sahel. The UN Security Council’s 12 October Resolution effectively gave Algeria a last window of opportunity to ‘rein in its dogs’ and engineer a peaceful political solution.
  • there is the prospect of one appalling scenario that is being raised by some of the local, mostly Tuareg, militia commanders. They are postulating as to whether Algeria’s DRS and its Western allies have been using the Azawad situation to encourage the concentration of ‘salafist-jihadists’ into the region – in the form of the long-talked about ‘Saharan emirate’ – before ‘eradicating’ them. In that instance, Algeria’s DRS would pluck out its ‘agents’ and leave the foot-soldiers – the Islamist fanatics – to face the bombardment.
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    Dirty games afoot?
Ed Webb

Exclusive: Israel pushing Trump to back Morocco over Western Sahara - Axios - 0 views

  • Israel and the U.S. have been discussing a deal that would see the U.S. recognize Moroccan sovereignty in the occupied Western Sahara and Morocco take steps to normalize relations with Israel, according to Israeli and U.S. sources.
  • Contacts between Netanyahu and the Moroccans started getting more serious after a secret meeting with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2018
  • Netanyahu tried to push the deal ahead of Israel's April 2019 election, but it was shelved when details of Ben-Shabbat's visit to Morocco leaked to the Arab press.He tried again before the September 2019 election, but then-national security adviser John Bolton, a fierce opponent of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, killed the idea. The issue came up again in November, before Secretary of State Pompeo’s visit to Morocco. Nothing came of it while Pompeo was in Rabat.
Ed Webb

Disputed Western Sahara becomes kitesurfing hotspot - 0 views

  • In the heart of disputed Western Sahara, a former garrison town has become an unlikely tourist magnet after kitesurfers discovered the windswept desert coast was perfect for their sport.
  • Tourist numbers have jumped from 25,000 in 2010 to 100,000 today
  • Kitesurfing requires pricey gear -- including a board, harness and kite -- and the niche tourism spot attracts well-off visitors of all nationalities.
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  • "Here is the best place in the world for learning kitesurfing," said the 31-year-old Polish stewardess.On her understanding of the broader regional context, she said: "It's an old Spanish colony and they have good seafood, for sure."Like many tourists, she was under the impression that the area belonged to Morocco, as the destination tends to be marketed in the travel industry as "Dakhla, Morocco".
  • Without waiting for the political compromise that the UN has been negotiating for decades, hotels have sprouted from the sand along the coast, and rows of streetlights on vacant lots announce future subdivisions.
  • Only the names of certain sites, like PK 25 (kilometre point 25), ruined forts in the dunes and the imposing and still in-use military buildings in Dakhla, remind tourists of the region's history of conflict.
  • Polisario, which wants independence for the disputed region and tried last year in vain to sue businesses it said were "accomplices to the occupying military power."
  • Moroccan authorities are looking actively for investors for their development projects on the west coast, the most ambitious being the Dakhla Atlantique megaport with a budget of about $1 billion to promote fishing.
  • On the lagoon, surrounded by white sand and with its holiday bungalows, "there is a struggle between developing aquaculture and tourism," said a senior regional representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity."One has less impact on the environment, but the other generates more revenue and jobs,"
  • "Everything is developing so quickly... we need to recycle plastic waste and resolve the issue of wastewater,"
Ed Webb

Border Security Doesn't Make Europe Safer. It Breeds Instability. - 0 views

  • While it is natural be outraged by the locking up of children in Donald Trump’s United States or the criminalization of rescues in Italy during Matteo Salvini’s reign as interior minister, this deadly game is sadly not just being played by a few erratic and callous politicians. Rather, it is systematic.
  • For many years now, a key part of the game has been to get poorer neighbors to do the dirty work of deterring migration
  • outsourcing of migration and border controls represents a spectacular own goal not just in humanitarian terms, but also politically
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  • From the indefinite containment in what Amnesty International called “insecure and undignified” camps in Greece to de facto pushbacks of migrants toward the hell of Libya, from increasingly perilous routes across the Sahara to the avoidable mass drownings in the Mediterranean, Europe’s so-called fight against illegal migration has fueled abuses that undermine the EU’s global role and its avowed values
  • the EU, just like the United States, has doubled down. In its strategic agenda for the next five years, it has coalesced around a project straight out of the hard right’s playbook—of protecting borders, not people. And the way forward, in the words of the agenda, is “fighting illegal migration and human trafficking through better cooperation with countries of origin and transit.”
  • The RSF, like Erdogan, has played a clever game within the rules set in part by the EU and has presented itself as helping the EU to fulfill its priorities—while simultaneously acting as a smuggling conduit. In effect, border security has been given a premium in the political marketplace, helping the guys with the guns to capture a larger market share.
  • The suffering is kept at a distance until spectacular violence hits the news, such as in the July killing of at least 44 people in the Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s airstrike on a Tripoli detention center. The general silence means the suffering festers, infecting European countries’ relations with their neighbors. And some among the neighbors are taking note of the cynicism. As a leading West African voice on migration, former Malian Culture Minister Aminata Traoré put it succinctly: “Europe is subcontracting violence in Africa.”
  • by temporarily pushing the problem away, it is sowing the seeds for abuse, repression, and even instability on a much larger scale
  • Once migration has been elevated into an existential threat to the “European way of life,” those on the other side of the EU’s borders will know how to leverage that threat effectively, with destabilizing consequences
  • Playing his cards cleverly within the rules set by Europe’s growing obsession with migration, Erdogan then explicitly threatened this October to “open the gates” for refugees to head toward Europe if EU leaders failed to support his military incursion and resettlement plans for northern Syria
  • consider Sudan, where the country’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group formerly linked to the genocidal janjaweed in Darfur, have trumpeted their credentials in fighting migration. This is the same force that killed dozens of protesters in Khartoum earlier this year and whose leader had by this summer by most accounts become the de facto, Saudi-backed ruler of Sudan.
  • deaths owing to Fortress Europe since 1993 now adds up to well over 30,000 human beings and counting
  • across the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions, where the EU is now lavishing migration-related funds and political recognition on shady regimes and their frequently repressive security personnel. One of the countries targeted is Niger, which has become a laboratory for border security, with dire consequences.
  • The draconian law on migrant smuggling that the EU pushed has hit not just cross-border human smuggling but all sorts of cross-country transport, and it has involved Niger’s authorities selectively targeting members of certain ethnic groups. This risks fueling ethnic and political grievances while depriving northern Niger of its economic lifeblood, which includes not just irregular migration but also ordinary cross-border trade with, and travel to, Libya.
  • Amid growing popular discontent, and with an emboldened security state and a reeling economy, Niger is today a tinderbox thanks in no small part to the very security measures imposed by Europe.
  • Building on former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi’s sordid deal-making with Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi a decade earlier, Italy and the EU have since 2015 tried to get around legal responsibilities at sea by funding and training a so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which in large part is simply a front for dolled-up militias.
  • the assumption of the EU’s strategic agenda, for one—that “fighting illegal migration” in this way is key to defending “the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens”—is plain wrong. A quick glance at the longer trend shows 2015—when an estimated 1 million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe by sea—to be an exception: Most immigrants enter Europe by air, and most sub-Saharan African migrants stay within their own region.
  • human mobility is in itself not a threat to anyone’s safety. In fact, the risks associated with its most chaotic manifestations are perversely caused in large part by the very security measures rolled out to stop it. But even these manmade risks pale in comparison with the risk of strengthening authoritarian regimes and repressive forces, while undermining the EU’s clout and values, in the name of European citizens’ security.
  • the EU must rekindle positive projects of collaboration and opportunity—including, not least, by working with the African Union on its incipient plans for boosting free movement across the continent. And it must ensure that the EU and member states don’t fuel instability and abuses, as has been the case with Libya since well before NATO’s disastrous intervention there.
  • migration toward the U.S.-Mexico border can be addressed by Washington through genuine attempts at reversing long-standing U.S. complicity in the instability racking Central America—both in terms of support to violent groups and abusive leaders and in the export of gang members into El Salvador. Similar reversals are needed in the drug war that is racking Mexico, where U.S. arms and incentives have helped fuel violence that has claimed thousands of lives.
  • Today’s tug of war between rights and security, or between open and closed borders, paints those in the former camp as naive idealists and those in the latter as hard-headed realists. However, this is a false dichotomy.
  • If policymakers and voters really want to be “realistic,” then it is essential to appreciate the full future costs of the path on which they are currently set and to acknowledge the dangerously perverse incentives for escalating violence, extortion, and authoritarian rule that it entrenches. Meanwhile, the fantasy of protecting Western democracies through the outsourcing of migration controls feeds the damaging delusion that these countries can seal themselves off from problems such as conflict and global warming to which they are themselves strongly contributing.
Ed Webb

Morocco's king makes rare visit to Western Sahara - 1 views

  • "Those who are waiting for any other concession on Morocco's part are deceiving themselves. Indeed, Morocco has given all there was to give," the king said in Laayoune.
Ed Webb

Will Tunisia, Algeria relations recover through land border reopening? - Al-Monitor: In... - 0 views

  • Tebboune announced that land borders between the two countries would reopen July 15. The announcement represented a breakthrough in the silent crisis between the two countries as the closure of the land borders has heavily affected Tunisia in particular.
  • disputes between the two countries have pushed Algeria to pressure Tunisia on several issues, including in delaying the reopening of the border.  Among the files that may have contributed to the silent tensions is Tunisia's position on the Western Sahara dispute pitting Morocco against the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.
  • Tunisia has in the past tried to distance itself from the Western Sahara conflict, amid reports of Algeria’s attempts, in vain, to lure Tunisia to its side.
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  • on May 26 Tebboune stated from the Italian capital, Rome, that Tunisia is facing a political impasse and needs support in reinstating democracy
  • Tunisia has valid concerns about Algeria raising gas prices in light of the global energy crisis.
  • Algeria sells gas to Tunisia at preferential prices, and the latter earns a right of passage of 5.25% on the total of Algeria gas transported through Tunisian territory to Italy.
  • Algeria has expressed concerns over potential Tunisian normalization with Israel despite the fact that Saied had stated during his electoral campaign in 2019 that “normalization with Israel is tantamount to treason.”
  • Taboubi leads the UGTT, a historically strong and popular union in Tunisia with more than 1 million workers. In an explicit reference to Morocco's normalization with Israel, Taboubi said in his June statements that a campaign to push Arab normalization with Israel aims to pressure Algeria, which leads a campaign to boycott Tel Aviv in the North African region.
  • Although the opening of the land borders appears to be an indication of the beginning of the recovery of Tunisian-Algerian relations, other measures will need to be in place to guarantee this recovery
Ed Webb

Crossing the river: Black Mauritanians haunted by mass expulsion to Senegal | Middle Ea... - 0 views

  • Thirty years ago Mariame, along with tens of thousands of Black Mauritanians, was violently expelled in what survivors have called a “genocide”. More than 14,000 people now live in a series of dusty refugee camps near the Senegal river that separates the two countries, a matter of kilometres away from their former homes. A similar number live in Mali.
  • after independence, Mauritania embarked on aggressive “Arabisation” policies, securing the racial supremacy of a tiny Arab-Berber elite at the expense of the much larger black population, many of whom it expelled en masse in 1989
  • Ethnic Fulani people, as most here are, have ancient ties to both sides of the river, which throughout the ages has connected, but at other times acted as a barrier between, the riverine communities that live upon its banks.
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  • Fearing the return home, they are now struggling to keep their identity alive, refusing to take on Senegalese citizenship and melt into society, because they see themselves as indigenous to Mauritania, a country which has tried to erase its black population.
  • Offering a respite from the harsh Sahara, the fertile river valley had historically been a meeting point between Arabs, Berbers and Black Africans. Gilded African kingdoms like Takrur and Walo, straddling both banks, sealed its reputation as the “river of gold” described by medieval Arab geographers, its glittering lure proving irresistible to European explorers, traders, and later slave traders. Arab-Berbers, also known as beydanes  - literally "white men" -  were the descendants of local ethnic Berbers conquered by a succession of Arab tribes arriving on camel back from the Arabian peninsula. One of those tribes, the Bani Hassan, gives its name to their language: Hassaniya Arabic.
  • Relations between the riverine communities were mixed. Arab-Berber raiders were known to sweep down from the right bank across the river, carrying back young women, men and children into the desert as slaves. This legacy of slavery still haunts Mauritania to this day.
  • While French colonialism had the impact of opening the river up once again - allowing Arab Berber merchants and clerics to head south and for Black Africans to settle in the north - it also bred tensions.
  • While slavery was officially abolished in 1981, there are an estimated 90,000 enslaved Haratin.
  • A gradual purge of Black Mauritanians from official posts had started at independence but it gathered pace during the 1980s under the rule of military ruler Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taye, a Pan-Arab nationalist who had strong ties to Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Rising at the same time was the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM), a black militant organisation, which in 1986 published the Manifesto of the Black Mauritanian, vowing to destroy the country’s “apartheid” system.
  • The execution of three Fulani army officers following an abortive coup the following year gave authorities the justification needed to present Black Africans in general, and Fulanis in particular, as being enemies of the state.
  • Many Fulanis, whose Islamic heritage stretches back a millennium, were particularly resentful of the way Islam was equated with being Arab.
  • Mauritania was also now in the business of projecting an exclusively Arab image both at home and abroad, reflected on everything from banknotes to stamps to holiday brochures. It joined the Arab League in 1973. But this masked an uncomfortable demographic reality: Arab-Berbers were a minority. They make up 30 percent of the population today, as do Black Africans.
  • The balance is made up by Haratins, the poor descendants of Black African slaves once owned by the Arab-Berber population. They sit at the foot of the steep socio-economic pyramid despite their number. Black-skinned, but also Arabic-speaking, integrated into the Arab-Berber tribal system while at the same time bearing the brunt of racial discrimination, they occupy a precarious position, caught between the hold of their erstwhile masters and the potential of black solidarity.
  • Mauritania therefore faced an identity crisis by the time of its independence in 1960. Black Africans saw the country’s future as lying in a pluralistic state of Arab-Black unity merged together with neighbouring Black francophone nations Mali and Senegal. But many Arab-Berbers supported a union with Morocco, wanting to exclusively emphasise the country’s Arab character. The country became independent in November 1960 under president Moktar Ould Daddah, an Arab-Berber, who quickly instituted one-party rule and made Arabic the country’s official language.
  • After a catastrophic drought through the 1970s and a costly war in the Western Sahara which ended with a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Polisario Front in 1979, the Mauritanian government took a keen interest in exploiting the Senegal river valley. With 90 percent of the country already desert, the riverine farmland was by then seen as an especially precious commodity. Who owned the farms controlled the food supply.
  • The land grabs only added to a sense of impending doom among the country’s Black population. The Manifesto of the Black Mauritanian observed in 1986: “They aim to break all ties between the inhabitants of the two shores inhabited by the same families, Wolofs in the Lower Valley, Fulani-speakers and Soninke in the Middle Valley, Soninke in Upper Senegal.”
  • An “air bridge” was agreed between the two neighbours, repatriating each other's citizens. Instead of just repatriating Senegalese nationals as agreed, Mauritanian authorities used the opportunity to systematically expel its Black African population. Underlying this move was the idea that Black Africans were not Mauritanian but actually Senegalese.
  • in April 1989, Diop left the country on a plane meant to be repatriating Senegalese back home. It was full of Black Mauritanian policemen like him
  • Mauritanian authorities drew up lists targeting the urban leadership and potential leadership of the black community. Intellectuals, civil servants, businessmen, professionals and students were put onto overcrowded trucks and driven down to the river where they were made to cross by boat.
  • Entire villages were burnt or destroyed by the army. In the four Mauritanian regions abutting the Senegal river 236 villages were either destroyed or abandoned.
  • According to Human Rights Watch, over 50,000 people had been displaced by the end of 1989, as much as eight percent of the country's Black African population, enough to drastically alter the racial politics of the country.
  • Between 1990-91 up to 600 black political prisoners were executed or tortured to death by government forces.
  • Repopulating the abandoned villages, seizing prized cattle and the possessions left by those fleeing the pogroms, were the Haratin, who had earned their share of the spoils by carrying out much of the state’s dirty work - the rape, the torture and the theft
  • The gains they made would go some way to sealing their political allegiance to their erstwhile Arab-Berber masters for years to come, while driving a painful wedge between Mauritania’s two black communities.
  • By the early 90s, a new order had taken shape along the river. Along Mauritania's increasingly militarised river border facing Senegal, Haratins now formed a first line of defence. Opposite, swelling the population of Senegal’s riverside towns, were tens of thousands of bewildered Mauritanian refugees, who only had to look a few hundred metres into the distance to see their homeland. Gone was the dynamic riverine community.
  • A constant source of anxiety has been a lack of job opportunities, owing in part to the limitations placed on refugees, affecting their ability to pay for healthcare and education.
  • many here dream of travelling to find work to support their families. But Senegal, which is responsible for issuing travel documents to the refugees, has yet to produce the machine readable travel documents which became required document for international refugee travel back in 2015
  • Senegalese authorities have pressed the community to accept its nationality. Abdoulaye Diop, and many here, reject this based on principle, as an infringement on their identity. “I am as Mauritanian as the president is, and Mauritania is the place where I know, where I was born and grew up,” Diop said.
  • But according to a survey conducted by the UNHCR last year, of the Mauritanian refugees, 67 percent said they would be willing to become Senegalese.
Ed Webb

The Oil for Security Myth and Middle East Insecurity - MERIP - 0 views

  • Guided by the twin logics of energy security and energy independence, American actions and alliances in region became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The very thing the United States sought to eliminate in the Middle East—insecurity—became a major consequence of America’s growing and increasingly militarized entanglement.
  • In effect, the essential relationship of dependency between the United States and the Middle East has never been “oil for security.” It has in fact been oil for insecurity, a dynamic in which war, militarization and autocracy in the region have been entangled with the economic dominance of North Atlantic oil companies, US hegemony and discourses of energy security.
  • Although the destabilizing contradictions of this dependency have now undercut both American hegemony and the power of the North Atlantic hydrocarbon industries, the oil-for-insecurity entanglement has nonetheless created dangerously strong incentives for more conflict ahead.
  • ...18 more annotations...
  • Oil’s violent geopolitics is often assumed to result from the immense power its natural scarcity affords to those who can control it. Recent developments in global hydrocarbon markets, which saw negative prices on April 20, 2020 have once again put this scarcity myth to bed
  • In a series of studies that began in late 1980s, economists Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler charted the extent to which the world’s leading oil companies enjoyed comparatively handsome rates of returns on equity—well ahead of other dominant sectors within North Atlantic capitalism—when major wars or sustained unrest occurred in the Middle East.
  • When oil prices began to collapse in the mid-1980s, the major oil companies witnessed a 14-year downturn that was only briefly interrupted once, during the 1990-1991 Gulf War.
  • The events of September 11, 2001, the launching of the global war on terror and the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq reversed the fiscal misfortunes of the North Atlantic oil companies in the previous decade. Collectively, they achieved relative returns on equity several orders of magnitude greater than the heyday of 1979 to 1981. As oil prices soared, new methods of extraction reinvigorated oil production in Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. In effect, war in Iraq made the shale oil revolution possible
  • fracking—not only benefitted from sky-high oil prices, generous US government subsidies and lax regulation, but also the massive amounts of cheap credit on offer to revive the economy after 2008
  • In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran hostage crisis, the Carter Doctrine declared America’s intent to use military force to protect its interests in the Gulf. In so doing, Carter not only denounced “the overwhelming dependence of the Western democracies on oil supplies from the Middle East,” but he also proposed new efforts to restrict oil imports, to impose price controls and to incentivize more fossil fuel extraction in the United States, all in conjunction with solidifying key alliances (Egypt, Israel and Pakistan) and reinforcing the US military presence in the region.[5] In effect, America would now extract geopolitical power from the Middle East by seeking to secure it.
  • In denouncing certain governments as “pariahs” or “rogue states,” and in calling for regime change, American policy has allowed those leaders to institute permanent states of emergency that have reinforced their grip on power, in some cases aided by expanded oil rents due to heightened global prices
  • What helps make energy security discourse real and powerful is the amount of industry money that goes into it. In a normal year, the oil industry devotes some $125 million to lobbying, carried out by an army of over 700 registered lobbyists. This annual commitment is on par with the defense industry. And like US arms makers,[9] the revolving door between government, industry and lobbying is wide open and constantly turning. Over two-thirds of oil lobbyists have spent time in both government and the private sector.[10]
  • For some 50 years, the United States has been able to extract geopolitical power from Middle Eastern oil by posing as the protector of global energy security. The invention of the concept of energy security in the 1970s helped to legitimate the efforts of the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations to forge new foundations for American hegemony amid the political, economic and social crises of that decade. In the wake of the disastrous US war efforts in Korea and Southeast Asia, Henry Kissinger infamously attempted to re-forge American hegemony by outsourcing US security to proxies like Iran under what is referred to as the Nixon Doctrine. At the same time, regional hegemons would be kept in check by “balancing” competing states against each other.
  • The realization of Middle Eastern insecurity was also made possible by the rapid and intensive arms build-up across the region in the 1970s. As oil prices skyrocketed into the 1980s, billions of so-called petrodollars went to purchase arms, primarily from North Atlantic and Soviet manufacturers. Today, the Middle East remains one of the most militarized regions in the world. Beyond the dominance of the security sector in most Middle Eastern governments, it also boasts the world’s highest rates of military spending. Since 2010, Middle Eastern arms imports have gone from almost a quarter of the world’s share to nearly half in 2016, mainly from North Atlantic armorers.
  • For half a century, American policy toward the Middle East has effectively reinforced these dynamics of insecurity by promoting conflict and authoritarianism, often in the name of energy security. High profile US military interventions—Lebanon in 1983, Libya in 1986 and 2011, the Tanker Wars in the late 1980s, the wars on Iraq in 1991 and 2003, Somalia in 1993, Afghanistan since 2001, the anti-Islamic State campaign since 2014 and the Saudi-Emirati war on Yemen since 2015—have received the most scrutiny in this respect, alongside the post-2001 “low intensity” counterterrorism efforts worldwide
  • cases abound where American policy had the effect of preventing conflicts from being resolved peacefully: Trump’s shredding of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran comes to mind; the case of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara have likewise become quintessential “peace processes” that have largely functioned to prevent peace.
  • the myth of authoritarian stability
  • A year after the unexpected 2011 uprisings, the IMF’s former director Christine Lagarde admitted that the Fund had basically ignored “how the fruits of economic growth were being shared” in the region
  • A 2015 report by the Public Accountability Initiative highlights the extent to which the leading liberal and conservative foreign policy think tanks in Washington—the American Enterprise Institute, Atlantic Council, Brookings, Cato, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Council on Foreign Relations and Heritage Foundation—have all received oil industry funding, wrote reports sympathetic to industry interests or usually both
  • From 2012 to 2018, organized violence in the Middle East accounted for two-thirds of the world’s total conflict related fatalities. Today, three wars in the region—Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan—now rank among the five deadliest since the end of the Cold War. Excluding Pakistan, the Middle East’s share of the worldwide refugee burden as of 2017 was nearly 40 percent at over 27 million, almost double what it was two decades prior.
  • profound political and financial incentives are accumulating to address the existing glut of oil on the market and America’s declining supremacy. A major war in the Middle East would likely fit that bill. The Trump administration’s temptation to wage war with Iran, change Venezuela’s regime and to increase tensions with Russia and China should be interpreted with these incentives in mind.
  • While nationalizing the North Atlantic’s petroleum industries is not only an imperative in the fight against climate change, it would also remove much of the profit motive from making war in the Middle East. Nationalizing the oil industry would also help to defund those institutions most responsible for both disseminating the myths of energy security and promoting insecurity in the Middle East.
Ed Webb

The Gray Zone: How Islamophobia is Playing to Someone Else's Rulebook - Tunisialive - 0 views

  • Scott Atran,  Director of Research in Anthropology at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris and Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University, told Tunisia Live, “The core strategy outlined in the ISIS playbook, The Management of Chaos-Savagery, (Idarat at-Tawahoush),   (required reading for every ISIS political, religious and military leader, or amir), is to fill the void wherever chaos already exists, as in much of the Sahel and Sahara, and create chaos that can be filled as in Europe.”
  • In achieving this, Daesh must eliminate the “gray zone,” the area of society they regard most Muslim emigrants as inhabiting. The “Brussels attacks represented just the latest, ever more effective, instalment for fomenting chaos in Europe and thereby ‘Extinguish[ing] the Grey Zone,’” Atran said. In a 12-page editorial in the February 2015 edition of Dabiq, Daesh’s online magazine, titled, “The Extinction of the Gray Zone.” specific mention is given to the kind of division that yesterday’s attack was intended to provoke and broaden. “The editorial quotes Osama bin Laden, for whom ISIS is the true heir,” Atran told Tunisia Live. “’The world today is divided. Bush [former US President George W. Bush] spoke the truth when he said, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,”’ with the actual ‘terrorist’ being the Western Crusaders. Now, ‘the time had come for another event to… bring division to the world and destroy the Gray zone.’”
  • “Motivate the masses to fly to regions that we manage, by eliminating the ‘Gray Zone’ between the true believer and the infidel, which most people, including most Muslims, currently inhabit. Use so-called ‘terror attacks’ to help Muslims realize that non-Muslims hate Islam and want to harm all who practice it, to show that peacefulness gains Muslims nothing but pain.”
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