Saturday, May 26, 2007

Center for American Progress panel on Western Sahara: Not much more than an excuse to wear a blazer

On May 10th, I went to the Center for American Progress's panel on the Western Sahara, "Morocco's Proposal for Western Sahara." You might say I'm old news with this, but enough people were nice enough to recommend it to me that I'll write about it. If only they had known how boring it would be.

To understand how stultifying it was, consider this: I left before it was over. I've sat through the Maghreb Symposium's backscratching just to see Jacques Rousselier tell me what I already knew about Western Sahara, but this was too much even for me.

The panel consisted of Rousselier, MINURSO's former spokesman; Ian Lesser, a commentator on Mediterranean affairs; Claude Salhani, an editor for United Press International; and Robert Malley, the MENA director for International Crisis Group and a former assistant of Sandy Berger's and member of the National Security Council.

Malley (pictured) came out best, and not just because his closest competition was Rousselier (In fairness to Claude "Great, Big, Bushy Beard" Salhani, I missed his remarks). He had several dynamite points, not least of which was that Morocco does not support self-determination. He said that doesn't mean the autonomy plan isn't good, but it does mean Morocco should stop pretending that it supports self-determination. He also called for Algeria to stop pretending like it's not an interested party in the Western Sahara.

Here is a video of his remarks. The rest of the presentation can be seen on the the event's page.

I was disappointed because I didn't see my boys from the Moroccan-American Center for Policy. Fortunately, former ambassador to Morocco Edward Gabriel was there in their place to ask asinine questions for dirhams.

He had two comments for Malley, to the effect that self-determination doesn't require a vote (ICJ and the Settlement Plan, not to mention countless UN resolutions notwithstanding). Then he avoided a harsh rebuke from the Malley Mallet and asked Rousselier a softball.

All I'm saying is, Rob Malley for Secretary-General envoy to Western Sahara.


  1. Hi Will,

    I too was at the CAP affair and found it totally useless. And I too pondered whether to write about it on my blog. In the end, I decided that so little of any substance came out of the panelists that there was nothing to write about. For an event titled "Morocco's Proposal for Western Sahara" it was rather odd that the panelists hardly touched on any of the substantive issues surrounding the autonomy plan.

    I checked for your name on the registration list but didn't see it. I should have emailed you. Anyway another time.

    And by the way your boys from MACP, Robert Holley and Jordon Paul were up there in the front right sitting with Ed Gabriel. And if you listen to all the questions for the panelists you'll hear Holley's question.


  2. Sahrawifil11:08 AM

    It sounds like you guys had a whale of a time!

    Do you mean that despite the huge amount of money spent by Morocco on PR and lobbying, there no entertainment provided? That is unlike the Kingdom of one thousand and one nights. Or was the entertainment reserved for the few loyal friends/subjects of his majesty.
    By attending the event you’d have at least observed how some human beings have sold their soul/conscious for a wistful of dollars. You'd also have noticed the bad and ugly side of the boys from MACP.

    One thing that has been bothering me is how could any intellectuals who are expected to be a beacon to lead the way towards enlightenment and emancipation support and defend a regime that still conducts itself in the manners of the dark ages.

  3. Sahrawifil,

    All your points are right on target.

    And they did have some pretty good sandwiches for lunch.


  4. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Long live the Polisario, guardian of the human rights of the Sahrawis (except for sunbathing them for 30 years in the camps) and defendent of the free expression movement (except for shutting up sahrawis mouth and being the only authorized voice to speak), and finally for being the honest movement that it is now (except for receiving its annual dollars from the Algerian rulers).

  5. Laroussi2:09 PM

    Anonymous: You might think that Polisario is totalitarian. I do not agree. Nevertheless so is the Moroccan rule with its despotic king.

    So, why not simply let the Saharawis themselves decide who they like to rule their country, and if they like to be Moroccan or not?

    Easy way of solving all the problems. Quite democratic too, I must say.

    You know, there might be things to criticize the Polisario leadership for, but one thing is sure: They do not pretend that they should decide the future of Western Sahara. They ask for the Saharawi people to be given that chance.

    Why on earth should M VI decide that? Doesn't he have problems enough to deal with at home in Morocco? Poverty, education, child prostitution. You name it. The list is long.

    Ps. Dear Moroccans, when you post comments in blogs can't you at least chose a signature so that one knows who is who of you. That is if you are more than one...