This blogger published a brief piece for World Politics Review on vulnerabilities and risks in light of the re-election of Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz in Mauritania, and continued western support for his government. Aziz is seen as a reliable counterterrorism partner in much of the west and Algiers. There are many things at work that make him an effective regional ally and leader and others that expose Mauritania, his leadership, and the region at some risk. All eggs are best distributed in multiple baskets. It was shortened at publication for word count purposes; the full original will be posted on this blog shortly. Comments and feedback by email are welcome. Readers who need to hop the pay wall may contact this blogger for the piece at: nourithemoor @ gmail.com
Since the start of the year, political discussions among Algerians have been dominated by one question: What next, after Bouteflika? News from Algeria in the last quarter has added drama to a sweaty political stalemate in high politics widely seen as a struggle between clans around the President and the chief of the DRS, Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediene. Struggles within the FLN and RND were seen to reflect this to some degree, as the party apparatuses struggled to find consensus over internal leadership (party committees and secretary-generalships) and external leadership – parliamentary group leaderships and even party congress meetings (and meeting places) all through the year. The crisis in the FLN was resolved with Amar Saaidani taking the Secretary-Generalship; but no reporting or rumour suggests this man poses any challenge to Boueflika or that he represents successor material. Rumours about the motives of clans and sub-clans, cliques and former party leaders’ ambitions and agency were rife. Investigations into corruption in SONATRACH, including foreign partners, ripped into Bouteflika’s entourage again (after the fiascos of 2009 and 2010). Bouteflika’s deep convalescence in France is rumoured to have been what now seems like a tremendous series of rearrangements at the heart of the state: Algerian news outlets reported that on his return the president moved to dismiss one ‘Colonel Fawzi,’ the chief of the Centre de la Communication et de la Diffusion (CCD) DRS’s media unit since 2001 – responsible for information operations and media relations – and replaced him with a ‘Colonel Okba.’ This was followed by a series of public appearances in which Bouteflika received the military Chief of Staff, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister each time sporting the clothes of old age – blankets and quite casual attire. Though he was clearly reduced in strength he seems to have lost no interest in being an active president – this was not a man looking to be seen as a three quarters president. Continue reading
This post features a translation of a 11 July 2013 interview in El Watan (conducted by Amel Blidi) with Aissa Kadri, an Algerian sociologist based in Europe. Here, Kadri critiques Algerian intellectuals’ disengagement from sociological debates in Algeria and their confinement to power relationship vis-a-vis elite power structures. It appears to have been passed around among many people in the original French. It is worth translating for the sake of bringing out some of the public sphere discussions that are taking place in Algeria as the country faces looming political transition, the [gradual] passing of the country’s first political generation, the reality of rather widespread micro-instability and a region changing rapidly and unpredictably.
This translation was provided by Industry Arabic, a full service translation firm that provides English-Arabic-French technical, legal, and engineering translation management. Industry Arabic will provide glimpses from Algerian and Maghrebi presses to this site as part of an ongoing partnership. Continue reading
SUMMARY: The following is an excerpt from a longer write up from summer 2012; it comes from the same write up as the post ‘Creative Responses to the Rebellion in Mali: A Look at the Forum Poetry‘ (06 July 2012). This post is one of two; a second excerpt will be posted in the future. The longer paper surveys posts dealing with the Mali criss on the Ansar al-Mujahideen Arabic forum, a top tier jihadist Internet forum. The focus is mostly on user-produced content — essays, columns and debates, as opposed to content posted by the Islamist groups in northern Mali (AQIM, Ansar Ed-Dine, MUJWA, etc.) or their media groups. It describes posts on the Ansar al-Mujahideen forum from January through early August 2012 by summarising and analysing three general categories of user/member-generated content (essays, articles, discussion threads, etc.):
- News and Analysis of Northern Mali and Its Jihadis
- Northern Mali and Jihadi Strategy in Africa
- Creative Responses
This post addresses several threads representative of key narratives emerging among jihadist forum users regarding the conflict there. Generally, forum members view events in northern Mali as reinforcement for their existing political and religious views. Posters appear to percieve events in the region — from the arrival of Islamist armed groups in Timbuktu and Gao to corporal punishment for violations of shari’ah – as evidence of an unbridled ‘awakening’ to jihadism in west Africa in an international context. Some debate over the origins and legitimacy of the Islamist groups in northern Mali does take place, largely due to a lack of propaganda material released through conventional jihadist Internet media outlets; late in the summer of 2012 this began to change, as both MUJWA and Ansar Ed-Dine began posting more content to the jihadist forums in the form of videos and newsletters. Continue reading
SUMMARY: This post is a general description of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA, also known by the English acronym MOJWA and the French MOJAO), following on previous posts on the group’s origins and activities in northern Mali. It discusses the group’s origins, activities, leadership and relationships with other armed groups in northern Mali, including Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Ed-Dine and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It also points to recent analyses of the group’s origins. Unlike previous posts on this blog dealing with MUJWA, which deal with competing explanations for the group’s origin it is preoccupied with its activities and recent comments by its leaders. Among the strongest formal descriptions of the group in English (such as they exist) comes from Dario Christiani for the Jamestown Foundation, published in Terrorism Monitor, Vol. 10, Issue 7 (6 April 2012). Mauritanian journalist Mohamed Mahmoud Abu al-Ma’ali has dealt with the emergence of the group in overviews of the Islamist armed groups for al-Jazeera, first in Arabic and now in English (PDF). Though relatively little is known about MUJWA with certainty and any analysis of the group must cautious to stress this, more information has become available with time and certain observations and even claims can be about the group. Continue reading
POMED has an excellent primer on the upcoming Tunisian election by Daphne McCurdy with a guide to key players that will update readers on developments over the summer and early fall, especially as related to the left and far left parties mentioned on this blog. View A Guide to the Tunisian Elections here (PDF).
It’s always unwise to make predictions, as any horseracing tipster or macro-economic forecaster must know, but Hitchens was wrong about the Taliban, with whom the western allies are now being forced to negotiate from a position of weakness, and the whole Afghanistan and Iraq misadventures. His general knowledge of the Middle East is superficial, he speaks no Islamic languages and, unlike, say, the politician-writer Rory Stewart or the Indian novelist Pankaj Mishra, he has made no serious, long-lasting attempt to immerse himself in the politics and cultures of this extraordinarily diverse and heterogeneous region, ravaged for so long by civil war and despotism, and destabilised by repeated foreign interventions.
In a long review of Koba the Dread, Hitchens writes that: “History is more of a tragedy than it is a morality tale.” Too often, when discussing the 10 years of war since 9/11, and in his chosen role of defender of “secularism and democracy”, Hitchens seems to have exchanged his tragic sense of history for the rhetoric of the western triumphalist.
“The war on error,” Jason Cowley, FT, 23 September, 2011.
This is a terrific appraisal of Christopher Hitchens. It should be noted, as this blogger has done repeatedly, that Hitchens used his column in Vanity Fair to write a noisome cheer piece on the Tunisia of Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali (so much for Hitchens as a freedom struggler). Much of his writing on the Arab region or predominantly Muslim countries consists of impressionistic reports on tourism trips and puerile (though cleverly worded) generalizations. His columns and essays on Arabs and Islam (and things related to them) tend to leave the reader with much to be desired in the way of insight and knowledge. One hopes for a rigorous breakdown of Hitchens’s writings on the Middle East and on Islam/Islamism soon.