U.S. Middle East talks – a model for Western Sahara?

October 2010

Coauthored with Anna Theofilopoulou

The recent decision by the Obama administration to invite Israel and the Palestinian Authority to engage in serious negotiations over the Middle East conflict should be instructive for those interested in resolving one that seems almost as intractable — the Western Sahara dispute. Key to this new effort in the Middle East conflict is (1) the U.S. is sponsoring and supporting the talks; (2) the U.S. has demanded that the two negotiate seriously, tackle the difficult subjects that have trounced previous attempts for resolution; and (3) the U.S. has given the two sides a one-year deadline. Though the fate of the Israel-Palestinian talks still hangs on a knife’s edge, a similar attitude on the part of United States towards the Western Sahara dispute might pave the way to a durable solution to one of Africa’s oldest conflicts.

Book review: Historical Dictionary of Western Sahara, Third Edition by Anthony Pazzanita

September 2010

in Journal of North African Studies 15/3 (2010): 417-421.

Why the UN won’t solve Western Sahara (until it becomes a crisis)

August 2010

Co-authored with Anna Theofilopoulou.

The Secretariat under Ban Ki-moon does not seem to recognize, or is unwilling to admit, the tough choices facing the UN venture in Western Sahara. As early as December 1995, Boutros Ghali admitted to the Council that the differences between the sides were irreconcilable and surprised everybody by admitting that he never believed that the referendum would happen. He understood that there were really only three options on the table: force a solution on the parties, withdraw or keep pressing for negotiations. Consistently, the Security Council chose number three. For the Obama administration, these choices remain fundamentally the same and dismal in their prospects.

Read the Original:

in French
Pourquoi l’ONU ne résoudra pas le Sahara occidental (jusqu’à ce que cela devienne une crise)
Translation by Amis du Peuple du Sahara Occidental, France

in Spanish
Por qué no resolverá la ONU el problema del Sáhara (hasta que se convierta en una crisis abierta)
translation by Javier Villate

Cómo los EE. UU. y Marruecos se apoderaron del Sáhara Español

August 2010

En noviembre pasado [2006] se cumplieron 30 años de la crisis del Sáhara, desencadena cuando Marruecos presionó con éxito a Madrid, en el otoño de 1975, para expulsarlo de su colonia en el desierto. A pesar de los desmentidos de Estados Unidos, documentos secretos desclasificados revelan que el éxito del rey Hassan II fue posible gracias a la intervención de EE.UU.

Translation by Luis Portillo.

Original in English: http://mondediplo.com/2006/01/12asahara

Algeria and the Western Sahara Dispute

May 2010

Since the outbreak of hostilities between Morocco and the Western Saharan nationalists of the Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Polisario) in late 1975, Algeria has been one of the most important actors in that conflict. While Algeria maintains no territorial claim on Western Sahara, it has consistently supported Polisario’s drive for self-determination diplomatically, militarily, financially and morally. With only slight aberrations in its Western Sahara policy, Algeria’s position in the Western Sahara conflict, as Polisario’s most important backer, will likely hold the same general shape it has for over thirty years. There is no doubt, then, that understanding Algeria’s role in the Western Sahara conflict is necessary for a complete historical appreciation of this neglected international issue and is also key to unlocking the peace process, which has stagnated over the last ten years.

in Maghreb Center Journal, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2010: 14p.

Legal analysis of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on Western Sahara

April 2010

in Multilateralism and International Law with Western Sahara as a Case Study, Neville Botha, Michèle Olivier and Delarey van Tonder (eds), University of South Africa Press, 2010: 127-138.

Letter to Middle East Quarterly regarding Samuel Spector’s “Western Sahara and the Self-Determination Debate”

November 2009

To the editor: The small group of scholars (and even smaller group of policy makers) interested in Western Sahara always appreciate new contributions to the discourse. However, they should at least be based in fact. Samuel J Spector’s article ‘Western Sahara and the Self-Determination Debate’ (Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2009, pp. 33-43) unfortunately fails this preliminary test.

Unlocking the Conflict in Western Sahara

April 2009

At the end of April, the UN Security Council will have the opportunity to make the right choice or the safe choice when it renews the authorization for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). The right choice would be to give the new UN envoy a mandate for peace. To do this, the Security Council would have to secure the commitment of both sides of the conflict, Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front, to power-sharing and self-determination. The safe choice, meanwhile, would be to continue under the weak mandate that contributed to the failure of the previous UN envoy.

Published by Foreign Policy In Focus.

The Potomac-SAIS report on North Africa: Paid Analysis, Partisan Fear Mongering, Bad Policy

April 2009

At the end of March, a relatively obscure Washington, D.C., think tank called the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies published a report — in conjunction with the conflict management program of the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University — arguing largely in support of Morocco’s 2007 autonomy proposal to solve the Western Sahara dispute. Framed in terms of US policy towards North Africa (‘Why the Maghreb Matters’), the report is a thinly veiled effort to provide academic and political legitimacy to a one-sided view of the Western Sahara issue. It precipitated a detailed response from the Western Saharan Union of Writers and Journalists.

Out with the Old, in with the New: Western Sahara back to Square One?

March 2009

The closing months of 2008 saw the end of a chapter and the opening of a new one in the Western Sahara conflict. Over the past three years, the peace process in Western Sahara, what the United Nations considers Africa’s last colony, was under the guidance of former Dutch diplomat Peter Van Walsum, who lost his position as UN Secretary General Personal Envoy at the end of August. Taking up where Van Walsum left off, the United States put forward the nomination of Ambassador Christopher Ross – one the US’s leading Middle East diplomats – to mediate the three decades old dispute between the occupying power, Morocco, and the Sahrawi pro-independence movement, the Polisario Front.

in Mediterranean Politics, Volume 14, Number 1, March 2009 , pp. 115-122.