Mr. Beirouk’s article concentrates on placing Moniquet and his report within the context of the broader Moroccan campaign to discredit the Polisario. I have argued in an earlier posting that the consistent refusal of the Security Council – and in particular the US and France – to pressure Morocco to abide by UN resolutions calling for a referendum combined with the Moroccan refusal since at least 2003 to even consider a referendum or the option of independence has lead to an end to UN primacy on the Western Sahara issue. The likelihood that Washington and the other interested capitals will play a much larger role in the endgame than in earlier phases of the conflict means that public opinion will also play a much larger role. Morocco’s endgame strategy clearly is to step up its misinformation campaign to demonize the Polisario in order to finesse the world community into side-stepping the UN and finally giving in to Morocco’s illegal land-grab. Thus, Mr. Beirouk is totally correct when he says, “Never have the media been so influential in determining the course of the events on the conflict in Western Sahara as during the current Saharaui uprising.”
Mr. Beirouk identifies several pillars of the Moroccan campaign. International NGO’s have for over thirty years been in the forefront of the fight for a referendum. To counter their almost universal condemnation of Morocco, he writes that Rabat “was in search for a humanitarian organization denigrating Polisario to use as reference, and found it on France-Libertés.” To counter the United Nations long history of support for Western Saharan self-determination, Rabat found Erik Jensen, who served as head of MINURSO from 1994 to 1998, who was “willing to sell his soul to the devil” by abandoning self-determination and espousing autonomy within Morocco. Finally, to divert attention from the increasing Islamist and terrorist drift (born of failed social and political policies) among Moroccans both in Morocco and in Europe, Rabat found an expert on Islamism and terrorism, Claude Moniquet. Mr Beirouk writes, “Now, the hand-kissing government will be relying on the ESISC's 'expertise' on international security to spread its falsehoods.”
And from my perspective in the United States I can add a fourth pillar. The United States Congress has been very sympathetic to the Polisario for many years due to the effective lobbying of their ambassador-at-large in the US, Moulud Said, the efforts of the US-Western Sahara Foundation (under the umbrella of the Defense Forum Foundation) to educate members of Congress and their aides on the issues and to fund trips to the refugee camps, and the active involvement of, in particular, two pro-Polisario legislators, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congressman Donald Payne. Recently, however, Rabat has aggressively targeted Congress and found several American legislators willing to do their dirty work. A group of rabidly anti-Castro Cuban-American Congressman in Florida (Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Mario Diaz-Balart) have proved to be particularly receptive to tall tales of the exploitation of Sahrawi students in Cuba and have been more than willing to parrot Moroccan propaganda. Morocco’s biggest coup was, undoubtedly, convincing former prisoner-of-war Senator John McCain to champion the cause, in a well-publicized press conference, of the remaining Moroccan POW’s in Tindouf without a peep about the Sahrawi prisoners held, disappeared, or slaughtered by Morocco.
In addition to placing Claude Moniquet and his report within the broader context of Moroccan propaganda, Mr. Beirouk also traces the strange and perplexing transformation of Moniquet from anti-Moroccan terrorist guru to pro-Moroccan Polisario basher. He shows how from 2003 until late 2005, Moniquet publicly warned of the increasing dangers of Moroccan terrorism both in Morocco and in Europe and criticized the Moroccan government for its “official denial of the risks of terrorism” and “the lack of social and democratic reforms in Morocco.” The bitter reaction in Morocco to Mr. Moniquet’s analysis comes across loud and clear in the following description by Mr. Beirouk:
On June 2005, Claude Moniquet becomes the focus, and the target of the Moroccan press. He is slammed and denigrated by the Makhzen propaganda machine. He's called the "self-appointed terrorism expert". The weekly Maroc-Hebdo, spearheading the campaign, wrote that "such misinformation cannot and should not go without a reaction", in response to his testimony before the US Congress. The press wondered about his "real motivations".
And then the ESISC Polisario report comes out in November 2005, Mr. Moniquet appears in Morocco and “the government controlled media present[s] a new member of the ESISC, in the person of Mohamed Ifkiren, a Moroccan, as vice-president of the Center, and Claude Moniquet has morphed into the darling of the Moroccan elite. Mr. Beirouk writes, “How could the ESISC so easily succumb, by whatever means, to the Makhzen's trap when other European Centers with good reputation did not?” The sudden about face and the utter venality and dishonesty of the ESISC report really do make you wonder.
Khatry Beirouk has done us all a great service by contextualizing Claude Moniquet’s behavior.