Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stuart E. Eizenstat and the Western Sahara (Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Marginalized Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II)

In my previous post on Covington & Burling and the Western Sahara, the name of former U.S. official Stuart E. Eizenstat comes up several times. As a Covington Partner, head of their international practice, and lead lobbyist on the OCP account he is up to his neck in this rogue law firm’s illicit and unethical behavior involving Morocco and the Western Sahara. In a nutshell, he is facilitating the Kingdom’s plunder of the territory’s resources, advocating for the legitimization of the illegal occupation, and posing as a domestic lobbyist when he is in fact a Foreign Agent of Morocco.
During my many years working for the Jewish Forward newspaper, I heard the name of Stuart E. Eizenstat in only the most reverential of tones. Capping off an illustrious career in government under several presidents, he served during the two Clinton administrations as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union (1993-1996), Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade (1996-1997), Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs (1997-1999), and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury (1999-2001). What he is most remembered for within the Jewish community, however, is his role in the late 1990s as Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State on Holocaust-Era Issues. Credited with having “successfully negotiated major agreements with the Swiss, Germans, Austrian and French, and other European countries, covering restitution of property, payment for slave and forced laborers, recovery of looted art, bank accounts, and payment of insurance policies,” he was a macher and a mensch, a real hero in the Jewish world. Leaving government at the end of the Clinton administration in 2001, Eizenstat moved on soon afterwards to the prestigious Washington law firm of Covington & Burling, where he has remained to this day.
Maghrebian integration
Shilling for Morocco appears to be a relatively recent preoccupation for Eizenstat. Economic integration of the Maghreb, however, has been a long-term project -- dating back to the U.S.-North Africa Economic Partnership (Eizenstat Initiative) that he launched in the late 1990s during his stint as Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs in the Clinton administration. In his own words, “The goal of that initiative was to develop a closer relationship between the United States and the countries of the Maghreb and to encourage increased trade, investment and job creation.” Reflecting the regional nature of that Initiative, Eizenstat’s statements at the time about the three countries included in the Initiative, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, were appropriately evenhanded. While at times acknowledging the “political problems” bedeviling the relationship between Algeria and Morocco, he was careful not to pick sides on the Western Sahara question. Rather he stressed U.S. support for the initiatives of Former Secretary of State James Baker III and the United Nations to resolve the crisis, and stated his hope that increased economic cooperation would spill over into the political arena. .

Eizenstat’s journey to the dark side came in two stages.
Collusion in Plunder
The first dates back to at least the early-/ mid-2000s (in 2008 Eizenstat was saying that OCP was already a long-time client) when OCP signed on with Covington to provide legal cover for Morocco’s illegal extraction and export of phosphates from the occupied Western Sahara. The defining document of this period is the infamous 2007 White PaperLegality of Phosphate Resource Development in the Sahara Region,”   which Covington disseminated to phosphate importers to assure them that it was OK to deal in pilfered Western Saharan product. Eizenstat’s personal responsibility for this unethical collusion lies in his ownership and leadership positions at Covington as Partner and Head of the international practice.
While Eizenstat had during this period clearly taken a pro-Moroccan stance in regard to the phosphate plunder, he appears to have at least tried to remain somewhat neutral about regional issues, including the Western Sahara. In 2008, at a Maghreb Center conference, Eizenstat announced that he had started work on a new initiative to increase Maghrebian integration. Acknowledging the failure of his earlier initiative to gain any traction over the previous decade and spurred by reports that Al Qaeda affiliates were exploiting this lack of cooperation to gain footholds in the region, he outlined his plan to, in effect, double down on his earlier effort. The new one would broaden the effort to include Mauritania, Libya, and the European Union. Proactively addressing any perception of bias related to the fact that the Moroccan Office Cherifien des Phosphates, a partner in his new Initiative, was his long-time client at Covington, he tells the audience at the Maghreb Center:
My work is supported by Mostafa Terrab, the CEO of OCP (the largest business entity in Morocco) and formerly head of the World Bank’s “Information for Development” program.  I met Mr. Terrab because OCP is a long-time client of Covington & Burling.  We discussed the opportunities for economic development in the Maghreb, and he agreed that OCP would support the initiative because he and I share the belief that economic development in the region will benefit the private sector in all five countries.  My work, however, is not American or Moroccan in outlook.  My objective is to benefit all five countries of the region. (my emphasis)
This evenhandedness was not to last long.
Collusion in Illegal Occupation
With the commencement of Covington’s lucrative lobbying relationships with OCP in 2008 and with Kosmos Energy in 2009 (with over $2 million dollars rolling in by 2012), Eizenstat completed his transformation from apologist for plunder into a full-fledged Moroccan agent. In addition to providing legal cover for Morocco’s plunder, he was now actively lobbying the U.S. government to legitimize that plunder as well as the occupation by signing on to Morocco’s autonomy proposal. On the most important regional issue, the Western Sahara, his work was now completely “Moroccan in outlook.” The defining document of this stage is the rabidly pro-Moroccan lobbying paper, “Why the Maghreb Matters” (March 2009), of which Eizenstat served as co-chair. As I spell out in some detail in earlier posts, this document urges the U.S. government to support settlement of the Western Sahara crisis solely on Morocco’s terms. Eizenstat’s clear message here is, “screw the Algerians.” So much for evenhandedness.
Again, as Partner and head of the international practice at Covington & Burling and lead lobbyist for the OCP account, Stuart Eizenstat is up to his neck in a host of violations of international and U.S. law and unethical practices.  He is using his good name and extensive clout in the halls of power to convince lawmakers to support Morocco’s theft of Western Saharan resources and illegal occupation – policies that clearly benefit his clients at the expense of the indigenous Sahrawi.  Ironically, the title of his book on the holocaust assets, Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor, and the Unfinished Business of World War II, pretty much says it all. Substitute “marginalized” for “slave” and you have a good overall description of the Western Sahara situation today. The Nazis stole billions from the Jews and the Moroccans are stealing billions from the Sahrawi. There is moral equivalence here and if anyone should understand this it is Stuart Eizenstat. His support for Morocco’s plunder of the Western Sahara is disgraceful; his support for terminating the Sahrawi’s dreams of an independent homeland is unconscionable. Shame on Stuart Eizenstat.

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