Required reading: Morocco’s new elections, just like the old elections?

On Foreign Policy Daphne McCurdy, who participated in an international observation mission for Morocco’s November 25 elections, goes beyond the clichés surrounding the victory of the Islamist PJD party and describes fairly accurately the political reality in the country and the issues at hand following that crucial poll. Truly, the most well-informed and thoughtful article I read so far about the recent legislative elections.

Both the low turnout and the PJD’s success show that Moroccans want genuine change, and won’t be fooled by superficial attempts to win them over. But it is clear that such meaningful change will not come from the king. With endemic corruption, decreasing quality of health care and housing, and increasing levels of unemployment, Moroccans suffer from the same issues that ail the rest of the Arab world. While they probably don’t want to go down the path of revolution, unless political parties take more ownership of the political process and stand up to the king, disaffected Moroccans may find they have nowhere to go but the streets.

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Showdown in Morocco: People Against the Makhzen

This text was originally published on Foreign Policy.

The makhzen refers to an ancient institution in Morocco — the extended power apparatus close to the Moroccan monarchy, made up of a network of power and privilege. It allows the King to act as an absolute monarch and the de facto head of the executive. Beneath the give and take of everyday politics, the makhzen has always been the ultimate guarantor of the status quo. For three months, the pro-democracy youth movement, known as “February 20,” has been advocating against that status quo. Protests have not been targeting the monarchy directly, but instead have been urging for reform that would yield a system in which the King reigns but does not rule.

What started as a small group on Facebook earlier this year, has since grown into a nationwide movement made up of a loose coalition of leftists, liberals and members of the conservative Islamist right. Inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings and powered by new media, the movement convinced hundreds of thousands to take to the streets. The demonstrations held week in, week out, were remarkably peaceful. In response, King Mohammed VI promised a package of constitutional reforms to be submitted to a referendum in June. But as protesters, unconvinced by the King’s promise, vow to keep up pressure on the regime, authorities seem increasingly impatient and determined to break up protests violently, paving the way toward escalation and confrontation with the street. The middle class is joining the mass of demonstrators, moving the protests beyond the core of mobilized youth. Their target is the makhzen — which has become a code word for the monarchy’s abuses of power and monopoly over large sectors of the economy.

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Foreign Policy: Speaking Truth to Power

Following is my response to Foreign Policy on what I’d learned about the United States’ response to the protests in Morocco. Read more reactions here from other people from across the Arab world.

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As U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to give a seminal speech on the Middle East on Thursday, Foreign Policy asked key dissidents and activists across the region what they’d like to see from the administration.

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Terrorism Rooted in Occupation, Not In Islam

Much of the narrative surrounding the ongoing U.S. military adventures in the Muslim world have been articulated around the idea that Islam is inherently anti-Western. This rhetoric had sipped into the hearts and minds of millions in the West as was obvious during the recent controversy over the building of a Muslim community center in New York followed by the acrimonious -eventually aborted- call for a “Burn a Koran Day.” For Islamophobes the equation is quite simple: they hate us and attack us for what we are, and not for what we do. But little they know that a new research now shows that terrorism in the name of Islam has little to do with Islam itself and more to do with foreign occupation, as says Robert A. Pape in an article published in Foreign Policy:

New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance. Although this pattern began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, a wealth of new data presents a powerful picture.

More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research that we conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, where we examined every one of the over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day. As the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, which have a combined population of about 60 million, total suicide attacks worldwide have risen dramatically — from about 300 from 1980 to 2003, to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. Further, over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops, which is why 90 percent of suicide attackers in Afghanistan are Afghans.
(Source: Foreign Policy)

There’s little chance this would convince the Gellers, Spencers and Wilders of this world but that’s at least a solid argument to back what every reasonable mind knew already.