U.S. policy toward the Maghreb countries is presently driven above all by security concerns. Although three of the four countries—Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya—have experienced considerable political change since 2011 and Algeria is on the verge of a succession crisis with potentially significant consequences, the United States is not deeply involved in these transitions. Exhausted and disappointed by failed nation-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States seems to be moving toward the opposite extreme, neglecting political transformations to focus on security. Unless the countries restore or maintain political stability, however, counterterrorism efforts cannot succeed
The pace of reform in Morocco has been extremely slow since the enacting of the new constitution. Yet, buried in the maze of reports and studies that accompany any change in Morocco, a significant development is taking place: the program of “advanced regionalization” promoted by the king is transforming the 2007 proposal to grant a degree of autonomy to the Western Sahara into a one-size-fits-all system in which all Moroccan regions would enjoy more self-government, with the Western Sahara treated like any other region.
David Ottaway is a senior scholar at the Wilson Center who has recently returned from Morocco. The following piece is an overview of his observations on Morocco’s Islamists.
The Islamists Are Coming is the first book to survey the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring. Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties. They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.
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