Friday, August 29, 2008

Q&A: Military coup in Mauritania & Russia's war in Georgia

The following is a translation of an Arabic Q&A from the website of the Ameer of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Sheikh Ata Abu Rashta.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Answers to Questions

Question 1: On 6th of August, 2008, a military coup was announced in Mauritania staged by the army led by the chief of the Republican Guard, General Mohammed Abdul Azeez against the President of the Republic Sayyid Mohammed al Sheikh Abdullah and his Prime Minister Yahya Ahmad al Waqif. This coup took place 16 months after the elections facilitated by the army in March 2007, which itself were less than 2 years after the 2005 military coup which dethroned Waleed al Ta’e and the army assumed authority under the leadership of Colonel Ali Mohammed Faal who honoured his commintment to transfer power to an elected government. What is the reality of this latest coup and what prompted it?

Answer: In 1920 the colonialist France occupied the Muslims in Mauritania after a fierce resistance and declared Mauritania as a French colony. Then in 1946, they declared it as an overseas protectorate state under the French suzerainty and the imperialist colonialists remained there until 1960 when they allowed a formal independence but retained control over authority, contituted an army based on their creed and trained officers in their culture. Thus a series of military coups were staged begining with the 1978 coup against the first French-appointed president Mukhtar Dadah. Until now five successful coups have taken place in Mauritania apart from nine failed attempts during the last thirty years.

The latest coup staged by General Mohammed Abdul Azeez follows a decree by the deposed president Sayyid Mohammed al Sheikh Abdullah dismissing the general as the commander of the Republican Guard as well as the chief of staff al Ghazawani and the commander of the police. It may be recalled that it was the deposed president who had promoted the three colonel officers to the rank of generals, which means that either he approved of them or was under their pressure or perhaps he was trying to placate them by means of these promotions and earn their loyalties, which is more probable.

However it was surprising to see the deposed president take a complete U-turn and dismiss the army leadership in such a hurry and with such ease! Note that the three generals were in command and he was a newly elected president coming to office for his first term and moreover he was the first elected president! It appears that he presumed and counted on support both locally and oversees because of the democratic process and he also supposedly under estimated that France would instigate or encourage the military officers prompting them to stage the coup. The president appears to have counted heavily on US support for him.

In the first French reaction to the coup in Mauritania, as expressed by the French foreign office spokesman Roman Nadal said that his ministry was in constant touch with the French Embassy in Nouakchott and was monitoring the situation in coordination with all their allies. He added that it was a little premature to make further comments on the situation. France was the first foreign country to make the announcemnt about the coup having taken place in Mauritania and its Ambassador was the first to have been received by the coup leader. This itself suggests that France was aware of the chain of events there. It was reported in the media that France knew about the coup at least two hours before hand.

As for the US reaction expressed by the State department spokesman, it condemned the coup, demanded that all countries rebuke the event and also welcomed the European Commission and the Organisation of African Unity‘s condemnations. The US State department spokesman further demanded that the eleceted president Sayyid Mohammed al Sheikh Abdullahand his Prime Minister Yahya Ahmad al Waqif be released and the elected government be reistated forthwith. He also announced immedeate suspension of all US aid to Maritania other than humanitarian assistance.

But just one day after the coup, France in her capacity as the current president of the EU issued a statement saying that the EU condemns the coup staged by General Mohammed Abdul Azeez in Mauritania. It is apparent that this rather belated condemnation came not from France but from the EU which reflects the policy of supporting elections and democracy at the ideological level and which is at variance with the stance of the individual nations. Further, this condemnation comes in the wake of the US demand that all countries rebuke the events in Mauritania. Offcourse, Europe could not have openly supported the coup which would contradict with its policy of fostering democracies.

The British on their part did not issue reaction nor was the coup covered in its press and media at all, which indicates that Britain was not upset with the coup. It neither condemned it not sipported it nor even comented on it either ways. This was a clever maneauvre designed to insulate Britain from being embarrassed by supporting the coup and appearing aniti-democracy!
The present Mauritanian coup took place after a dispute between the army and the Republic’s president and his government. The army had asked the parliamentary & Senate members of the ruling party known for short as the Justice party to resign from their party. As as result, 48 members of the ruling party resigned on 5th August, 2008 C.E and consequently, the president dismissed the army command including the coup leader General Mohammed Abdul Azeez. The army command responded to their dismissal and rejected to decree dismissing them and declared it to be invalid immedeately afterwards. The coup leader General Mohammed Abdul Azeez said in a statement today 9th August, 2008 C.E that the coup was in response to the failures of the deposed president. As for the spokesman of the deposed presidency Abdullah Mama Duba said: ‘‘The armed forces thought of the president as pliable, but it turned out to be otherwise, and when the president tried to forge a majority in alliance with other parties, the armed forces moved in with their weapons“.

The parliamentary crisis began on 30th June, 2008 C.E when the members accused the government of failures and demanded that it had lost confidence and hence its removal. On 1st July, 2008, htere were reports to the effect that France was behind the members move and that it was not satisfied with the performance of the government and the president as well as their policies. The reports cited certain points including its disapproval of the release of some Muslim prisoners held in prisons who were trying to form what it said was a `Islamist` party. This, according to the reports suggested that the president had religious inclinations since he erected amosque in the Presidential palace premises. The reports further said that it suggested that the president was sensitive to relations with the Jewish entity and wanted to hold a referendum on the issue and sever relations with the Jewish state. The reports further accused the president of allowing increased American presence in Mauritania and considered him as its leading agent.
To conclude, based on the fore going, it may be said that France did not approve of the political attitude of the deposed president and this disapproval of France encouraged the military officers to stage the coup against him, while the US approved of his anti-French and pro-American policies aimed at increasing the US presence in Mauritania as a first step to erase the French influence and replacing it with US hold. The president decided to extricate of the army’s authority, brought in officers whom he could work with and removed officers loyal to France.

Question 2: What prompted Georgia to initiate attack on South Ossettia? Did it not anticipate a stong reaction from Russia? Where would this war lead to?

Answer: It is clear that the US has fanned the flames of war in Georgia because it was Georgia armed forces that launched the attack on South Ossetia and it is unlikely that Georgia would embark on a attack of such magnitude with the US green signal.

Therefore the Georgian assault was pre-planned and surprised Russia and it may well be the begining of a long-drawn war in the Caucasus with the Georgians and Ossetians fuelling it primarily. Russia on its part will not remain a silent spectator because if it does so, it stands to lose its hegemony in the region. It will also not give away sovereignty especially over South Ossetia to Georgia since an overwhelming majority of the regions 70,000 inhabitants are either Russians or are pro-Russia and hold Russian passports. These inhabitants regard their territory as a natural extention of the Northern Ossetia which is in Russia.

Georgians too will not easily give up South Ossetia because it is a part of their territory according to the official and international maps, on the other hand it intends to take revenge from the Ossetians who defeated the Georgians in the 1992 war and separated from it with the Russian backing and are a separate entity for the last 16 years. It is more likely that the war may spill over into the Abkhazian region which is even bigger than South Ossetia both in terms of geographical area and population which separated from Georgia in the same year.

The initial US statements in the aftermath of the attack clearly suggest that it supports Georgia in its venture. The US State Department spokesman Gonsalves Ghalighou said:“We are in touch with senior officials in Georgia and Russia“. He added,“We call upon Moscow to use pressure on the authorities in charge in Southern Ossetia to cease fire“. Here he regards the separatists‘ leadesrship as the de facto leadership, in another statement a US adminstration official said that“the solution to the South Ossetian conflict must focus upon unity of the Georgian territories“, in reference to uniting the southern Ossetian region with Georgia.

As for Russia, after the separation of Kosovo from Serbia, it has warned that its reaction on the issue would be to separate southern Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia and their independence. Some observers see Georgi’s entry into the NATO linked to the solution to the southern Ossetian and the Abkhazian conflict. The Georgian President Saakshivli appears to be in a hurry to join the NATO alliance and has therefore ventured this attack being assured of American support to prevent Russia from interfering in his country’s internal affairs and to develop his country to the levels enjoyed by the Baltic countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia which are completely free from any Russian interference. However, it is unlikely that Russia and Georgia will reach a final settlement, especially the Gerogians have waited long for a solution. The Russians on the other hand consider the issue as their regional one and do not imagine giving up on the separatists. Therefore most solution appears to be a soldiers‘ respite cease fire and not a final solution.

Indeed the United States is likely to be primary beneficiary and has nothing to lose, because this conflict is likely to remain atleast for the time being a thorn in the Russian flesh draining much of its energies and engaging it for a long time at the cost of other issues.

10th Sha’ban, 1429 A.H
9th August, 2008 C.E

Arabic Source

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