Target Mauritania? US involvement and threats to peace in Mauritania

The turbulent political landscape of Mauritania is now being further destabilised by the Obama administration's prosecution of the 'war on terror' begun by Bush, says Jeff Shantz.

FULL STORY: *Third World Resurgence No. 233, January 2010, pp 26-30

MAURITANIA, a mainly desert nation in North Africa that straddles black and Arab Africa, recently entered a period of growing possibilities for petrodollar revenues from offshore oil. It is a place that has garnered very little international attention until recently. Culturally and politically, but not geographically, it is considered part of the Middle East and the Arab world. Yet, at the same time it is one of the most pro-Western and pro-Israeli Arab regimes and is viewed as vulnerable to attacks by Arab nationalist and Islamist forces.

Since 2001 the country has been a centrepiece for the US administration's prosecution of the 'war on terror' in the region, an approach initiated under George W Bush and continued under the young Barack Obama regime. Despite the election of Obama in 2008, the US government continues to view Mauritania as an area of great economic and political interest. Washington, which has historically given the area little regard, views the entire Sahel region as a large ungoverned, mysterious wasteland and, thus, a haven for terrorism (Fellows, 2005). It is in this highly charged and rather skewed context that political turmoil and threats to peace in Mauritania must be approached.

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