THE WHITE HOUSE

CONFIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM 2 November, 2005
TO:

The President of the United States Ambassador Joseph E. Lebaron Mr. Stephen Hadley

COPY: Secretary of State Secretary of Defence

SUBJECT: Post-Coup US-Mauritania Relationship

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Following the August 2005 deposition of former President Maaouiya Ould Tayaa by Colonel Ould Mohamed Vall and the Military Council for Justice and Democracy (M.C.J.D.), the United States withdrew strategic military assets from Mauritania and scaled down diplomatic relations with its government. Ongoing Embassy-Nouakchott communications emphasize the United States’ interest in Mauritania’s stability and continued non-violence. International and regional terrorist organizations threaten Mauritanian and West African stability. Underdevelopment leaves Mauritania’s government, private sector and civil society vulnerable to corruption, instability and extremism. Mauritania’s predicted emergence as a major producer of petroleum* beginning in early 2006 and increased

*

Mauritania first granted permission for deep-water (2,500-3,500 m. deep) offshore oil exploration in 2000 and five significant fields have been discovered since 2001. More than forty wells are ready for extraction. The Chinguetti oil-field will begin production of 75,000 barrels per day in February 2006 and will yield an estimated $7 billion at 1

regional activity in the global war against violent extremism indicate the U.S. interest in constructive engagement with Mauritania. This brief recommends a coherent package of military and development assistance to support the Mauritanian government’s work to create the conditions for security, democracy and large-scale trade and development.

MILITARY ASSISTANCE The North and West African security atmosphere has changed markedly in recent years. Al Qaeda and its partner organizations in North Africa are blamed for radicalizing Muslim communities throughout the region, recruiting new terrorists to kill abroad, and supporting armed militia that threaten regional stability. Terrorist organizations active in Algeria and Morocco for decades face new opposition in their own countries spurred by international concern for terrorism. Mauritania’s porous borders with Algeria and Western Sahara permit terrorists’ movement throughout the region and the arid border region is used as a safe-zone between countries by Islamic extremist organizations. The Tayaa-government administered a counter-terrorism program using equipment and training provided by the United States. Vall and the M.C.J.D. have expressed interest in the resumption of counter-terrorism measures and have banned the organization Party for Democratic Convergence for its Islamist positions, announcing in a statement that “Islamists and extremists have no place” in Mauritanian politics. The military assistance regime must be constructed with specific goals and programs in mind and managed by American advisors in order to satisfy the concern that October 2005 prices. Oil companies from China, Australia, Russia, the U.S. and U.K. all have agreements in place with Mauritania. 2

training and equipment will be used for purposes other than counter-terrorism, a charge levied against the Tayaa-government and not yet allayed by the M.C.J.D. Border security and domestic policing by Mauritanian forces and increased U.S. human intelligence activity will help to maintain the country’s territorial integrity and serve the development goals of maximizing physical security and minimizing non-native extremism. Selected groups of Mauritanian forces can be trained and equipped at minimal cost. In their counter-terrorism roles, their duties will primarily consist of policing and occasional confrontation with armed opposition. The U.S. should limit its support to arms and management training, intelligence-sharing, provision of border security expertise, and use of military hardware (transportation, , weapons, communications) by designated counter-terrorism units. As off-shore oil interests develop, forces should be prepared to monitor Mauritanian coastal areas.

DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE Mauritania is plagued by high levels of poverty and unemployment, low rates of education and literacy, a quickly growing population, and noted human rights abuses. The M.C.J.D. government inherits a legacy of corruption and mismanagement. Insufficiently instituted economic systems make Mauritania an inhospitable setting for foreign investors. Mauritania’s continued underdevelopment has consequences to U.S. commercial interests, world markets and international security. The United States will serve its economic interests and its security interests in North Africa and the greater fight

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against terrorism by offering targeted development assistance immediately, particularly in the areas of public education and institution building. Education aimed initially at increasing literacy rates and civic education intended to inform publics of government’s purpose and powers will help to prepare Mauritanians for the changes of wealth and status that accompany oil production, as well as to guard against corruption and theft of public resources. Public education will enable greater numbers of Mauritanians to participate in the country’s development and emerging oil business, thereby maximizing their benefits and increasing the likelihood of continued political and economic stability. A special source of funding should be made available to international development organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, Peace Corps, and International Republican Institute to promote literacy, other forms of education, civic education and civil society capacity building aimed at equipping Mauritanians for change, democracy, and government accountability. In addition, two sets of scholarships should be administered by the U.S. government to sponsor Mauritanian students at American universities: one set of meritbased scholarships will develop new leadership for Mauritania’s emerging commercial power, and one set granted by Embassy-Nouakchott to the children of prominent Mauritanian political and business actors will cement the countries’ relationship through a shared interest in Mauritania’s success. Mauritania’s political and economic institutions remain loosely constructed, weakly tied to the regions outside Nouakchott, and insufficiently transparent to prohibit corruption and secure foreign investment. The M.C.J.D. has committed itself to organizing elections within two years (in which M.C.J.D. officials will be ineligible)

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and to remedying problems related to corruption. The U.S. should offer Mauritania the services of experts in public administration, law, election management, political party training, economics, banking, infrastructure development and other areas of public concern to help its government achieve its goals. Mauritania will be most reliable as a trading partner and most resistant to the extremism immediately outside its borders if its institutions are strong and governed by laws.

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Human development, economic development and security against terror and extremism are connected. Underdevelopment of Mauritania’s human resources and public management presents domestic and international consequences. Without strong economic and political institutions with safeguards against corruption, oil revenue is vulnerable to mismanagement and theft by domestic officials and foreign business interests. Without public (literacy) and civic education, Mauritanians are ill-equipped for changes that accompany the wealth and international status given to oil-producing countries, they will encounter difficulty maximizing the benefits of oil revenue, and they will remain vulnerable to domestic corruption and foreign extremism. On 3 August 2005, the government of Mauritania was seized by military leaders lead by Colonel Ould Mohamed Vall in a bloodless coup d’etat. The coup’s leaders formed a junta calling itself the Military Council for Justice and Democracy (M.C.J.D.). Former President Maaouiya Ould Tayaa, who was in Saudi Arabia to attend the funeral of King Fahd at the time, was refused re-entry and has since accepted asylum in Qatar. The M.C.J.D. dissolved the country’s bicameral parliament, temporarily suspended Ministerial authority, and communicated a broad system of reform. _____. The African Union suspended Mauritania’s membership pending an inquiry. The A.U. emphasized its concern that repeated coups d’etat, military governments and violence

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persist to the detriment of African stability and development, but has since reinstated Mauritania’s full membership. The United States has maintained diplomatic relations and shipments of humanitarian aid without interruption, though it immediately suspended military aid initiated to support the Tayaa regime’s anti-terrorism initiatives. The Department of State initially expressed the United States’ desire for the resumption of constitutional government and the return of former President Tayaa. Diplomatic and military policy with regard to the M.C.J.D. government remains ambiguous. Write a confidential policy brief for a head of state or head of government about an issue of your choice, but the issue should have a clear international dimension. Your brief should explain what the issue is all about and what is at stake for your boss and also give operational policy recommendations. Your policy paper should be unrelated to your panel discussion and research paper. (3-5 pages).

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