Regional Security Role Shields Mauritania’s Aziz From Pressure to Reform

Regional Security Role Shields Mauritania’s Aziz From Pressure to Reform
Mauritanian troops along the Mali-Mauritania border, August 2010 (photo by Wikimedia user Magharebia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Western governments mostly welcomed the re-election of Mauritania’s strongman, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, last month, despite low turnout and an opposition boycott. Mauritania’s growing importance in regional counterterrorism and security efforts against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other militant groups has shielded Aziz from outside pressure to reform.

Yet the West should not confuse Aziz with the entire Mauritanian regime. His authority has limits and largely depends on the backing of the military. Moreover, though Aziz has proven to be a shrewd political operator, he is not immune to internal dissent, including among the military. Strengthening the military without monitoring delicate internal politics, therefore, risks destabilizing an important regional security ally. And the West’s failure to pressure him to be more inclusive only heightens the danger of political unrest.

Mauritania’s role in Western-supported counterterrorism operations in North Africa originated under its longtime military dictator, Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya, in the early 2000s. Taya formed close ties with the United States to obtain vital political and military aid after a period of relatively cold relations with Washington following the first Gulf War.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.