Moroccan FM warns West that Al Qaeda could exploit ME

“Al Qaeda loves the places where there is no strong democratic, national power,” Taieb Fassi-Fihri tells The Brooking Institution.

WASHINGTON – Morocco’s foreign minister warned Wednesday that Al Qaeda could take advantage of the upheaval in the Middle East and called on the US and EU to work with Arab states to prevent that from happening.
“Al Qaeda can exploit the situation because Al Qaeda is present in the Maghreb” as well other African locales, Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi-Fihri told The Brookings Institution.
He said that while there are many unknowns about what will emerge from the changes sweeping the Middle East landscape, “What’s assured is that Al Qaeda will … test, will try to take advantage of the opportunity of these question marks.”
He noted, “Al Qaeda loves the places where there is no strong democratic, national power.”
Fassi-Fihri lent his support to the protests being staged and their participants’ calls for democratic reform, and pointed to Morocco’s own recent moves to set up a fully independent judiciary and elected prime minister as signs of his country’s intentions.
But he cautioned that democratic transitions are by no means guaranteed.
“The Arab spring is here. We’re not sure that the Arab summer will succeed,” he said.
“Maybe we’ll go directly… to a dark winter, like it happened in our area in Iran in 1979.”
He was referring to calls for democratic change that resulted in the imposition of a theocracy during the Islamic Revolution.
“The USA, European Union and Arab countries have to work together to protect this positive evolution,” he stressed, “and to be sure that the legitimate aspiration of people will not be hijacked by others.”
When it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Fassi-Fihri urged the parties to return to direct talks.
In the face of various alternatives, he said: “It would be better to create once again this negotiation process. It has to start.”