There were three empty seats at the G-8 summit dinner table in Sea Island, Georgia: Moroccan King Mohammed VI, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Abdullah and Mubarak decided they could live without a lecture from President George W. Bush on how much democracy their respective countries lacked. The two veteran rulers considered it beneath their dignity to share the spotlight with the brand new Iraqi president, Ghazi al-Yawar.
Morocco’s Mohammed had very different reasons of his own for staying home.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence and counter-terrorism sources, the king has spent several weeks revamping all his country’s intelligence and security services and is still in the middle of the project. Mohammed knows that the services directed from Rabat until now need to be urgently decentralized to keep up with present needs, especially the war on terror.
After the al Qaeda attacks in Casablanca last May, the investigation was totally hamstrung by the secret services’ lack of knowledge of the city’s street life. They were au fait with national politics and social intrigue in the capital, but woefully ill-equipped to come to grips with a probe in the lower and provincial strata of Moroccan society where al Qaeda had made serious inroads.
It has taken the Moroccan authorities a whole year to get started on the reorganization of their investigative agencies so that they can get down to a proper investigation of the Casablanca attacks.
Under the new setup, operational authority will be distributed among a number of districts instead of centered in the capital. The way things are done will start changing in earnest when each city station chief receives his operational autonomy, veto powers on municipal issues, including budgets, licensing and education and medical services, as well as control over the local police force.
Hamido al-Aniqari, Morocco’s national security director, is in charge of the reorganization. Assisting him is a team of US, Egyptian and Spanish intelligence specialists. It is unclear, to say the least, how Americans helping Morocco empower unelected intelligence officials to run municipal affairs squares with Bush’s vision of a democratic Greater Middle East.