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Cablegate: Morocco Hosts Mepi Ldf Alumni Conference

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #1181/01 3571657
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221657Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 9472

UNCLAS RABAT 001181

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPMI XF MO
SUBJECT: MOROCCO HOSTS MEPI LDF ALUMNI CONFERENCE

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Summary:
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1. (SBU) The second annual Middle East Partnership
Initiative (MEPI) Leaders for Democracy Fellowship (LDF)
Alumni Meeting took place in Marrakech, Morocco December
15-17. The DCM opened the event that brought together 28 LDF
alumni from 13 countries in the Middle East and North Africa
(MENA) region. Most participants felt that U.S. foreign
policy in the region would remain the same and that the new
administration would focus its attention on U.S. domestic
issues. Iran also figured prominently, with participants
questioning the role Russia would play in the region and
Saudi Arabia and Turkey's reactions to Iran's possibly
becoming a nuclear power. End summary.

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DCM Jackson Opens Event
-----------------------

2. (SBU) On December 15, Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM)
Robert Jackson opened the second annual LDF Alumni Meeting,
co-sponsored by MEPI and Syracuse University's Maxwell School
of Citizenship and Public Affairs, with a speech on the state
of MEPI's four pillars: democracy, economic development,
education, and women's empowerment. Twenty-eight
participants representing 13 countries were present for the
three-day event. This year's LDF Alumni Meeting brought
together participants from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon,
Morocco, Oman, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, and the West Bank.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Purpose of the LDF Program and Alumni Conference
--------------------------------------------- ----

3. (SBU) The LDF program annually brings 20-25 persons from
across the Middle East and North Africa to the United States
for a three-month program that combines academic coursework
at Syracuse University and an internship experience at a
public institution in Washington DC. The program is
administered by the Maxwell School of Syracuse University in
close collaboration with MEPI program staff. The third class
of LDF participants are in the process of receiving
invitations and beginning their visa application process to
begin in March 2009. Morocco will have two participants in
the 2009 LDF class, including the first Saharawi
representative in the program.

4. (SBU) This conference provided an opportunity for alumni
across the MENA region to reunite with classmates and to get
acquainted with participants from different years. The
intentions of the alumni meeting were to facilitate a bonding
experience among the group and to have substantive
discussions about democracy in the Middle East and the
potential impact of a new administration on U.S. Middle East
policy as well as to provide an opportunity for participants
to learn more about MEPI initiatives and ways in which to
network with other MEPI programs in the region.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Pessimistic View of Obama's Impact on MENA Policy
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (SBU) One of the most interesting discussions among the
group occurred during the second day of the conference when
Syracuse University LDF Director Steve Lux conducted an
unscientific poll among the participants on the impact of the
Obama administration on U.S. Middle East policy. Sixty-nine
percent of the participants said that their respective
governments were undecided about whether or not they were
happy that Obama will be the next U.S. president. One
hundred percent of the participants claimed that the citizens
of their countries were happy to see Obama win the election.
However, 63 percent of those polled felt that the Obama
administration would not have a positive impact on MENA
policy. Most participants felt that U.S. Foreign Policy in
the region would remain the same and that the new
administration would focus its attention on U.S. domestic
issues such as the economic crisis and healthcare.

------------------------
Iran Dominates Q/A Time
------------------------

6. (SBU) During one of the Question and Answer sessions,
Iran dominated the conversation. Participants questioned the
role Russia would play in the region and the reactions of
Saudi Arabia and Turkey if Iran became a nuclear power.
There was concern that a U.S. agreement to negotiate with
Iran would make the Iranian government become more arrogant
and some suggested that it would be better for Obama to wait
until after the 2009 Iranian elections to begin bi-lateral
discussions.

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Comment
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7. (SBU) The Mission values the efforts of the LDF program
and sees value in bringing together young, democratic
reformers from throughout the region. While there was some
substantive dialogue during the alumni conference, the
Mission urges that the model used for other MEPI alumni
events be used for the next LDF meeting, i.e., a detailed
agenda with more interactive workshops coordinated in
partnership with the host embassy. End Comment.


*****************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/rabat
*****************************************

Riley

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