A NEW SECRETARY OF STATE MEANS A CHANCE FOR A GREATER RELATIONSHIP WITH MOROCCO
As the incoming Secretary of State Mike Pompeo enters his first days as America’s first diplomat, he will face a number of intractable issues and policy decisions that have long divided policy makers in Washington. However, there is one issue in which there is near-unanimity in both houses of congress and the policy community: support for Morocco’s autonomy plan in the Western Sahara.
This support stems from a deep belief in Washington that the Kingdom of Morocco has been a solid US ally through centuries of a tumultuous US history. From the birth of the nation to the recent wars on terror, the Kingdom has shared the American commitment to the liberty and tolerance.
Morocco’s enemies have been on the wrong side of history. The polisario group which has in the past allied itself to Cuba and the Soviet Union during the Cold War continues to build its support among countries that do not share American values or interests.
More recently, Russian officials, looking everywhere to weaken American allies, have welcomed Polisario guerillas in Moscow and soon after, the polisario has moved to violate the ceasefire that they signed with the Kingdom in 1991 under the auspices of the Minurso, the UN body put together to facilitate the ceasefire and prepare the mechanism of settling the dispute.
The polisario group has recently placed military personnel, dug up trenches, built up installations, and declared that it was moving it “Ministry of Defense” from the refugee camps in Algeria to the separation zone which is currently manned by the Minurso force. It has also refused to meet the Chief of Minurso, representing the UN Secretary General, outside of the restricted security zone, all in blatant violation of the terms of the ceasefire that was signed between the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces and The Polisario Front in 1991. In response, Morocco has drawn a “red line” in the sand and has put its military on the highest alert. The country declared through its Minister of Foreign affairs that such a move would be a casus belli for the Kingdom.
The new Secretary of State should inaugurate his mandate by taking action and warning the Polisario and their backers in Algiers that violations of the ceasefire would not be tolerated by the United States and that Morocco would have the right to defend its “red line.” And unlike the red line President Obama set for Syria, this red line must be strictly enforced.
This would also be an opportunity for the United States to reiterate its support for Morocco’s autonomy plan that would end this conflict and solve the festering refugee problem. A war in the region would embolden terrorists in the region and weaken the only country that has weathered the storms of chaos in North Africa while maintaining a stable and open society.