Washington D.C. - In making “funds made available for assistance" accessible for any region or territory administered by Morocco, including the Western Sahara , the United State Congress sends a clear message of support to the Kingdom’s “Enlarged Autonomy Plan” for the Sahara.
Washington D.C. – In making “funds made available for assistance” accessible for any region or territory administered by Morocco, including the Western Sahara , the United State Congress sends a clear message of support to the Kingdom’s “Enlarged Autonomy Plan” for the Sahara.
The language in the 2016 Appropriations Bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Obama is a gain on doubt, but the battle for a United States Government explicit recognition that the Western Sahara is a Moroccan territory is far from over.
This victory, however, is an opening for Moroccan diplomats to begin lobbying the State Department to translate the U.S. policy of supporting “a solution to the Western Sahara conflict based on the formula of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty” into more rigorous pro-Morocco stands at the United Nations.
Morocco’s Ambassador in Washington has a chance to convey that the Kingdom wants more than the U.S. administration and the Congressional bipartisan support for the Autonomy Plan. The ultimate goal should be to sway the current American administration to concur that the “Western Sahara” is a Moroccan territory.
Ambassador Mohamed Rachad Bouhlal has an opportunity to come out of his shell and seize this occasion to aim higher at a true American endorsement. The objective is to tap into the positive momentum created by King Mohammed’s successful visit to the Western Sahara and the massive engagement of Sahrawis in 2015 regional elections as arguments to convince the American Administration that the locals have spoken for Morocco and against the self-proclaimed Sahara Republic.
The current political, security and legislative climates in Washington have created the perfect diplomatic climate for Ambassador Bouhlal to convince the State Department that Morocco has proven beyond a doubt that the people of the Western Sahara have already voted for Morocco.
The Kingdom’s presence in the United State remains minuscule compared to the level of political support it could master. Morocco has influential friends and allies in Washington, years of military and intelligence cooperation with its American counterparts, and the trust of the Congress and Administration, yet its diplomatic presence is hardly visible.
The Congressional language in the Appropriations Bill is an opening for Ambassador Bouhlal to reach out and speak about his country’s political, social and economic accomplishments in the Western Sahara. He is in fact in the precise Capital to counter the left wing conspiracy raging against Morocco in the European Union.
Furthermore, Morocco’s substantial and critical intelligence support of Western Counter-Intelligence agencies makes the North African nation increasingly influential in today’s terrorism weary world. This new critical role should make Moroccan diplomats more assertive.
Moroccan diplomats should stop their overreliance on lobbyist and PR firms and do more outreach on their own. Moroccans and Moroccan-Americans believe in the U.S. commitments to the plan for “autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty” and thus want to see their Ambassador and his aids defending the Kingdom’s position in the American media, in meetings of civil and governmental organizations and in the world of academia.
With several missteps in Brussels behind them, Moroccan diplomats in Washington should be more forceful and outspoken in publicizing Morocco’s role in sustaining American efforts in fighting ISIS, stabilizing Libya and Mali, supporting the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Moroccan efforts have made positive impact on U.S. national security but the American public and some in the media scarcely know about it.
Morocco is America’s geopolitical ally in North Africa. Therefore, it is in the interest of the U.S. to end the conflict in the Western Sahara by recognizing that, under international law, the territory is Moroccan by virtue of the participation rate of the locals in the latest election.
This is the perfect moment for Rabat’s chief diplomat in Washington to extend his hands to the Moroccan community in the U.S. bypassing organizations of the likes of Council on Moroccans Overseas (CCME) and the Ministry of Moroccans Living Abroad.
Moroccan-Americans have proven that they are ready, willing and able to assist when it comes to defending the territorial integrity of the Kingdom. However, they want to see their diplomats made more accessible to and communicative with the powerful American media outlets, unsympathetic NGO’s and the Moroccan community at large.
As Moroccans learned firsthand, a friendly Congress does not translate into a friendly State Department. Former U.S. representative to the U.N. and the current National Security Adviser, Susan Rice’s attempt in 2013 to enlarge the mandate of the U.N. mission to the Western Sahara to include human rights monitoring should serve as a reminder to the Moroccans of the dangers of claiming victory too soon.
A Congressional stamp of approval is only the first step toward a clear and complete American validation of Morocco’s policy and authority in its southern provinces.
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