Washington - The American decision not to back Morocco’s decision to expel the U.N. mission in the Western Sahara is not an anti-Morocco position but rather a policy declaration consistent with prior American stances in similar conflicts. If Moroccan officials were hoping for a different outcome, they should have had a strategy and a plan to sway the White House. Unfortunately, Rabat did not have either.
Washington – The American decision not to back Morocco’s decision to expel the U.N. mission in the Western Sahara is not an anti-Morocco position but rather a policy declaration consistent with prior American stances in similar conflicts. If Moroccan officials were hoping for a different outcome, they should have had a strategy and a plan to sway the White House. Unfortunately, Rabat did not have either.
Moroccan diplomats’ inability to convey to the White House the Kingdom’s vital role in sustaining American national security interests in North Africa, the Sahel and the Mediterranean Sea opened the door to the State Department’s diplomat-activists to adopt pro-Algerian positions.
Washington’s decision to include language in the United Nations latest resolution on the Western Sahara referring to the self-determination of the people of the region was a slap in the face of old friend Morocco.
Moroccan diplomats, politicians and parliamentarian’s unfamiliarity with the American political system and their obliviousness to the nature of the Obama administration’s style of foreign policy have pushed the relations between the two nations into the predicament we see today.
To understand The Obama administration’s position on the Western Sahara and formulate a diplomatic counter-attack, the Moroccan embassy in Washington should have studied the case of “the independence of South Sudan”.
Why South Sudan? Foreign policy observers see former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and current White House National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice- who is credited with the independence of South Sudan as an architect of the White House’s policy in the Western Sahara. It is not a secret in Washington that White House officials and staffers micromanage the work of the State Department.
Following the same trend, Ambassador Rice perceives the “struggle of the Sahrawi people “in the same light as South Sudan’s drive for independence. As such, Rice’s unsuccessful attempt in April 20103 to amend the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) chart to include human rights monitoring in the Moroccan Sahara, was a prelude to an American endorsement of the concept of a Sahrawi self-determination.
It is painfully obvious that Moroccan officials have not learned their lessons. Despite the crisis that erupted after Ambassador Rice maneuvers at the U.N., Moroccan officials did not change course in Washington. In fact, the same meek, incoherent and reactionary approach that led the 2013 crisis remains the thesis of Rabat’s foreign policy in Washington today.
It took Morocco a long time to realize that Washington does not have friends but rather interests. For now, the North African nation is not on the White House radar and therefore, American diplomats’ approach the Western Sahara conflict with an idealistic and “nonrealistic” modus.
In calling for the return of the MINURSO to the Sahara and not supporting Rabat’s position, the State Department has avoided setting a precedent. Morocco is not that important for Washington to venture in calling for a U.N. mission to suspend its work based on the whim of a U.N. member state.
The White House’s ambivalent attitude is due in large part to Morocco’s lack of strategy underscoring its strategic importance to American military and intelligence efforts in the region, the State Department never felt political heat from either the White House or the Pentagon to adopt an understanding tone with Morocco. The United States reacts only when its national interests are at stake.
Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have seen America’s “unreceptive” positions coming. After all any diplomatic observer following the U.N. could have predicted that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, known for her support of human rights and self-determination causes, will likely call for a return of the MUNIRSO .
It was naïve for the Moroccan diplomats to think that Power will back Rabat’s decision to expel U.N. Personnel. To the contrary, they should have predicted that the U.S. Ambassador would recommend a resumption of the U.N. mission if for no other reason than on humanitarian grounds.
The absence of permanent, credible, articulate and knowledgeable Sahrawi public advocates of Morocco’s positions have hurt the image and the message in Washington and Europe. These campaigners need to be on the move all the time and on the ready to tackle predicaments as they rise.
As long as Moroccan officials keep shying away from international media and rely on lobbyists and publicists to advocate for their cause, the damaging results will remain the same. Similarly, Morocco has struggled to formulate a strong, clear and concise case for its positions in the Western Sahara dossier.
Morocco’s diplomatic shortcomings in Washington, and not the “defunct” Algerian diplomacy, are behind the recent series of crisis between Rabat and Washington. It is time for a new and bold diplomacy in Washington.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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