Washington D.C. – Less than a week after the roundtable held under the supervision of the personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced the Trump administration’s plan to confront the threat that China and Russia pose to U.S. interests.
Bolton said that the Trump administration wants to stop funding long-term UN peacekeeping operations that have failed to achieve their goals, including the UN peacekeeping mission to the Western Sahara, known as MINURSO.
The U.S. official spent more than five minutes discussing the Western Sahara conflict and the failure of the MINURSO mission to reach its objective.
Bolton stated that he was disappointed with MINURSO and the Security Council’s inability to resolve the conflict. He used the same language he had used in his memoir “Surrender is Not an Option”, published 10 years ago, in which he sharply criticized the UN’s failure to find a formula that could enable the parties to end the conflict.
In his speech at an event hosted at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., Bolton said that the Trump administration would break with the UN’s reluctance to end the conflicts on the agenda of the Security Council.
Presenting MINURSO as his “favorite” example of UN missions that have failed to accomplish their end goals, he said that the Security Council has lacked the strong political will needed to introduce a new approach and find a definitive solution to the conflict.
According to Bolton, the U.S. emphasized last April the need to renew MINURSO’s mandate for just six months, in order to send a clear message to the parties involved in the conflict and to the Security Council: The U.S. will not allow the UN to continue to handle the conflict without setting clear objectives.
Bolton’s tone and the attention he gave to the Western Sahara issue in his speech suggest that he will monitor the issue in the coming months and make sure he leaves his personal imprint on it. There is no doubt that that the United States will put more pressure on the Security Council and the parties to in the conflict to show genuine willingness and readiness to work in a spirit of compromise to reach a mutually acceptable political solution.
Moroccan diplomacy should be mobilized more vigorously than ever and should work proactively to prevent any developments that might undermine the efforts Morocco has made in recent years to create a new dynamic that is oriented toward Moroccan interests.
John Bolton will undoubtedly seek to accomplish what he failed to do when he was assistant to former UN envoy James Baker and when he served as U.S. ambassador to the UN from 2005 to 2006.
In his memoir and on many other occasions, Bolton has made it clear that he was dissatisfied with the U.S. State Department’s bureaucracy, which prevented him from pressuring the parties to the conflict to find a final solution.
As the national security adviser working closely with the president in his everyday work, Bolton now has the power and authority he had never before enjoyed to affect U.S. foreign policy orientations in ways that align with his own positions and principles.
Bolton is known for having strong and opinionated positions and for his keenness to translate them into real action. Algeria knew that when it hired the public relations firm Keene Consulting owned by David Keene, who is close to Bolton. It was Bolton who drew Keene’s interest to Algeria and the Western Sahara issue 20 years ago.
Because John Bolton and David Keene agree on the Western Sahara conflict, one can argue that Keene’s influence, ever since he engaged with Algeria on November 1, is paying off and has been apparent in Bolton’s overtone at the Heritage Foundation.
It was striking that Bolton mentioned the referendum in his keynote address, while the Security Council has progressively put this option on the back burner since the beginning of the political process in 2007.
This mirrors Algeria and Polisario’s attempt to bring the political process back to the beginning, and push the Security Council once again to recognize that self-determination, as understood by Algeria and Polisario, remains among the options on the table to end the conflict.
Consequently, Morocco should act urgently to prevent Algeria from undermining the political process and distancing itself from any involvement in the conflict.
Morocco should also reconsider the public relations firms it has hired in recent years and examine their ability to communicate the Moroccan position to U.S. officials. After Algeria made a deal with a close associate of the national security adviser, Morocco should consider hiring a company close to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Bolton has significant influence within the administration, but Pompeo is also one of the executive’s most trusted cabinet members. Linking with the U.S. secretary of state would bring some balance within the Trump administration regarding Morocco. Pompeo could ensure that no decisions are made that could affect relations with Morocco.
At this stage, Morocco does not need people who give compliments or repeat the timeworn fact that Morocco was the first country that recognized the independence of the United States. Morocco needs people who have influence within the Washington D.C. political establishment and who can convince the Trump administration to support Morocco’s political efforts and the concessions it has made since 2007 to pave the way towards a mutually acceptable political solution.
Morocco needs to get closer to the U.S. Congress, in particular to the Senate where he has long been unable to convince American legislators of its position on the conflict.
The months ahead will likely see unprecedented competition between Morocco and Algeria to garner the support of U.S. foreign policy establishment. How deftly and effectively each of the two countries seek to convince the U.S. government will play a determining role in defining the American position on the conflict next April when MINURSO’s mandate comes up for renewal.
Samir Bennis is the co-founder of Morocco World News. You can follow him on Twitter @SamirBennis.