Unprecedented move from the US House of Representatives signals downward spirals for Morocco’s Western Sahara position, jeopardizing the traditionally strong Washington-Rabat relations.
Rabat – The US House of Representatives passed on Thursday its 2019 draft spending bill which excluded Western Sahara from aid funds allocated to Morocco.
The unprecedented move lent tacit support to Algiers-backed narrative that the Western Sahara is not under “Morocco’s sovereignty.”
The move also stands in striking contrast with the 2018 Budget which lent- as used to be traditional US policy in the past four years- support to Morocco’s position. The draft bill has yet to be adopted by the Senate and then signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Seemingly siding with Algeria’s and the Polisario Front’s claims that the separatist movement should be the US’ legitimate intermediary when dealing with the Sahara question, the bill, which was obtained by Morocco World News, stipulated that aid allocated to Western Sahara be separated from those allocated to Morocco.
“Funds appropriated under title 21 III of this Act shall be made available for assistance for the Western Sahara,” read the part of the spending bill that spelled out the House of Representatives’ move referring to Western Sahara as a separate political entity from Morocco.
The draft bill makes clear, however, that “nothing in this Act shall be construed to change the policy of the United States to support the United Nations-led process to monitor the ceasefire and bring about a peaceful, sustainable, and mutually agreed upon solution for the Western Sahara.”
While a host of other recent developments can be said to explain the perceived sudden change in US Congress position in the Western Sahara conflict, Algeria’s successful PR campaign stands out as most plausible.
A recent long New Yorker article quoted a group of US officials and “Sahrawis” who presented the perpetuation of the four-decades long conflict as stemming from Morocco’s “refusal” to hold a referendum.
Despite warning signals before the House of Representatives’ move, Morocco is still upbeat about the depth of its strategic alliance with the US.
Omar Hilale, Morocco’s permanent representative at the UN, had told the New Yorker’s reporter that US-Morocco relations are “so strong” that no senior American politicians can threaten Morocco’s position.
While Hilale’s point seemed to highlight tangible diplomatic gains that Rabat has recently made, new developments seem to be suggesting that the other camps is winning the hearts and minds of US’ foreign policy establishment.
As Morocco’s position seems challenged, it remains to be seen what Rabat will do next to neutralize Algiers’ aggressive lobbying campaign in Washington.