Although Moroccan officials have portrayed Secretary of State Pompeo’s visit to Rabat as a success, questions about the United States positions in the Western Sahara conflict and the reasons behind the absence of a Royal trip to Washington remain unanswered.
Washington D.C – The incapacity of the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to arrange so far for a Royal visit to President Trump’s White House exposes the limits of Morocco’s lobbying efforts in Washington. Rabat remains too afraid or uneasy to engage with the current American administration.
The Moroccan public clearly views a Royal visit to the White House as high diplomatic achievement, an endorsement of Rabat’s policy in the region and a recognition of its weight and importance to Washington. The inability of Moroccan officials to secure such trip speaks volume about the fundamental shortcomings of Morocco’s diplomatic and lobbying efforts in Washington and the need for a fundamental change in the way Rabat conducts business in the American capital.
The Moroccan administration seems devoid of a strategy on how to approach the Trump administration or seized the occasion to establish momentum and create high-level dialogue at the head of state level. In fact, it continues to rely on lobbyists to do the diplomatic work while depicting American representatives, such as Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner’s casual visits as signs of a healthy relationship between the two capitals.
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There have been some l “uncertainties” in the relationship following the allegations that Morocco pledged $12 million to the “Clinton Foundation” before the 2016 U.S presidential elections. While observers in both capitals agree that this “incident’ has no bearing on today’s relations, Rabat remains anxious, confused and unsure on how to proceed. It never got over its initial apprehension and bafflement after the election of Mr. Trump.
Furthermore, three years after the elections, Moroccan officials in charge of managing and handling the lobbying and diplomatic efforts in Washington are still perplexed by the ad hoc nature of Trump’s foreign policy. In effect, the modesty of Morocco’s ambitions and the dithering of some of its diplomats are behind Rabat’s ineffectiveness in Washington.
While Morocco was never on Trump’s radar, a royal visit to the White House would have created chemistry, and established a comfortable relationship between the two heads of states leading to better and stronger ties. Under President Trump, the United States foreign policy has been based more on personalities and less on alliances and historic relations. Thus, a King Mohammed VI trip is key to the strengthening and developments of the current American-Moroccan relations.
Trump’s unorthodox diplomacy opens the door for Morocco to secure Washington’s blessing and support in Western Sahara at a critical time. With both Algiers and Madrid, two key players and Morocco’s foes in the conflict marred in political quagmires for months to come, Rabat has had the perfect political environment to win Trump’s support.
Unfortunately, the ineffectiveness of Moroccan diplomats in some key capitals and the absence of a strong Moroccan diplomatic strategy hinder the development and implantation of an effective diplomacy that would exploit the present politico-diplomatic tide in Washington to garner an explicit international endorsement and support for Morocco’s policy in Western Sahara.
Morocco is in dire need of diplomats who understand the evolution of lobbying under a fast-shifting Trump White House. The old way of hiring retired lawmakers and former State Department officials to lobby is no longer the game in Washington. All it takes to change American foreign policy nowadays is an audience with the President of the United States.
This new approach should be good news for Moroccans officials struggling to secure a State Department endorsement of Morocco’s Local Autonomy Plan for Western Sahara. In the past, they were compelled to chase bureaucrats and diplomats around Foggy Bottom when trying to sell their policy. Not anymore. In fact, Trump is the perfect president to issue a new directive on Western Sahara, if Morocco could play its cards right.
However, Rabat is still scrambling to adjust to this “new” reality. Despite spending an important amount of money on lobbying efforts, the Kingdom remains without a clear and effective strategy to advance its interests in DC.
Are Moroccan diplomats and their lobbying partners in DC up to the job is obviously a pertinent question to ask on the eve of the American presidential campaign session. Morocco will remain a natural partner and reliable ally of the U.S. in the Middle East and Africa. Nevertheless, while there is an intensified dialogue between the military establishments of the two countries, the political dialogue has remained feeble albeit cordial. Whereas Morocco’s Foreign Minister met his counterpart in Washington several times, it took three years for a U.S. Secretary of State to visit the Kingdom.
Still, Rabat should capitalize on the momentum created by Pompeo’s stopover. It is clear from the Secretary of State’s schedule that the United States values Morocco’s anti-terrorism efforts and King’s Mohammed VI influence in Middle East conflicts. It is now on the Royal advisers and the ministry of foreign affairs to draw a strategy to expand on these “key subjects” hoping to advance Morocco’s agenda in Washington.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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