Agadir – By all metrics, the US delegation visit to Dakhla appears to have been a big success. One has to only look at the picture of Nasser Bourita, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, with the US delegation clad in traditional Sahrawi dress, to see this.
While political — official — pictures almost always provide an exaggerated or incomplete narrative, they are nonetheless helpful in pointing to the dominant mood. Most often that not, what you see is what you get: An authentic picture can reveal some details — good or bad — that a press statement cannot even come close to suggesting, much less capturing.
One of the most circulated pictures from the high-level US delegation’s recent visit to Dakhla shows senior US and Moroccan representatives enjoying themselves. Posing in the picture, from left to right, are: David Fischer, the US Ambassador to Morocco, his wife Jennifer Fischer, Nasser Bourita, and David Schenker, another prominent US diplomat.
Overall, the picture has an amicable atmosphere to it; it shows joviality, pride, and a strong bond between those present.
The diplomats spoke warmly of Morocco and Moroccan culture, especially praising the country as a strong and reliable US ally.
The delegation’s arrival marks the first visit to Laayoune by a senior US official since the start of the conflict over Western Sahara, more than 40 years ago.
During the visit, Schenker underlined the importance of the US-Moroccan diplomacy, saying that it has “never been so strong as now.”
Schenker recalled that this year marks two hundred years since the United States opened its first diplomatic mission in Morocco. He mentioned Tangier in his speech, stressing that the Moroccan city “houses the oldest US diplomatic representation in the world.”
The visit was set in motion by Trump’s decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. On December 10, the US president announced his country’s support for Morocco’s territorial integrity, emphasizing that Morocco’s Autonomy Plan is the only way to ensure stability and peace in Western Sahara.
While the Moroccan – US relationship appears to have exceptionally warmed over the last couple of months, cordial diplomacy between the two countries spans across 200 years.
Morocco was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of the United States, opening its ports to American ships in 1777 and formally recognizing the US by signing a treaty of peace and friendship in 1786. According to the US Department of State, the document “remains the longest unbroken relationship in US history.”
The two countries established full diplomatic relations in 1905, and again in 1956, with the US recognition of Moroccan independence. Since then, The US and Morocco have had a long history of robust bilateral relations, working together on several strategic fronts.
On the Western Sahara front, recently-declassified US documents have thrown much-needed light on the long-standing US-Morocco coordination.
One of the declassified documents showed Bill Clinton administration’s amicable approach towards Morocco’s position as far back as 1999, while the other revealed that originally the central role the US played in Morocco’s adoption of what is now known as the Autonomy Plan.
According to both documents, even when successive US administrations did not embrace the Moroccan position as unambiguously as the Trump administration finally did, the default consensus in Washington has long been that separatism would be devastating for stability, security, and prosperity in the Sahara and the Sahel region at large.
On the economic front, Washington and Rabat have taken considerable stps in recent years to consolidate their commercial ties. In 2004, Morocco and the US signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which entered into force in 2006. The FTA is premised on supporting economic and political reforms in Morocco, while providing improved commercial opportunities for the US, primarily by reducing and eliminating trade barriers.
For all these reasons, the recent developments in the diplomatic ties between the two countries hardly come as a surprise to those in the know. As many senior US and Moroccan officials have insisted, the recent events are a natural outgrowth of centuries of cooperation and bilateral commerce.