May 18, 1982 | Backgrounder on Middle East
185 The Heritage Founda tion 214 Massachusetts Avenue N.E. Washington, D.C. 20002-4999 (202) 546-4400 No May 18, 1982 MOROCCO: AN ALLY IN JEOPARDY INTRODUCTION The kingdom of Morocco, a vital ally of the United States is facing a situation of acute danger. For the past seven yea r s the Moroccan armed forces have been engaged in an expensive war of attrition in neighboring Western Sahara, a territory which Morocco claims for itself but which its guerrilla opponents claim should be independent fortune between the two parties and has now reached the point where neither side can hope to.achieve final victory without summoning foreign forces to their assistance unlikely, the conflict will drag out. Morocco probably will continue to repel guerrilla attacks on its desert'outposts and may a ttain notable military successes. However, the simple expense of the war, combined with the strain on the countryls social and economic fabric, could bring about the downfall of the Moroccan government, unless the U.S. takes immediate action to forestall i t The war has witnessed various changes of Since that appears Morocco occupies a crucj.al strategic position at the mouth of the Mediterranean devices along the Moroccan coastline would be able to monitor the passage of shipping through the Straits of Gib r altar and the entire western Mediterranear;. Were such a power able to base ships in Moroccan ports, it could interdict the passage of shipping through the Gibraltar 'Ichoke point Obviously, it is in the U.S. interest to prevent construction of any such f a cilities on Moroccan soil Any power that could install radar tracking Morocco's current ruler, King Hassan I1 has taken pains to further U.S. policy in the Middle East ary between the Egyptian and Israeli governments in arranging President Anwar Sadat's u nprecedented flight to Jerusalem in November 19
77. Since then, King Hassan has continued to assist He acted as an intermedi Note: Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Cong r ess. 2 5 U.S. efforts in the Middle East, despite Saudi pressure to adopt a "hard line" against 1srael.l The Moroccan government also has worked hard to stem the tide of' Soviet-Cuban expansionism in the African continent has supplied arms, training and w e aponry to the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, which is fighting the Cuban troops who sustain that country's Marxist government. On two occasions, Moroccan troops have been flown from the capital Rabat, to Zaire, to protect President M o butu Sese S&o from Cuban-led insurgents.2 Clearly, U.S. policy in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Africa would sustain a severe reverse if the Moroccan government were removed from the political scene. Hence, Washing ton must do everything in it s power to support Morocco militarily and financially while seeking to end the Western Sahara war which is inflicting so much damage on this trusted ally It U.S. POLICY TOWARD MOROCCO Until the advent of the Reagan Administration, the U.S showed suprisingl y little interest in the crisis developing in North Africa. This failure was in part the result of certain illogical bureaucratic divisions within the structure of the U.S government. In both the Senate and the State Department, Morocco is classified not a s part of North Africa, but as part of the Middle East. Unfortunately, those involved with Middle Eastern affairs tend to devote their energies to the major problems which beset the area commonly understood as comprising the Middle East Egypt, Israel, Jord an, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc. Consequent ly, Morocco !!falls between the cracks,ll with few official bodies willing to devote long periods of time and serious attention to its problems.
The Carter Administration exhibited a particularly sad ignorance of Moroccan affairs. Throughout most of his tenure in office, President Carter refused to sell arms to Morocco on the grounds that such weapons might be used for llexpansionistlt purposes in Western Sahara. This despite the fact that Morocco was a longst anding ally of the U.S., that Morocco had striven to further U.S. policy in the Middle East and that the U.S. failure to supply arms was placing this ally in great danger.
The Reagan Administration now has reversed that policy'and arms have begun to flow to Morocco in significant amounts New York Times, August 3, 1979; Washington Post, November 16, 1978.
Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 1978, p. 4; Christian Science Monitor June 9, 1979, p. 26; Foreign Report, June 25, 1978, pp. 1-3; Economist June 10, 1 978, p. 74; June 2, 1979, p. 80. 3 c However, while this move must be applauded, it must be stressed that it represents only half a policy. Morocco has sustained severe economic damage as a result of.the war in Western Sahara and of a four-year drought wh i ch has bedevilled the country's agricultural system. Unless the U.S. is willing to shoulder the financial burden of upgrading Morocco s armaments, paying for the country's food and energy imports, and underwriting the conduct of the Western Sahara war (no w running at $1 million per day3) all of which seem unlikely in a time of fiscal restraint the U.S. must link its arms policy with a dip1omatic.offensive to conclude the war as soon as possible. Otherwise, Washington must countenance the possible downfall o f one its most dependable allies in.North Africa and the consequent undermining of its North Africamiddle East policy and its general international prestige THE VIABILITY OF NEGOTIATIONS The Reagan Administration's manifest determination to support Morocc o with military supplies and equipment has done a great deal to strengthen the Moroccan position in the course of any Western Sahara peace negotiations. Furthermore, prevailing circumstances prevent Algeria, Libya or Mauritania, all parties to the struggle , from placing any serious obstacles in the path to settlement. Hence, it is of crucial importance that the U.S act quickly, before these propitious circumstances change.
Washington must move directly to initiate negotiations between Morocco and the Wester n Sahara guerrillas ,in order to prevent further damage to the overstrained Moroccan economy equitable solution to the Western Sahara problem can still be reached if the U.S. demonstrates its willingness to lead the search for settlement An Should Washing t on choose to follow this policy, it must make three points clear at the onset 1. Both Morocco and the Western Sahara secessionists have some legitimate claims to Western Sahara's territory 2. It is not in the interests of any North African state, with the exception of Libya, to countenance the establishment of an independent state in the Western Sahara. Such a state would be small, weak, underpopulated, underdeveloped and lacking any bureaucratic infrastructure. Consequently, it barely would be able to mai n tain itself and would afford Colonel Qaddafi yet another outlet for his imperialistic ambitions Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 1978, p. 4; Economist, October 27 1979 p. 63; Economist, February 23, 1980, p. 43. 4 a E w Q a 5 3. A compromise agreement c a n be worked out in such a way as to retain Western Sahara's traditional ties with Morocco while affording the country a considerable degree of political indepen dence. Western Sahara thereby would be guaranteed continuing Moroccan military protection from external interference and subversion and valuable Moroccan cooperation in the development of its oil and phosphate resources 4. Negotiations can succeed only if the U.S. maintains military and economic support to Morocco to counterbalance the aid afforded Western Sahara's secessionists by their North African allies.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND The Western Sahara originally was seized by Spain from the ruler of the Sherefian Empire in 18
86. Morocco, the core of that empire, was divided between France and Spain.
After World War 11, Sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef unified a variety of Moroccan independence movements and demanded the departure of the French and Spanish authorities tried to nip the independence drive in the bud by exiling the Sultan to Madagascar, but a nationalist uprising obliged Paris to reverse its stance, permit the Sultan's return as King Mohammed V, and grant Moroccan independence on March 2, 1956 The new government initiated a policy designed to reunite what it regarded as Moroccan territory. . T his approach inevitably would cause major political problems in northwest Africa, for the territories of the old Sherefian empire had comprised parts of the territory of modern day Algeria, Western Sahara and Mauritania Further complicating the situation was the fact that Morocco is a viable historical entity, with a history that predates colonialism.
On the other hand, its neighbors, Algeria and Mauritania, are the artificial products of colonialism. Consequently, Morocco was able to make legitimate, hist orical claims upon the terriltory of its neighbors, asserting that denial of these claims amounts to an implicit underwriting of colonialism. Its neighbors countered with the argument adopted by the Organization of African Unity that colonial boundaries, n o matter how illogical, must be respect ed if the entire continent is not to lapse into anarchy. Thus the area's territorial disputes are dominated by two sides which speak fundamentally difEerent languages. This is demonstrated clearly by the seven-year dispute over the political fate of Morocco's southern neighbor, Western Sahara The French I William H. Lewis, "Western Sahara: Compromise or Conflict?" in Current History, December 1981 pp. 410-413.
I 6 t 0 THE PRELUDE TO CONFLICT By 1975 many senior figur es in the Spanish government had decided that Western Saharan independence was unavoidable. The government in Madrid was stretched financially and reluctant to continue to pay the cost of the Spanish Foreign Legion's operations against Western Sahara's in d ependence forces. Moreover, General Franco, who had refused categorically to consider any withdrawal was in his final decline. Hence, the way appeared clear for Madrid to rid itself of its colonial burden A referendum among Western Sahara's semi-nomadic p o pulation which a 1974 census had estimated to number 74,000, offered the most obvious path toward peaceful transition from colonialism to independence and Madrid did, in fact, favor this course. However Western Sahara's neighbors were determined to interd ict any such referendum. Both Morocco and Mauritania made major claims on Western Sahara, asserting that it was the rightful territory of their respective states, stolen from them by colonial powers.
Algeria was not in a position to make such claims for it self but feared any settlement that might extend the Moroccan sphere of influence in northwest Africa. As a committed Marxist, Algeria's president, Houari Boumedienne, was the diehard opponent of reac tionary regimes such as that of Hassan 11 All of the p a rties, however, were motivated by more than mere ideology and history: Western Sahara's deserts cover a wealth of natural resources. The Spanish colonial authorities the north of the country. Western Sahara also was known to possess significant reserves o f oil, and some experts believe that it boasts the'world's largest deposits of uranium.5 I had developed a huge phosphate extraction facility at Bou Craa in Such resources were a powerful attraction to a poverty-stricken state such as Mauritania, which dep e nded for 75 percent of its foreign exchange on the relatively meager earnings of its iron ore mines at Zouerate. Morocco was attracted by the phosphate facilities at Bou Craa. Morocco aleady was mining 20 million tons of phosphate per annum and was the wo r ld's leading exporter accounting for 34 percent of all phosrhate exports. Moroccan strength in this vital sector had enabled King Hassan to quadruple the world price of phosphates over a relatively short period of time. Control over Western Sahara's phosp h ate resources would further enhance Morocco's hold on tho world market.6 Though it made no territorial claims on Western Sahara Algeria hoped to obtain access to Atlantic ports for the export of its own iron ore from the mines at Tindouf in western Algeri a Washington Post, November 9, 1975, January 17, 1976, August 14 1979 Christian Science Monitor, October 21, 1975 Ibid Christian Science Monitor, December 23, 1977, p. 10; Washington Post, August 30,,1977. 7 On the negative side, President Boumedienne was determined to prevent Morocco's gaining control of Western Sahara's resources and its 2,000 miles of Atlantic coastline.
Madrid was particularly open to pressure from Morocco because if it simply refused to recognize Hassan's claims, the King might take ac tion against Spain's remaining possessions on the Moroccan mainland, Cueta and Melilla. Conversely, Spain was dependent upon Algeria for its supplies of oil and natural gas. Consequent ly, Madrid sought to avoid offenciing either country'by referring West e rn Sahara's fate to the International Court of Justice at the Hague. On October 16, 1975, the Court gave a somewhat ambi guous ruling The court finds that at the time it was colonized by Spain, the Western Sahara was not terra nullius, or ownerless territ o ry. There were certain legal ties between individual tribes and Morocco and between others and what is now Mauritania, but they did not amount to territorial sovereignty The Court therefore ruled that, in the absence of certifiable claims, the question sh ould be decided, "through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the territory."
However, King Hassan claimed that the Court had recognized Morocco's claim implicitly by stating that religious ties existed between the Sultan of Morocco and Western Sahara because, in Islamic law no distinction between church and state exists.
King Hassan, therefore, continued to press Morocco's claims and, in October 1975, announced his plan to march 350,000 unarmed Moroccan civilians into the territory to take effective possession.
If there had been any doubt as to the popularity of Hassan's position, the reaction to this announcement should have dispelled it. A flood of Moroccan volunteers came forward and none of the country's opposition parties voiced any protest. On the contrary the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, the chief opposition party, was more belligerent than the King's party. Even the Communist p a rty swallowed its dislike of Hassan to applaud the move into Western Sahara.s By the end of October 1975, 100,000 people, the "first wave of marchers, had passed through the staging area at Ait Melloul in southern Morocco. On November 6, they entered West e rn Sahara and began to march south. The next day the United Nations Securi ty Council passed a resolution ordering the Moroccan marchers to withdraw. The U.N. action may have been unnecessary because, six miles into Western Sahara, the marchers met an imp regnable barrier Conrad Kuhlein, "Western Sahara in Aussen Politik, Vol. 23, No. 1 1981 p.
60. English Language Edition.
Christian Science Monitor, October 23, 1975, p. 6. 8 I I I of Spanish minefields and tanks. On November 9, Hassan ordered the marcher s to return.g I THE FINAL SETTLEMENT Morocco had sustained an apparent political defeat but appearances were probably misleading. Madrid may have reached a secret agreement with Hassan in return for the withdrawal of the marchers because, on November 14 t h e Spanish go-JerAnnent announced that it had abandoned the projected referendum and had signed an agreement with Morocco and Mauritania, ceding all of Western Sahara's territory north of the 24th parallel Saguia el Hamra to Morocco, and all territory to i t s south This el Gharbia to Mauritania.lo It should be noted that these dealings were not so illegiti mate as, immediately, they might appear. As one expert pointed out, the process of decolonization in Africa is usually operated through institutions set u p under colonial rule, not through institutions founded by popular mandate. Certainly, this is the case in such "revolutionary" states as Angola and Mozambique.
Very few of today's African states could be considered legitimate if popular mandate were the sole criterion of 1egitimacy.ll Open warfare between Morocco and Algeria threatened for a time.
Algerian reservists were put on alert. The diplomatic corps in Algiers was refused permission to travel to the south or southwest of the country, presumably bec ause of military activity.12 However, Algeria finally decided not to go to war, perhaps under pressure from Moscow to avoid open conflict. The Soviet Union of course, is the chief backer and ally of Marxist Algeria, but Moscow also had important material interests in Morocco. Having developed a viable process for extracting uranium from phosphoric acid, the Soviets were engaged in a massive project to extract phosphate from the foothills of Moroccols Atlas Mountains.
Moscow did not wish to see its investme nt in these works and in Soviet processing plants imperilled by open warfare. On the other hand, Moscow presumably would not object to Algeria's supporting guerrilla activity in Western Sahara, particularly if that were to lead to the downfall of the Moro ccan monarchy and Boumedienne moved troops and armor to the Tindouf area and New York Times, October 21, 1975, October 28, 1975, November 8, 1975, and November 10, 1975. lo l1 Washington Post, January 17, 1976.
Statement of William Zartman, Ph.D., Professo r of Politics, New York University in "Hearing before the Subcommittee on International Organiza tions and on Africa of the Connnittee on International Relations, House of Representatives, 95th Congress, 1st Session, October 12, 1977" (Washington D.C U.S. Government Printing Office, 1977 p. 15 l2 New York Times, January 20, 1976.
I 9 the ascent of a left-wing government that would allow the Soviet Union to establish a more formal presence in that country.13 Though he backed away from direct confrontation, Boumedienne did decide to give major support to the chief Western Saharan resistance movement, El Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Sequia el Hamra y Rio del Oro, better known as Polisario. At the time diplomatic and press observers believed that Polis ario had approxi mately 5,000 fighting men in the refugee camps around Tindouf where many Sahwris had fled during the trollbleo wi+h Spain.
Polisario's equipment was meager chiefly Land Rovers mounted with machine guns and the movement probably could mobil ize only 1,500 men. Nonetheless, this force could mount damaging hit-and-run raids from behind the Algerian border and its capacity to inflict damage would increase with the flow of Algerian arms.14 THE NEW REGIME THE DEFEAT OF MAURITANIA The last of the S panish troops left Western Sahara on January 11, 1976, and Moroccan and Mauritanian troops moved in to take over the territory. Mauritania soon emerged as the weak link in the chain of settlement. When it moved into Dakhla, the capital of Tiris el Gharbia , it had an amy only 2,000 strong. During the next two years of its struggle with Polisario, Mauritania strained to expand its forces to 7,000, but they were ill-equipped and poorly led, as a result of a shortage of officer training facilities. Morocco was soon obliged to position some of its own troops south of the 24th parallel and even in Mauritania itself where their presence was somewhat embarrassing, since Morocco had not abandoned its claims to all of Mauritania's territory until 1969.
Between 1975 a nd 1978, Polisario pursued a hit-and-run war with Morocco in the Western Sahara, making use of a growing fleet of Soviet vehicles and of Cuban l'trawlersli that ferried Polisario guerrillas along the coast of Western Sahara and performed elec tronic surve illance on the Royal Moroccan Armed F0rces.l the bulk of Polisario's efforts were directed against Mauritania.
Guerrillas attacked the iron ore mines at Zouerate and kidnapped French technicians working there in the hope of driving away the mines' European management. Since the mines provided at least 75 percent of Mauritania's foreign exchange earnings, these raids were particularly damaging. The armed forces were unable to launch an effective counter-offensive and, on one occasion Polisario even was able to bombard the capital, N0uakch0tt.l However l3 Foreign Report, June 25, 1978, pp. 1-3 l4 New York Times, January 20, 1976, January 28, 1976 l5 Christian Science Monitor, December 23, 1977, p. 10; Washington Post le Christian Science Monitor, December 23, 1977, p. 10 l7 January 19, 1976.
Ibid.; Washington Post, August 20, 1977.
I 10 The strain of the war finally brought about the fall of Mauritania's president, Ould Daddah, to a military coup in July 19
78. His successor, Colonel Ould Salek, announced that the war had "nearly destroyed Mauritania and that he would be happy to withdraw from Tiris el Gharbia if a Ilglobal settlement" involving Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Polisario could be reached.
Po lisario rejected the proposal, demanding that Salek recognize its political wing, the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic SADR as the legitimate ruler of Western Sahara. Nevertheless, it halted its attacks on Mauritania to encourage that cciintry to make pea c e.18 Morocco was alone and, in the future, would bear the brunt of the Polisario offensive. International developments further weakened the Moroccan position. Morocco originally had enjoyed widespread Arab support for its move into Western Sahara civilian march of November 1975 had included symbolic contingents from Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had done a great deal to defray the cost of Moroccofs war with Polisario.
Hassan's support for Anwar Sadat's November 1977 peace initiative and his subsequen t trip to Washington, where he spoke on behalf of Sadat, lost him a great deal of crucial Arab support.lg The However Similarly, his dispatch of 1,500 Moroccan troops to Zaire in June 1978 cost Hassan a considerable amount of support within the Organizati o n of African Unity. On June 3, 1978, Colonel Qaddafi abandoned his previous pan-Arab stance and announced that Western Sahara should be independent. Now Morocco had every reason to fear that Polisario would have access to the well-stocked treasury and arm o ry of Libya in its pursuit of desert victory.20 U.S. POLICY Between 1975 and 1978, Washington, as a result of bureaucra tic inertia and general predisposition, ignored the Western Sahara conflict as an unpleasant fact of life which, hopefully would resolv e itself. Both the Ford and the Carter Administrations may have held back through fear of an Algerian energy boycott.
At that time, Algeria was the fourth leading supplier of U.S imported oil, accounting for 10 percent of all U.S. imports.
Finally, after the fall of Iran revealed a central U.S weakness in North Africamiddle East, the Carter Administration agreed to sell Morocco 100 million in military equipment, chiefly OV-10 armed reconnaissance aircraft and Cobra helicopter gunships.
This delivery had b een ready for over a year, but elements within the Carter White House had opposed the sale for fear that Morocco l8 Economist, June 10, 1978, p. 74; October 21, 1978, p. 82; March 31, 1979 l9 Ibid 2o p. 45; June 2, 1979, p. 80 Sorlc Times, August 3, 1979; Washington Post, November 16, 1978.
I I h would use the arms to press an expansionist foreign policy. Even this assistance which arguably was too little and came too late was only supplied over the vigorous protests of Senator George McGovern, chairman of the African Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.21 MOROCCAN DIFFICULTIES 11 U.S. delay was particularly unfortunate because, in the meantime, Polisario had improved its equipment base and its operational ability. By the time th e U.S. had come to the aid of Morocco, Polisario had infiltrated Western Sahara thoroughly and was beginning to mount operatons in southern Morocco, where it attacked the garrison town of Tan Tan in January 19
79. Moroccan soldiers in the Western Sahara we re being made to serve four years in the desert without leave. The size of the Moroccan contingent in the territory had been doubled to 40,000 and, by the close of 1979, had been increased to 60,000.22 Nevertheless no final victory was in sight. On the co n trary, the Moroccan death toll had risen from 100 to 150 per month. Hassan, who was still suspicious of the army after attempted coups in 1971 and 1972, confined military decisions to the palace in Rabat, making the army's reactions to Polisario slow and cumbersome.23 TE MOROCCAN DOlvZESTIC SITUATION Inevitably, the war made itself feit in the domestic sphere.
Defense was taking 40 percent of the Moroccan budget, while inflation was running at 20 percent. The new "austerity taxes designed in part to pay fo r the war, were falling much more heavily on Moroccofs middle class than on its privileged upper class. The world phosphate market had entered a serious decline while the cost of imported energy had soared imports had accounted for 4 percent of Moroccots t otal import bill. By 1979, this share had jumped to 25 percent and its cost exceeded the earnings of the c~untry~s phosphate exports.24 Before 1973, oil 1979 also saw the advent of the first of a series of disas trous droughts which slashed Moroccan agric u ltural productivity and obliged it to import two million tons of wheat at a cost of 400 million, which it could ill afford. The drought drew people off the land into large, overcrowded cities such as Rabat and Casablan~a Unemployment and malnutrition were rife in these 21 22 Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 1978, p 4; June 9, 1978, p. 26.
Economist, October 27, 1979, p. 63; Foreign Report, August 1, 1979 p. 4-5; Congressional Record, Senate, June 4, 1979; p. 56852; and Washing ton Star, October 23, 1979.
Ibid October 29, 1979; Economist, March 31, 1979, p. 45.
Ibid June 2 1979, p. 80; New York Times, August 20, 1979; November 12 1979 23 24 25 Washington Post, October 29, 1979. 12 I cities already and their high growth rate served to exacerbate an increasingly unbearable situation.
MAURITANIAN WITHDRAWAL By June 1979, Mauritania had undergone several more changes in leadership over to Colonel Ahmed Ould Bouceif, who was killed in a plane crash after only seven weeks in office, to be replaced by Khouna Ould Haidallah. Polisario, worr i ed by these developments, ended its ceasefire with Mauritania on July 11, 1979, and launched a major attack on Mauritania's forces in Western Sahara. The action had the desired effect and Nouakchott sued for peace. A peace treaty was signed in Algiers on A ugust 5, 1979, whereby Mauritania abandoned all its claims to Western Sahara and recog nized the SADR as the legitimate ruler of the country. Hassan believing his options to be severely limited, withdrew his 6,000 troops from Nouakchott and moved his army southward into the former Mauritanian area, Tiris el Gharbia, proclaiming it a Moroccan province and occupying the capital, Dakhla.26 Colonel Ould Salek had been obliged to hand power INTERNATIONAL REPERCUSIONS The move, though probably unavoidable in a m i litary sense cost Morocco more international support. In December 1979, an OAU-nominated group of heads of state met in the capital of Liberia, Monrovia, and passed a resolution on Western Sahara calling for a ceasefire, the establishment of an OAU peacek eeping force and a popular referendum for the Sahrawi population.
Morocco also was told to withdraw its troops from Tiris el Gharbia immediately, before a ceasefire even came into effect. King Hassan had not attended the meeting, claiming that the leaders of socialist Tanzania and Mali were partial to P~lisario theless, the committee was influential and some more of Morocco's traditional Arab and African support fell away Never The United Nations, as usual, could be relied upon to go further than other int e rnational bodies. On November 2, 1979 the General Assembly's decolonization committee voted 83 to 5 demanding Moroccan withdrawal from Western Sahara and recognizing the SADR as "the sole and legitimate representative of the people of Western Sahara 2 How e ver, certain subsequent developments were in Morocco's favor. In November 1979, the Royal Moroccan Army deployed the first of its 7,000-man mobile armored columns, named Whud.'l 26 27 28 1979, p. 49; and Washington Post, August Economist, December 15, 197 9 p. 54.
The Interdenendent. December 1979 D. 3 P. 1 14, 19 Economist 179.
August 18 13 These armored columns were designed to operate in the perfect tank country of Western Sahara, conducting classic ''search and destroy missions against Polisario infilt rators, chasing them back to their bases in Algeria. Whud,!I acting in cooperation with OV-10 reconnaissance aircraft, was a major success and soon began to restrict Polisario's scope of operations.29 On the international front, the death of President Bou medienne of Algeria could augur nothing but good for Rabat, particularly when Algeria's cnly political party,-the National Liberation Front (FLN), chose Colonel Benjedid Chadli as his successor.
Chadli, a compromise candidate between the party's ideologica l left and its more liberal wing, could be expected to moderate Boumedienne's rigid anti-Moroccan line. The continued strength of his rival on the left, Colonel Mohamed Yahiaoui, slowed the pace of change but, nevertheless, Chadli soon showed his cards by releasing the country's first president, Ben Bella, after fourteen years of house arrest. Chadli also cut the heavy income tax upon Algeria's small middle class and allowed those with money to buy their own houses.30 He appeared to be a leader with whom H a ssan might eventually be able to deal THE RELIGIOUS SITUATION AND THE U.S. PERSPECTIVE One U.S. intelligence agency chose to ignore these develop ments and began to advise the White House in early 1980 that the Moroccan monarchy was doomed. Economic devel o pments and the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism supposedly would sweep away King Hassan just as they had swept away the Shah of Iran.31 Morocco indeed was faced with severe economic troubles as a result of the Western Sahara war, the drought, a high p opulation growth rate and an unprecedented demographic shift to the cities but, nevertheless, Hassan could not be equated with the Shah. It was most unlikely that he would ever face the latter's religious problems, for King Hassan had always taken care to emphasize the religious basis of his rule. As the.direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, Bassan claimed the title of Commander of the Faithful and seems to have been recognized as such by the bulk of the Moroccan populace. In 1980, Hassan's chief advi sory body besides the parliament, was a national council of Ulema, religious notables who coordinated religious and administrative affairs.
Hassan even had based his claims to Western Sahara on religious grounds 29 Christian Science Monitor, December 5, 19 79, p. 13. 30 31 Ibid., February 23, 1980, p. 43. 32 Economist, February 3, 1979, p. 39; November 24, 1979, p. 78 U.S. Department of Commerce, Public Information Office, September 1 1980; Economist, February 23, 1980, p. 43; and Strategic Middle East and A frican Affairs, March 10, 1980, p. 2. 14 In the wake of the fall of the Shah, Washington understand ably was quick to see Islamic fundamentalism everywhere. In their eagerness to seek out fundamentalism in Morocco, U.S intelligence agencies missed two cru cial observations: Hassan probably would not be troubled by a fundamentalist upsurge but 7 his neighbor, Algeria, might have to face such an Islamic revival.
Thus, a wave of Islamic fundamentalism might actually strengthen rather than weaken, Morocco's pos ition against Polisario Islam was the official state reiigion of Algeria but Boume dienne's secularist approach to both domestic and foreign policy and his general unconcern for the living standard of the Algerian people provided fertile ground for the il legal Moslem Brother hood, which began to thrive in the wake of the Iranian revolution.
In addition, Algeria was plagued by minority questions. The country's Berber population was dissatisfied with Algiers' radical pan-Arab, anti-French stance, fearing tha t the Arabization of the country's educational system would leave them as second class citizens. Berber concern over these problems led to violence in Algiers University and widespread rioting in the coastal city of Tizi-Ouzou in April 1980.33 Development s were beginning to suggest that Algeria might be compelled to put its own house in order before seeking to further its policies abroad.
POLISARIO'S DIFFICULTIES In March 1981, the SADR celebrated the fifth anniversary of its founding. The parades and meetings were held in Tindouf in Algeria but the entire event actually was financed by Libya.
Representatives of sympathetic states and other international observers watched a march-past of 2,000 men who were supported by tanks, armored personnel carriers and self-propelled guns.34 However, this show of force belied the serious difficulties which Polisario now was facing. The Moroccan mobile columns had serious ly restricted the movement's access to Western Sahara. In addi tion, in September 1980, Morocco had begun construction of a 400-mile, nine-foot wall stretching from Tan Tan, on the coast of southern Morocco, arcing inland and then curving back in a south westerly direction to cover the phosphate mines at Bou Craa.
Construction was completed in May 19
81. The wall was covered with radar and sensor devices and strengthened with a series of mini-forts, some with tanks, others with artillery batteries.
The wall was not an effective defensive barrier but it did act as an invaluable hindrance to Polisario's movements in and out of Western Sahara's most prosperous area, the "triangle utilevv inside the wall, which contained Western Sahara's chief city, A1 Aiun and the phosphate workings at Bou Craa.35 Thus, Polisario 33 Economist, May 3, 1980. p. 41 34 Ibid M a rch 7, 1981, p. 43 35 Washington Post, November 10, 1981; and Dr. Michael C. Dunn There is a New Armored War Being Fought Defense Foreign Affairs, January-February 1982, pp. 7-9. 1 d 15 was being denied access to its most valuable targets behind the wall, while being harassed by Moroccan armored columns outside it.
FURTHER DOMESTIC DETERIORATION Morocco's military successes did not help it to deal with its domestic problems. Both the.drought and the consequent migration to the'cities continued. In 1981, the countryfs cereal harvest amounted to only 2.5 million tons, compared to national needs of 6.5 million tons. Morocco required substantial financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund to finance this adverse trade balance. In return for a loan of $1.2 billion, the IMF demanded the curtailment of all Mor occo's agricultural Subsi dies. The price of flour was raised by 40 percent, sugar by 38 percent and butter by 76 percent.
Casablanca when news of the price rises broke; at least sixty-six people died and over one hundred were injured. In face of this oppo sition, the government in Rabat was obliged to renege on its pledge to the IMF and reinstitute the subsidies.36 Developments in neighboring Mauritania also threatened Moroccofs chances of final victory. President Haidallah original ly had refused to allow Polisario to use Mauritanian territory for its bases. However, he then blamed Senegal and Morocco for an attempted coup by two of his ex-army officers in April 1981.
Haidallah promptly broke off all diplomatic relations with Morocco sent his Prime.Ministe r to Tripoli and announced that Libya's Ifcultural centervf in Nouakchott would be allowed to reopen.37 Haidallah's move was of momentous significance because, should Polisario be allowed to set up bases in Mauritania, it would be able to attack Western S a hara anywhere along Mauritania's 700-mile border with that country. The Moroccan armed forces estimated that they would need at least an additional eleven expensive armored columns to police this long border.38 Serious riots broke out in DIPLOMATIC MOWS M orocco's domestic troubles and developments may have prompted Hassan to make his offer of a "limited referendum" for Western Sahara at the OAU annual assembly in Nairobi in June 19
81. The offer was well timed. Certain elements within Polisario had been dr ifting away from Algeria towards Libya,,a much more generous donor of arms and equipment. However, various OAU members who were favorable toward Polisario were suspicious of the Libyan connection. Qaddafi's meddling in Chad and his attempt to stir 36 New A frican, August 1981, p. 24; Washington Post, August 25, 1981, November 12, 1981 38 Ibid Economist, May 30, 1981, p. 30; Washington Post, April 26, 1981. 16 up rebellion in Tunisia had alienated several important OAU members. Even Algeria was suspicious, f o r though both countries theoretically were supporting Polisario, Algiers was angered by Qaddafi's claims upon Algerian territory and his supplying arms to Algeria's nomadic Touareg population. Chadli had even gone so far as to block the flow of Libyan arm s to Polisario bases at Tindouf and Qaddafi was obliged to fly his gifts to airstrips in the Chegga region of northeastern Mauritania.39 terms of the agreement which it proposed. Polisario had always demanded the complete withdrawal of all Moroccan troops a nd administrators from Western Sahara before peace talks could begin. In addition, it had asserted that between 750,000 and 1 million Saki people had the right to participate in a national referendum, regardless of whether they were located in Algerian re f ugee camps or in Western Sahara itself. The OAU substantially rejected all of Polisario's demands. The Sahwris in Algerian refugee camps were to be allowed to vote, but the OAU insisted upon using the 1974 Spanish census of Western Sahara, which had state d categorically that the territory had only 74,000 inhabi tants. Only those Sahwris who had been registered in the census and who had attained the age of majority were to be allowed :to vote. Some experts did accept Polisario's assertion that the 1974 cens u s was at fault but very few would accept Polisario's second claim that there were as many as 1 million Sahwri refugees in Algerian refugee camps. Such inflated claims aroused suspicions that Polisario intended to manipulate Algeria's mass of refugees from drought-torn Mali and Niger for its own ends. The OAU effectively had denied Polisario that option. Furthermore, the Moroccan administration of Western Sahara would not be compelled to withdraw prior to the referendum and the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces s i mply would be confined to barracks for the course of the voting.40 The OAU's change of heart is clearly demonstrated by the King Hassan probably would have been wise to accept the OAU's terms and proceed with the referendum. Certainly, the U.S would have b een happy to support him since it appeared to remove Morocco from danger of financial collapse, The visit to Morocco of Francis J. West, Jr., Assistant Secretary for Defense for International Security Affairs, and his clear determination to supply Morocco with sophisticated radar jamming and detection devices would boost Moroccan prestige in Western Sahara and increase the chances for a favorable outcome to the referendum.41 Moreover, general political circumstances favored the referen dum. Algeria's objec t ions to the OAU's proposals probably were prq forma; Chadli did not boast a sufficiently powerful political 39 William H. Lewis, op. cit., pp. 410-413 40 41 Washington Post, November 10, 1981; New York Times, March 26, 1981 Ibid.; Zartmann, op. cit. I a 1 7 base to repudiate fully the Boumedienne line, On the other hand Chadli and his colleagues were much more concerned with Qaddafi's ambitions nearer to home than they were with Western Sahara. The world oil glut WLS biting deeply-into the country's oil rev e nues particularly because Algeria was one of the world's highest-priced producers. Moreover, the drought that was bedevilling Morocco now was devastating Algeria, to the point where the government in Algiers was asking for days of national prayer.42 Alger i a's developing social problems also were serving io restrain the FL"s more militant members. Student riots at the University of Annaba in November 1981 underscored the economic frustration of the young and their disappointment at Chadli's slow pace of ref o rm. One month previously, the illegal Moslem Brotherhood had taken over a mosque in Laghouat, 250 miles south of Algiers, occasioning three days of anti-government riots in that city.43 Ironically, even Libya was prepared to support a settlement pro tempo r e expedition into Chad, that he had alienated many important figures within the OAU who were now pressing for a change of venue for the 1982 general assembly, which had been planned for Tripoli the Libyan capital, under Qaddafi's chairmanship. In a bid to broaden his support and reconcile some of the more conservative leaders, Qaddafi downgraded his support for Polisario and announced his desire to reestablish relations with Morocco. Hassan promptly sent a close advisor to Tripoli and relations were resume d It appeared that Hassan might be succeeding in his bid to isolate Polisario internati~nally Qaddafi was aware that he had gone too far in his The only serious opposition to the OAU's projected settlement came from Polisario and, surprisingly, from within Morocco. In the latter case, five members of the chief opposition party, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, including Secretary General Abderrahim Bouabid, were arrested for making major public state ments condemning Hassan's peace offer.45 If nothing else, these arrests demonstrate that Hassan truly had the broad political backing which he claimed for his war in Western Sahara. Meanwhile Polisario condemned the OAU peace plan as Ita pernicious formula but its diplomatic isolation rendered it impotent within the OAU.
When Algeria, on behalf of Polisario, had tried to pass an amend ment demanding the withdrawal of Moroccan troops prior to a referendum, it had been able to muster only 6 votes among the 50 member states. Moreover, Hassan's diplomatic coup had exacerbated a pre-existing schism within Polisario, between those who favored 42 43 Washington Post, October 8, 1981; Economist, November 21, 1981, p. 49 44 Defense Foreign Affairs, June 26, 1981 45 Africa Report, November-December 1981, p 34 Economis t , December 12, 1981, p. 36 and "Algeria's New Sultan," Current History, December 1981, pp. 418-421. .I i 18 D I I w cultivating relations with Libya and fighting on for total victory and those wishing to remain in the Algerian camp and settle for a compro m ise agreement on Western Sahara. Amnesty International had been aware of political tensions within Polisario for some time. Stories of forced labor camps and Ildisappearances" had leaked out of Tindouf from time to time. The exodus of different Polisario e lements to Mauritania and to Europe lends credence to these stories. Polisario's Foreign Minister, Hakim Ibrahim, was obviously speaking for the Algerian side of the movement when he visited the U.N. in November and asked the U.S. to enter the scene and s e cure peace for Western Sahara, adding that Polisario's leaders intended to develop Western Sahara's phosphate reserves in cooperation with Morocco.*G POLISARIO'S OFFENSIVE The OAU's peace efforts were finally halted by a major Polisario attack on a Morocc an garrison, Guelta Zemmour, 135 miles southeast of El Aiun and outside the defensive perimeter.
The attack, which may have been planned and launched entirely by Polisario's pro-Libyan element, appears to have been successful.
The movement attacked the ba se with 3,000 men, destroyed a batta lion's worth of Moroccan equipment, shot down five aircraft and inflicted heavy casualties. Morocco conceded defeat but then retook the base and declared that Polisario had been using Soviet T54 and T55 tanks and, more seriously SAM-6 missiles, which could easily shoot down Morocco's F-5s but which would have required heavy transport and Palestinian, Cuban or East European crews. Observers visiting the battlefield did not accept all of Morocco's allegations but did conc ede that Polisario probably had access to the new Soviet heat-seeking SAM-9, since a Hercules C-130 had been shot down at 18,000 feet, out of range of the less sophisticated SAM-
7. Morocco announced that the attack was evidence of a growing Communist bloc assault upon Rabat and that the attack had ended all.negotiations, leaving Morocco with a free hand. Hassan demonstrated this one month later by allowing his aircraft to chase Polisario raiders back to their Mauritanian bases for the first time. Sadly, b o th the U.S. and the OAU failed to denounce Polisario's attack on Guelta Zemmour. Such a condemnation might have enabled Morocco to persist with the referendum without a significant loss of pre~tige In the midst of the debate over the implications of Guelt a Zemmour, few commentators grasped the military significance of the battle, namely, that the war had undergone a major change of character. Polisario's guerrilla attacks had failed to dislodge 46 Foreign Report, April 30, 1981, pp. 5-6; New York Times, No v ember 23 1981. 47 Washington Post, October 22, 1981, November 5, 1981; Economist, October 24, 1981, p. 43 5 z 19 Morocco from the Western Sahara and, in order to have impact and break off negotiations, Polisairo had been obliged to abandon guerrilla tacti c s for classic military action have won a victory but its lack of heavy equipment, formal train ing facilities and a large population base meant that it had launched the war upon a course which it could not hope to win Polisario might On January 8, 1982, P o lisario again utilized the tactics of Guelta Zemmour, attacking a Moroccan base at Ras el Khanfra with 3,000 men supported by 24 tanks failure but was of particular note since Polisario had mobilized 20 percent of its total manpower in launching it.48 The attack was a complete U.S. REACTION These attacks appear to have deepened Washington's concern over Morocco's security U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger visited Rabat in January 1982 to discuss developments with King Hassan. One month later, Secret ary of State Alexander Haig also paid a visit to discuss the increase of U.S. military credits then pegged at only 34 million for FY 1982 had been unable to accept the 106 160 tanks which the U.S. offered in February 19
82. The projected assistance total h as since been raised to $101,600,000 to mitigate Morocco's military and economic problems.4g However, should the Reagan Administration's new foreign aid bill encounter serious opposition in Congress, assist ance could be frozen at the 1982 level Consequen t ly, Rabat POLISARIO'S OAU INITIATVE AND SUBSEQUENT ISOLATION Developments since January 1982 confirm the belief that a settlement is still possible. Polisario did achieve a small diplomatic victory by securing OAU recognition as an independent state in Fe b ruary, but a careful examination of the proceedings prior to Polisariols admission suggest that the victory was more apparent than real. The conduct of the OAUIs Secretary-General Edem Kodjo of Togo, was particularly suspicious. He had surprised the membe r states by introducing the proposal to admit the Saharan Democratic Republic during a routine budget and finance meeting.
Eighteen member states promptly left the meeting, rendering it inquorate.
Nevertheless, Kodjo insisted that the meeting had been quo rate when it sat and that, therefore, the SADR was duly admit ted. consulting the chairman of the OAU, Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, who declared the ploy Ilnull and void.Il It subsequently transpired tha.t Kodjo had acted without Kodjo was believed to have 4 8 49 Washington Post, February 12, 1982.
Financial Times of London, February 2, 1982. 20 acted in Polisario's favor with Libya and Generalship when the behalf through a desire to curry secret thus assure his re-election to the Secretary OAU convenes in Tripoli later this year.
However, Kodjo's efforts to manipulate the OAU have raised emotions to an unexpected height; the eighteen member states who walked out have refused to abandon their stance against Polisario and have since been joined by another, Tuni sia. They also may be joined by any or all of the undecided states, Egypt, Nigeria Malawi and Mauritania. Kenya probably will choose to join the pro-Moroccan group when it regains its voting rights after the pending termination of arap Moils chairmanship. Unless these dissenting states can be mollified, and a more mature approach to Western Sahara adopted, the OAU itself may fall apart. Thus ironically, Polisario's attempts to subvert the OAU's recognition process has made the search for a settlement a tru e life-and-death issue for the organization's leadership.50 Polisario's relations with Algeria have continued to deterio rate, as have Algeria's with Libya. The elections which Chadli has called for May 1982 probably will be used to purge Boumedienne style hardliners from the candidate lits. Chadli, angered by Soviet delays in supplying spare parts, has begun to.draw closer to Washington in the hope of buying U.S. arms of six Hercules C-130s, along with flight maintenance and training programs, may serve to encourage this tendency. Relations between Algiers and Tripoli now are particularly bad after Qaddafi's announcement in January that the two countries had agreed on steps1' towards founding a unified Islamic republic, a statement which Algeria hotly denie d . French intelligence sources now report that Chadli actually is expelling pro-Libyan Polisario members from Tindouf, whence they move into Mauritania.51 Chadli's antipathy towards Libya, his general reluctance to become more deeply involved with Polisari o and the fact that his country's revenues have been halved by the world oil glut all combine to suggest that Algeria will not raise any serious obstacles to a Western Sahara settlement The recent sale Polisario is of course, geographically isolated from L i bya and consequently Qaddafi will encounter serious logistical diffi culties if he wishes to assume Algeria's traditional role as Polisario's paymaster. In the event, Qaddafi probably will prove reluctant to take such a course for fear of imperilling his h old on the chairmanship of the OAU. The OAU, in its turn, will bring heavy presure to bear on Polisario to accept a settlement in order to end the deadlock within the organization New York Times, March 7, 1982; Foreign Report, March 4, 1982, p. 7 Strategy Week, March 8-14, 1982, p. 2; and New African, April 1982 p. 23.
Foreign Report, October 8, 1981, p. 1; April 1, 1982, p. 5; New York Times January 26, 1982; and Wall Street Journal, January 19, 1982, p. 27 51 'I I 21 CONCLUSION The U.S. must act quickly to take advantage of Polisario's isolation and Libyan inactivity A sincere diplomatic initiative could bring the war to an end and prevent the economic collapse of the Moroccan state negotiations. France's rapprochement with Algeria has made Rabat suspicious of its one-time ally. Moscow will be happy to contemplate the p rolongation of the war, in the hope of witnessing the downfall of the current Moroccan govern.m%nt.-while safeguarding its investment in the country's phosphate resources No other power can bring about peace Some groups within Congress doubtless will find the idea of the U.S. dealing with countries such as Algeria and bodies such as Polisario distasteful in the extreme. However, unless the U.S. is willing to expend huge sums, possibly as high as $1 billion per annum, to upgrade the Royal Moroccan Army's eq uipment finance Moroccan food and energy imports and pay for the everyday conduct of the war in Western Sahara, then the bitter pill must be swallowed. Morocco is a vital ally which must be presetved.
If the U.S. is unwilling to pay the cost of that preservation then it must take advantage of the prevailing circumstances to move to the negotiating table before the opportunity passes.
Ian Butterfield Policy Analyst I I I s i APPENDIX I International Economic Assistance to Morocco Note that the United States definitely is not the primary supplier of aid to Morocco, despite the close political and strategic ties between the two countries. French assistance is almost 600 percent greater than that provided by the U.S much French assistance goes to subsidize Fre n ch exports, but this causes few worries in Rabat, which is in desperate need of those imports Granted The assistance which the U.S. has directed towards Morocco on the whole, has been dispensed wisely. The bulk of U.S. re sources have been used to improve the country's dryland agricul tural sector a vital area of development, since only 17 percent of Moroccofs land is cultivable without the application of dryland agricultural technology. If Morocco is to feed its rapidly expanding population, this area mus t be extended. However, it must be stressed that the U.S. program is modest and cannot hope to demonstrate any immediate notable effect, particularly since Moroccofs drought is continuing. The country will continue to depend upon heavy food imports for the foreseeable future.
In October 1980, the International Monetary Fund approved a 1.1 billion Extended Fund Facility credit to support a three-year program of major economic and financial adjustments, incorporating measures to restrict domestic and import d emand, expand savings and exports and stimulate the private sector. The final success of this plan, now rescheduled to reach completion in 1985, will require a total of $22 billion in Moroccan resources. Hence Rabat will be obliged to engage in heavy borr o wing on the commer cial market. However, Morocco ran a trade deficit of 2 billion in 1981 and the country's budgetary deficit is growing. Debt service now accounts for the earnings of 23 percent of Morocco's export earnings and foreign remittances. The la t ter category of earnings continues to decline steeply as the recession in Europe leads to the expulsion of Moroccan guest workers. As a result of all these factors, it appears unlikely that Morocco will attain its financial goals I 8 s 111 Y X I 5 rlrcl I m ma N rYN 111111 l?%l In0 N m I mm 0. W WN n z 0 Y L b x s H U YI u U 2 W 0 Y a 7'77 Y NN I 10- I ma 8 0 lt?l I 4 419' 00 ?lr-c;l I 0 00 I 0 s 0 0 0 0 a 0 H I I-