The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder #1023 on Middle East

March 13, 1995

March 13, 1995 | Backgrounder on Middle East

King Hassan's Morocco: A Valuable U.S. Ally

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1023 March 13, 1995 KING HASSANS MOROCCO A VALUABLE US. ALLY INTRODUCTION Morocco*s King Hassan II, one of Americas most important friends in the Arab world, arrives in Washington for a three-day state visit on March 15. Under the Kings pragmatic leadership, Morocco has become a bulwark of stability in a volatile region King Hassan consistently has played a moderating role in Middle Eastern politi cs, often supporting the U.S in confrontations with radical states such as Libya, Iran, and Iraq.

Morocco was a key U.S. ally during the Cold War, cooperating with Washington to con tain Soviet influence in the Middle East and Africa. The far-sighted King also has served as a diplomatic intermediary vital to the progress of Arab-Israeli peace negotiat ions.

Moreover as a respected Muslim religious leader, King Hassan has played a constructive role in promoting cooperation and mutual respect between the Muslim world and the West important leadership contributions in three different international arenas. First in April 1994, a trade accord was signed in Marrakesh by 120 nations, concluding the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT Morocco was chosen as the host nation in recognition of its pivotal role in fostering consensus be t ween the devel oped nations and developing nations on trade issues. Also, King Hassans bold free-mar ket economic reforms have made Morocco a successful model for Third World economic modernization Morocco has hosted three global summits in the last year which underscore the Kings Morocco hosted a second global conference, the Casablanca Economic Summit, from October 30 to November 1, 19

94. At this unprecedented gathering, government officials from 61 countries met with 1,114 business leaders to discuss e conomic cooperation to support a lasting Arab-Israeli peace. The choice of Casablanca for a meeting site was an acknowledgment of King Hassans role in promoting reconciliation between Arabs and Israelis I I Finally, Morocco hosted the December 13-16,1994, summit meeting of the 52-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Casablanca. This Islamic summit which brought together the leaders of the worlds 1.1 billion Muslims, produced an un precedented plan for combating Muslim extremism. The OIC a dopted a code of con duct that urged member states not to host, train arm, finance, or provide facilities to violent groups. King Hassan set the tone for the conference by attacking Muslim extrem ism as un-Islamic.

These three summits illustrate the leader ship role King Hassan has played in negotiz tions about international trade, Arab-Israeli peace, and the containment of Islamic radical ism. As the respected leader of a rapidly modernizing moderate Arab state known for its religious tolerance, King Hassa n is well-positioned to play a leading role in these areas in the future. To bolster Morocco as a model for free-market economic reform, a catalyst for Arab-Israeli peace, and a pillar of regional stability, the U.S. should d Support Moroccos drive toward f ree trade with the West. The U.S. should of fer to sign a free-trade agreement with Morocco and support Moroccos efforts to ne gotiate a partnership agreement with the European Union. Greater access to West ern markets will help assure the success of King Hassans economic reforms, encour age foreign investment, and signal strong political backing for the Kings moderate foreign policy negotiations. King Hassan may be able to help broaden the Arab-Israeli peace nego tiations by facilitating a dialogue betwee n Israel and Saudi Arabia, just as he did be tween Egypt and Israel in the late 1970s and between the Palestinians and Israel three years ago. The King also can be helpful in working to lift the Arab economic boycott of Israel d Cooperate with Morocco in c o ntaining radical Middle Eastern states and Mus lim extremism The U.S. should encourage closer military cooperation between Mo rocco and Kuwait and other conservative Persian Gulf states to help defend against and deter Iranian or Iraqi aggression. The U.S . also should help promote King Has sans brand of cautious democratization and rapid free-market liberalization as an al ternative to the Muslim radicalism that has destabilized Algeria and risen in other North African nations d Cooperate with Morocco in b r oadening and advancing Arablsraeli peace d Assist Morocco in reaching a genuine political settlement of the Western Sahara issue Moroccos disputed 1976 annexation of the former Spanish Sahara led to a protracted war with some of its inhabitants, backed by Algeria. A cease-fire brokered by the United Nations in 1991 was supposed to lead to a popular referen dum on the territorys future in 1992, but the referendum has been bogged down by procedural delays and disagreements over voter eligibility. Washington s hould press Rabat to negotiate a political settlement with moderate Saharans willing to accept Moroccan sovereignty in exchange for greater political autonomy 2 KING HASSANS MODERATION King Hassan has ruled Morocco, a Califomia-sized country of 28 million people, with a blend of tradition and modernity. Hassan ascended to the throne on March 3,1961, fol lowing the death of his father, King Muhammed V. His Alouite dynasty, the oldest mon archy in the Middle East, has ruled Morocco since 16

49. Hassan enjoys a dual base of le gitimacy, for in addition to the royal throne, he inherited a traditional religious role as Commander of the Faithful. As a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, he is considered by pious Muslims to be endowed with buruka, a spirit ual blessing bestowed by God.

King Hassan ruled by decree in an authoritarian manner in his early years but gradu ally has liberalized the political system and given more power to Moroccos parliament in recent years. Parliament was suspended from 1965 to 1 972 due to civil unrest, and the King grew reliant on a powerful Ministry of Interior to suppress political opposition.

However, failed military coups in 1971 and 1972 led the King to expand his base of sup port by reviving parliament and progressively op ening up the political system to allow participation by a broad range of political parties. Today, King Hassan presides over a multi-party political system in which he functions as the unchallenged sumeme arbiter adroitly playing one group off against an other.

Under the new 1992 Constitution parliaments author- ity was expanded to include budgetary matters, the approval of bills presented by the King, and investi gations of executive branch activities. Op position parties won 125 of the seats in the 333-s eat parliament in the 1993 elections.

King Hassan, who has the power to appoint the Prime Minister, sought to entice opposition parties into a coalition govemment but failed to find a mutually acceptable power-sharing formula.

The opposition parties spum ed his October 1994 offer of the prime ministership and 19 minor cabinet portfolios because four key cabinet posts-Finance, Foreign Affairs, Jus tice, and the powerful Interior Ministry-would have remained in the hands of political parties loyal to the pa l ace 1 The Interior Ministry has been responsible for repeated human rights abuses. While Morocco made substantial progress on several human rights fronts in 1994, according to the U.S. Department of States annual human rights report, Moroccos 3 Frustrated in his effort to reach out to the opposition, King Hassan approved a new cen ter-right coalition government on February 27. Career diplomat Abdellatif Filali, who led the previous cabinet dominated by technocrats, was reappointed Prime Minister. The Kings retention of Filali is considered a strong signal of continued commitment to eco nomic liberalization, which has proceeded at a much faster pace than political liberaliza tion. Filali stated soon after his fust appointment as Prime Minister in 1994 that t h e gov ernment must let the private sector play its role in economic development, recognizing that the state does not have the vision of a modem entrepreneur.2 MOROCCOS SYSTEMATIC ECONOMIC REFORMS In addition to dynastic continuity and religious legitimacy , King Hassan has brought Morocco considerable economic progress. Under his free-market economic reforms, initi ated in the early 198Os, Morocco gradually has pulled itself out of a serious economic predicament. In the early 1980s Moroccos economy was hit h ard by high prices for oil Moroccos chief import, combined with low prices for phosphates, one of its leading ex ports, and droughts which ravaged Moroccan agriculture. Chronic budget and trade defi cits and ballooning foreign debt forced Rabat to underta ke structural economic reforms approved by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Discarding Moroccos then-fashionable brand of Third World economic nationalism King Hassan ordered a series of free-market reforms. His government reduced taxes, cut government spending, joined GATT, lowered tariffs and import duties, made its currency convertible, eased licensing restrictions, cut consumer subsidies, modernized the banking system, and encouraged foreign investment. These reforms over the last de c ade have paid dividends in the form of rising per capita income, lower inflation, and smaller fiscal and balance of trade deficits? Moroccos gross domestic product is estimated at about 28 billion, making it one of the larger Arab economies. Export-led ec onomic growth has al lowed Morocco to stabilize its foreign debt at approximately 2 l billion.

King Hassan has accelerated the pace of reform in the last two years by implementing an ambitious privatization program. Seventy-five state-owned enterprises and 37 hotels worth an estimated 2.2 billion are slated to be privatized by the end of 1995.4 The gov ernment has encouraged foreign investment in all sectors of the economy except for those reserved for the state, such as air transport. It has improved the i nvestment climate by making regulatory reforms, such as tax breaks, streamlined approval procedures, and access to foreign exchange forthe repatriation of profits. Foreign investment has risen steadily from 227 million in 1990 to $375 million in 1991 504 million in 1992, and 600 million in 19

93. Moroccan officials hope to attract $1 billion in foreign investment annually by the year 2000 security forces reportehly continue to abuse detainees.

David White, Survey of Morocco. Financial Times (London October 27. 1994. p. 39.

Annual economic growth has averaged 4.5 percent over the last decade. Per capita income now is estimated at $1,0

30. The public sector deficit fell from 12 percent of GDP in the early 1980s to 2 percent in 19

93. Inflation was 4.5 percent in 1993 bid p. 37.

David White, Morocco Plans to Extend Scope of Privatization, Financial Times (London July 16, 1994, p. 6 2 3 4 4 Surging foreign investment, accelerating privatization, and 1993 stock market reforms have energized the previou sly sleepy Casablanca stock exchange. Trading volume in creased by 365 percent in 1993 alone, and it has become the second-largest stock market in Africa (after South Africas) with a market capitalization of 5 billi~n This dynamic stock market, which inte r national investors now consider one of the most profitable emerging markets in the world, at tracted about 200 million in foreign investments in 1994 and is ex pected to attract about $500 million in 1995.7 Due in large part to rising foreign in vestment, an excep tional cereal har vest, and a recovery in phosphate pro duction, the Moroc can economy grew by arecord8 er cent in 19

94. Eco nomic growth is ex pected to slip back to 6 percent in 1995 and 5 percent in 19969 Although agriculture, which makes up about 18 percent of Mo roccos GDP, may be hard hit by a drought this year Moroccos far reaching economic 6 P Kingdom of Morocco reforms should lay a solid foundation for continued economic progress 5 6 7 8 9 Ibid Frances Ghiles. Hassan Speeds Business Ven tures in Morocco, Financial Times (London January 28, 1994, p. 1 I.

Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: Morocco, Fourth Quarter, 1994, p. 6.

David White, Survey of Morocco, Financial Times (London October 27, 1994, p. 40.

Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report: Morocco, Fourth Quarter 1994, p. 6 5 Despite Moroccos strong economic growth and job creation, unemployment remains a critical social challenge and a potentially explosive political issue. Although the unem ployment rate officially i s pegged at 16 percent, it is believed to be more than 20 percent overall, with college graduates facing an 11 percent unemployment rate while high school graduates suffer 33 percent unemployment.1 This is a dangerously high rate in a nation where two-thir d s of the population is under the age of 25. In the past, Moroccans have gone overseas in search of jobs. More than 1 million have emigrated to Western Europe, with over 800,000 now living in France alone. But this safety valve may not re main open much lo n ger. Europeans have grown increasingly concerned about the influx of immigrants from North Africa, particularly from Algeria, which has been engulfed in a bloody civil war between Muslim extremists and a secular military regime MOROCCAN-AMERICAN STRATEGIC COOPERATION The U.S. has enjoyed good relations with Morocco since formal diplomatic relations were established by the signing of a 1786 treaty of friendship. This agreement, still in force, is the longest unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history. Ame rica helped liberate Morocco from Axis control during World War

11. Following Moroccan independence from France in 1956, the U.S. integrated Morocco into its global alliance system for con taining Soviet expansion. The U.S. Strategic Air Command operated from Moroccan bases until 19

63. The U.S. Navy, attracted by Moroccos control of the southern ap proaches to the Strait of Gibraltar and its strategic location between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, made port visits at Moroccan naval bases. The Navy also oper ated a communications facility that linked U.S. naval units in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. forces in Africa In 1977, and again in 1978, the U.S. airlifted Moroccan troops to Zaire where they helped defeat leftist insuktions against President Mobutu Sese Seko. Rabat helped equip and train the anti-communist UNITA (National Union for the Total Inde pendence of Angola) forces of Angolan freedom fighter Jonas Savimbi and supported him in his struggle against Cuban and Angolan communist armed forces.

The U.S. signed a bilateral defense cooperation pact with Morocco in 1982 that gives American air and naval forces emergency transit, staging, and refueling rights at five Mo roccan air and naval bases l The Moroccan armed forces conduct join t exercises with American military forces and receive training, weapons, and equipment from the U.S.

Morocco also hosts the Voice of Americas largest overseas broadcasting transmitter and has granted landing rights to U.S. space shuttles in the event of a n emergency Morocco has participated in U.S.-sponsored actions to contain and defeat radical Morocco was one of the first Arab states to condemn Iraq for its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Rabat dispatched 1,700 troops to join coalition forces in Operati o n Desert 10 U.S. State Department, Bureau of Public Affairs, Background Notes: Morocco, November 1994. p. 4 11 Claudia Wright, Journey to Marrakesh: U.S.-Moroccan Security Relations, Inrernational Security, Spring 1983. pp 168-169 6 Storm, in addition tor oughly 5,000 troops that were stationed in the United &ab Emir ates before the war.

Morocco also has supported American foreign policy goals in the Middle East by ac tively promoting Arab-Israeli peace. King Hassan was me first Arab leader to host a visit by an Israeli Prime Minister, secretly meeting Yitzhak Rabin in Rabat in October 19 7 6 In 1977 King Hassan secretly invited Egyptian and Israeli officials to Morocco for face to-face talks that paved the way for Egyptian President Anwar Sadats momentous No vember 1977 visit to Jerusalem. Hassan became the second Arab leader to meet public l y with an Israeli Prime Minister when he boldly invited Shimon Peres, now the Foreign Minister, to Ifrane, Morocco in July 1986 King Hassan also played a key role as an intermediary between the Palestine Libera tion Organization and Israel in the secret n egotiations that produced the September 13 1993, Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, which was signed on the White House lawn. Prime Minister Rabin stopped in Rabat on his way back from the signing cere mony in Washington to thank the King.

Rece ntly the King has taken the lead in efforts to lift the Arab economic boycott of Is rael and normalize relations with that state. Morocco hosted the October 30-November 1 Casablanca Economic Summit, which helped to normalize Israel as an economic partner w ith the Arab world. Morocco became the second Arab state to establish diplomatic rela tions with Israel on September 1, 1994, when it announced that it would open a liaison bureau in Tel Aviv THE WESTERN SAHARA DISPUTE Although King Hassan has taken signi f icant personal political risks to encourage cornr promise and advance the Arab-Israeli peace process, he has taken a relatively hard-line position on the 18-year-old dispute over the status of the Western Sahara. Morocco occu pied the territory, the forme r Spanish Sahara, after Spain agreed to withdraw from the colony in 19

75. Moroccos claim, which has broad national support, was violently re sisted by the marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Saqiat al Hamra and Rio de Or0 popularly known as Polisa rio the self-appointed representatives of the native popula tion of the territory, known as Sahrawis. Over 150,000 Sahrawis fled from Moroccan controlled areas and took refuge across the border near the Algerian town of Tindouf.

Supported by Algeria, and to a lesser extent Libya and the Soviet Union during the 1980s, Polisario waged a protracted guerrilla war against over 80,000 Moroccan troops in the Western Sahara. Polisarios military fortunes declined after the Moroccan army completed a wall of sand em bedded with mines to protect most of the major towns and phosphate mines from hit-and-run attacks. Its political fortunes declined when Algeria cut back its support in 19

89. Since then Polisario has been weakened by defections, fac tional infighting, and low morale. It now is estimated to have 6,000 guerrilla fighters down from a peak of roughly 10,000 12 Chris Hedges, Morocco Is Accused of Interfering in Affairs of Smaller Desert Neighbor, The New York Times. March 5 1995, p. 8 7 The two sides accepted a United Nations-brokered cease-fire in 1991 that was to be fol lowed by a referendum in 1992 to determine whether the Western Sahara would gain in dependence or remain part of Morocco. The referendum repeatedly has been delayed first by disagreements over w ho will be eligible to vote, later by foot-dragging in register ing eligible voters. Rabat in the meantime has moved thousands of Moroccan settlers into the territory, and these newcomers are estimated to outnumber the original inhabi tants by a ratio of a bout three to two.13 Morocco has used delaying tactics and harassment to obstruct the registration of pro Polisario Saharan voters by the United Nations Mission for the Organization of a Refer endum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO l4 Rather than enter comp r ehensive negotia tions with its political rivals as it repeatedly has urged Arabs and Israelis to do, Rabat has shunned direct talks on substantive issues with the Sahrawis. The Moroccan govern ment appears determined to push through a referendum whose le g itimacy is likely to be challenged, rather than negotiate a genuine political settlement with its political oppo nents U.S. COOPERATION WITH MOROCCO Moroccos modem brand of constitutional monarchy and free-market capitalism is a stabilizing influence in N o rth Africa and the Middle East. To reward Morocco for its moderate pro-Western policies and help create a more stable and prosperous region, the U.S. should Support Moroccos drive toward free trade with the West. King Hassans eco nomic reform program has g iven Morocco a stronger economy than many of its neighbors. Moreover, it has helped Morocco thus far to escape the rise of radical Is lamic movements that have destabilized Algeria and roiled Egypt. Yet Morocco re mains saddled with high unemployment, whi c h provides fertile ground for the re cruitment efforts of Muslim extremists. To ease this employment problem and boost economic growth, particularly in its labor-intensive agricultural, clothing, and fishing export industries, Morocco has a vested interes t in free trade, particularly with nearby Western Europe. Approximately two-thirds of Moroccos trade is with the countries of the European Union.

Rabats long-term goal is to enter a free-trade zone with the European Union. In the words of King Hassans chie f economic adviser, Andre Azoulay, We are eight miles from Europe, and we want to be part of Europe. What we would eventually like is a full free trade zone with Europe, along the linesof the North American Free Trade Agreement.l5 Morocco applied to join t he European Union in 1987, but its application was rejected. In 1992 Rabat launched a fresh campaign for exploratory talks on a new association arrangement. But the attention of the European Union 13 Carol Migdalovitz, Western Sahara: Background to Refere n dum, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress Number 95-242 F, February 22, 1995, p. 2 14 Testimony of Frank Ruddy, former MINURSO official, before the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Ja n uary 25, 1995 15 Roger Cohen. Its Economy Rising, Morocco Lures Investors, The New York Times, November 1 I, 1993, p. A6 8 particularly Germany, has been focused more on integrating with the economies of Eastern Europe than on integrating with the economi es of the Mediterranean basin.

There are signs that the Europeans, particularly those that border on the Mediterra nean Sea, may be changing their minds about closer economic links with Morocco.

There is growing concern over the rising tide of Islamic rad icalism in Algeria and, to a lesser extent, in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey. France, Italy, and Spain are increasingly worried about the flow of immigrants, legal and illegal, from North Af rica. In October 1994 the European Commission called on th e European Union to create a Euro-Mediterranean Economic Area with its North African neighbors that would constitute the worlds largest free-trade area. France has taken the lead in pushing for closer economic links with North Africa, but negotiations will be a pro tracted and grueling affair. European nations like Spain, whose agricultural exports would be in direct competition with Moroccos, seek to minimize and postpone any lowering of trade barriers with Morocco.

The U.S. should give strong diplomatic s upport to Moroccos campaign to gain greater access to European markets. It should back Frances efforts to boost trade across the Mediterranean and anchor Morocco to Europe through free trade and closer political ties. Closer trade links with the European U nion not only would bring immediate trade benefits to Morocco, but also would signal a greater Western political commitment to Rabat that would encourage increased foreign investment from the U.S. and Japan as well as from Europe. Washington should warn m e mbers of the European Union that if they shun Moroccos entreaties, on the other hand they will undermine King Hassans moderate brand of political leadership and in crease the risks of regional instability. And reducing the flow of Moroccos exports to Euro p e will increase the flow of Moroccan emigrants to Europe in the long run Washington also should offer to negotiate a bilateral free-trade agreement with Morocco. While Rabat may balk at entering a full-fledged free-trade arrangement be cause of a desire t o protect its nascent manufacturing industries,16 it may be inter ested in a more limited arrangement that would not complicate its efforts to gain par ticipation in the European Union. At a minimum, the U.S. should ease its restrictions on Moroccan textil e and clothing exports.

While attending the GATT summit at Marrakesh last April, Vice President A1 Gore announced the creation of a new U.S.-Morocco trade and investment develop ment committee. This committee should investigate the possibility of negotiati ng freer trade between Morocco and the U.S. A good first step would be to negotiate a free-trade framework agreement, such as the ones the U.S. has negotiated with many countries in the Western Hemisphere. This framework agreement would lay the foun datio n s for a future free-trade agreement, which would take much longer to negoti ate 16 Morocco has a high level of protectionism, with an average tariff rate of 17.6 percent.This lowered Moroccos overall score on The Heritage Foundations Index of Economic Fre e dom, although Moroccos economy still was rated mostly free. Bryan T. Johnson and Thomas P. Sheehy. The Index ofEconomic Freedom (Washington, D.C The Heritage Foundation, 1995 pp. 164-166 9 Private-sector organizations, such as the Washington-based U.S.-Mo r occo Invest ment and Trade Council, also have an important role to play in building closer bilat eral economic links. The private sector, more efficient and cost-conscious than gov ernments, has an advantage in matching American companies with Moroccan pa rt ners to undertake practical economic projects that enjoy long-term commercial vi ability.

The American approach should be to foster Moroccan economic growth through trade, not aid. Although the U.S. has provided Morocco with more than 1.5 billion in gra nts and loans since it gained independence in 1956, aid has declined in recent years. Congress appropriated 82 million in aid for Morocco in fiscal year 1993 and 23 million in fiscal year 1994, bd the Clinton Administration has requested $26.5 million for fiscal year 19

95. Moroccos economic reforms merit strong support, but the shrinking U.S. foreign aid budget is not likely to provide it negotiations. King Hassan, who has served as a trusted intermediary between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and the Palestinians, also could help facilitate a diplo matic dialogue between Israel and Saudi Arabia. King Hassan is believed to enjoy good personal relations with Saudi King Fahd, and the two Arab monarchies histori cally have been close allies. Israel and S a udi Arabia share a desire to contain Iran and Iraq. Moreover, both have an interest in building a stable peace between Israel probably will not sign a formal peace accord with Israel until the final status of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem is negotia ted, but Saudi Arabia could support the peace process by working to end the Arab economic boycott of Israel and by finan cially supporting moderate Palestinian leaders to strengthen them relative to Palestin ian Muslim radicals supported by Iran.

U.S. Amba ssador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg has noted that King Hassan has be come a valuable adviser to President Clinton on the Arab-Israeli peace process.7 When King Hassan comes to the White House to visit, President Clinton should seek his advice on a wide varie ty of questions related to peace, including how to revive the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Washington also should encourage King Hassan to continue to act as a catalyst for increased Arab-Israeli economic cooperation A follow-up to the Casablanca Eco nomic Summit will be held in Amman, Jordan, later this year to explore further pos sible areas o f multilateral economic cooperation. Washington should seek King Has sans advice on what it is possible to achieve at this conference and cooperate with him on pushing through a practical agenda that will strengthen regional trade, bol ster economic growt h , and help build confidence between Arabs and Israelis a4 Cooperate with Morocco in broadening and advancing Arablsraeli peace l and the Palestinians that would contribute to regional stability. The cautious Saudis 17 Bernard La Franchi, U.S. Boosts Moroc c oTies in Bid to Stabilize Region. Christiuii Science Monitor. April 14. 1994 p. 7 10 d Cooperate with Morocco in containing radical Middle Eastern states and Muslim extremism. Rabat proved itself as a reliable U.S. ally against the Soviet Un ion, Cuba, an d Iraq. Washington now should seek to gain its cooperation in contain ing Iran and radical Muslim extremists in the Middle East. The U.S. should seek to expand Moroccos military cooperation with the conservative Arab states in the Per sian Gulf to help off s et Irans military buildup and the continued threat posed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The deployment of several thousand disciplined Mo roccan troops in Kuwait would enhmce Kuwaits security, bolster deterrence against Iran and Iraq, and reduce the ne e d for a costly rapid deployment of U.S. ground troops to Kuwait in the event of another Iraqi-inspired crisis. l8 The U.S. also should step up its cooperation with Moroccan intelligence services in monitoring radical Muslim groups based in Europe, Morocco , and neighboring Al geria. There is growing evidence of cooperation between Muslim radicals from both countries, who often travel in the same exile circles in Europe. Washington should press Rabat to curtail financial support for Algerian militants that i s believed to be channeled from exiled militants in Europe through Moroccan radical Muslim groups If the situation continues to deteriorate in Algeria, Morocco quickly could find itself in the front lines against an aggressive Muslim revolutionary power. W a sh ington and Rabat also should make contingency plans for future cooperation in the event the beleaguered military regime in Algeria is overthrown by a revolutionary Is lamic regime that threatens both their interests. Cooperation could include military coordination, American assistance with building and operating surveillance radars and other technologies to improve Moroccos border security, and possible joint sup port for Algerian groups opposed to the new regime.

King Hassan as the current head of the Islamic Conference Organization and a re spected religous leader in his own right, also can play a constructive role in improv ing relations between the Muslim world and the West. The U.S. should work with him to isolate radical Muslim states and movement s opposed to good relations with the West and to broaden the acceptance of Arab-Israeli peace in the Muslim world d Assist Morocco in reaching a genuine political settlement of the Western Sa hara issue The U.S. has recognized Moroccos administrative contr o l over the West em Sahara but has not endorsed Rabats claims of sovereignty. Instead, Washington consistently has supported a negotiated settlement of the future status of the territory that takes into account the views of its inhabitants. But the Morocca n s have sought to delay the United Nations-brokered referendum until they can be certain of winning it The U.S. has no interest in allowing the creation of a non-viable Polisario-run state. But neither does it have an interest in acquiescing to a cosmetic s olution through a referendum whose legitimacy is open to challenge. This will only prolong the conflict. Washington should press Rabat to enter direct talks with pragmatic Sa hrawis, including Polisario defectors open to compromise, to strike a deal in wh i ch 18 Washington also should press Kuwait to accept Moroccan workers as replacements for the more than 300,000 Palestinians expelled from Kuwait after its liberation because of their suspected pro-Iraqi sympathies. This would provide an outlet for young M o roccans without jobs and increase the flow of remittances back to Morocco from Moroccans working abroad 11 Sahrawis would accept Moroccan sovereignty in exchange for considerable regional autonomy and the right of return for over 150,000 refugees still in Algeria. Rabat would benefit by finally resolving a festering issue that could be revived in the fu ture by Algeria, particularly if a hostile regime comes to power CONCLUSION King.Hassans Morocco has played ah important role as a bridge between the Westa n d the Middle East between the developed and developing world, and between Arabs and Israelis It is a reliable U.S. ally that can be a force for stability in an unstable region. The U.S. therefore has good reason to support King Hassan strongly and to prom o te his model of cautious democratization and systematic free market economic reform. But U.S. support for King Hassans moderate foreign policy goals and domestic reforms does not translate automatically into unquestioned support for his goals in the Weste rn Sahara.

On that issue, Washington should urge the King to explore fully the possibilities of a ne gotiated compromise, just as the King himself has urged Arabs and Israelis to compro mise on their even more intractable disputes.

James Phillips Senior Policy Analyst 12

About the Author

James Phillips Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy