Morocco-US Relations: Time for Commitment and Restraint

Washington/Morocco News Board--The Moroccan-American spat over a U.S. proposal to add human rights monitors to the United Nations mission in the Western Sahara, known as MINURSO, hurts American efforts and weakens a key ally. Morocco’s harsh response to Washington’s sudden shift is unlikely to harm the long-standing relations between the two nations. Nonetheless, Morocco’s rhetoric needs to cool before the situation develops into a full-blown crisis.

Stable Morocco is the key to peace and stability in North Africa and a resilient U.S.-Moroccan relationship is vital to securing American interests in the region. With the war in Mali raging, political incertitude in Algeria rising and the proliferation of terror groups in the Sahel and Western Sahara intensifying, Morocco and the United State need to further their cooperation rather than “brawl” over marginal issues.

Moroccan officials’ job was made more complicated due to the many changes and transitions since the arrival of team John Kerry at the State Department. Nevertheless, Rabat must expand its political influence in the United States,emphasize the significance of the American-Moroccan military strong relationship and improve public advocacy for the Kingdom’s position in the Sahara conflict.

Maneuvers by a misguided American NGO should not spoil decades of U.S.-Moroccan close political and military co-operations that served both nations and the region well. For observers familiar with the workings of Washington, the language in the U.N. Security Council “draft “resolution in question does not necessarily signal a major shift in the U.S. policy in the Western Sahara.

This “crisis” should serve as a lesson for the Moroccan officials on the importance of Moroccan-American grassroots advocacy and the need for better access to elected officials and the media. Morocco is in need of an assertive public relations campaign to counter the misinformation propagated by Algeria. The Moroccan American community should be assertive and confident in its outreach work to elected officials and members of the Administration.

Despite Rabat decision to cancel the annual training and war games between U.S. troops and Moroccan Armed Forces, American officials and Moroccan diplomats are confident that the American-Moroccan friendship will weather this passing snag.  The extensive bilateral economic, military and political agreements between the two countries are expansive and entrenched in both countries’ foreign policy in the region and around the world.

This diplomatic “incident” provides American and Moroccan diplomats with an occasion to highlight the depth of their relationship. It is not time for Moroccans to lash out at some obviously biased groups, like the RFK Center for Human Rights, but rather hit the right political and diplomatic notes with Washington.

As a statement by the United States AFRICOM in response to the cancelation of “African Lion 13” puts it, “The U.S. and Moroccan militaries remain long-standing partners. We hope to continue to build our partnership through future military engagements with the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, as directed by U.S. Africa Command and the United States Government.”

With terrorism and weapons trafficking rampant in the Sahara and Sahel, and given Rabat geopolitical role in the region, Morocco will remain America’s most trusted ally and friend.

Written by Hassan Masiky