Elliott Abrams

Former US diplomat Elliott Abrams described the US decision to recognize Morocco's full sovereignty over its Sahara as sound, underlining that arguments against such decision do not hold water.


In an article published in US magazine "National Review" entitled "Trump's Morocco Decision was Sound", Abrams, who was US special representative for Venezuela, criticized the positions of former UN envoy special James Baker, former Ambassador John Bolton and Republican Senator James Inhofe, on the sovereignty of the Kingdom over the Sahara.


"For reasons that are not persuasive," all three have long opposed Morocco's territorial claims and have favored a process likely to weaken the kingdom, an important U.S. ally in a dangerous region, he noted.


"Moreover, their proposals might hand the territory over to the Polisario, a Cold War remnant organization that cannot reasonably be expected to play Morocco’s role in the struggle against terrorism and extremism," he added.


"In this period, the first term of President George W. Bush, I was senior director for the Near East and North Africa at the National Security Council. (..) I believe it was in good part the Bush administration's refusal to support the Baker Plan that led to Baker’s resignation," underlined Abrams.


The former diplomat said that three reasons led the Bush administration to reject the Baker plan, the first being that since the Green March, neither the late HM Hassan II nor HM King Mohammed VI have never considered leaving the region and separate it from Morocco.


Abrams, who is currently a senior researcher in Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, also noted that Moroccans are united when it comes to the Sahara issue.


The second thing behind rejecting the Baker Plan was that it might have led to the creation of a Polisario state in the Sahara.


"There are many reasons this was and still is a bad idea," he said, noting that the Polisario has for decades relied on the hosting and financial, diplomatic, and military support of Algeria.


"Algeria recently denounced Morocco's establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel; and the land border between them has been closed since 1994," he recalled.


Independence for the Sahara would mean that Morocco's land borders consist of Algeria and what would likely be an Algerian dependency. That would hardly be conducive to Moroccan security, prosperity, and stability, wrote Abrams.


The US expert stressed that Morocco and the United States have a long and deep relationship, and Morocco is a major non-NATO ally.


"It is inconceivable to think of this kind of security relationship existing with a Polisario state," he underlined.


Third, never in history has there been an independent state in the Sahara, he added.


"There was and is no pressing historical, political, or legal reason to make it one. If the United States must support an independence referendum for the Sahara, why not for Scotland and Catalonia? Why not Quebec and Wales? he wondered.


With these and other considerations in mind, the United States rightly rejected the Baker Plan, he stressed, adding that the US administration encouraged the Moroccan government to develop a credible autonomy plan for the Sahara, and it did so in 2007.


The US recognition of Morocco's full sovereignty over its Sahara "was surely not the complete and "astounding" break with past U.S. positions that Baker called it. It was instead a logical progression from what had for more than a decade, under administrations of both parties, been the U.S. position: that autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty was the best realistic option," he said.


"By recognizing Moroccan sovereignty, the United States has added pressure for a serious autonomy negotiation that might bring the conflict to an end. No other path will get us there," he concluded.