For the first time ever, Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar recently stated what has been obvious to many: “Our conflict today is not with the Polisario, but with Algeria, and all methods utilized by Algeria to erect obstacles to resolving the issue are pathetic.”
In this new bluntness, Minister Mezouar hopes to send two messages to the world: First, that the Polisario is irrelevant for it is nothing without its puppet master Algeria, and second, that Morocco will no longer be on the defensive and wait to respond to Algeria’s attacks on Morocco in every international arena.
Morocco’s sudden offensive posture was triggered by the African Union’s latest appointment of a new envoy to the Moroccan Sahara without any consultation with or consent from Morocco. Now that President Bouteflika has been “re-elected” for another six-year term, Morocco is starting to realize that it cannot rely on an anticipated change in the Algerian regime that may or may not take place. All but one of those who ran for the Algerian presidency showed some flexibility toward Morocco, and Morocco itself was hoping that a change in leadership would probably occur in light of Bouteflika’s medical issues. That did not happen, and Morocco’s expectations sadly have not materialized.
There is, however, something new we are witnessing in the Western Sahara dossier: this is the first time that the Moroccan Monarch has consulted with the Moroccan parliament on the issue. The king must have realized that unless he involves the Moroccan public, the conflict will always look to the outside world and especially to the enemies of Morocco’s territorial integrity that the conflict is between the Moroccan Monarch and the Polisario, instead of between the republic of Algeria and the Kingdom of Morocco.
One other major shift is taking place. It appears that Morocco has finally decided that it will follow through with its proposed autonomy plan via the program of “advanced regionalization” promoted by the king. This is something many Moroccans have been advocating for years now. We cannot expect the Sahraouis to join the sacred cause while they are considered and treated as non-Moroccans.
Minister Mezouar has promised that the year 2015 will be important for Morocco’s first national cause. Let us hope that this time Moroccan diplomacy plays a proactive role not only in defending what has been accomplished in the last decade, but also in forging ahead with developing the Sahara to make life bearable for the Sahraouis. What better way is there to accomplish that other than immediately implementing the promised autonomy plan?
There are rumors floating around indicating that Christopher Ross is about to “throw the towel.” This may be good news for Morocco. It was no secret that the American envoy was not so kind to Morocco’s efforts to resolve the conflict and was pretty much pro-Algerian. The next envoy should be someone who Morocco is comfortable with, otherwise the Kingdom will face the same issues.
Morocco has all the assets to counter Algeria’s financial resources; we just need to put those assets to good use. Let the Algerian military regime squander the oil resources to the chagrin of the powerless Algerian people.
Let us hope that the Algerian people will somehow find a way to rid themselves of their military regime, which has been nothing but a bunch of incompetent leaders who have succeeded in misusing Algeria’s oil revenues to finance a group of thugs.
By Majid Morcelli - San Francisco