Monday, January 24

One year of the tweet that set fire to the Western Shara


Trump’s decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Shara is part of a continuity line with US foreign policy

Donald Trump, with King Mohamed VI and his son, in Par
Donald Trump, with King Mohamed VI and his son, in Paris.B. TessierREUTERS
  • Wide angle A year of outbursts in the Western Shara

A year ago now, a tweet blew up the regional chessboard around the conflict of the Shara Occidental. In a short message on the social network, Donald Trump – who was already on the countdown to his Presidency – recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Shara in exchange for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. The decision, contrary to United Nations resolutions, which considers the territory as “pending decolonization”, disrupted regional geopolitics.

“Today I signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Shara. Morocco’s serious, credible and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution to lasting peace and prosperity,” Trump wrote on Twitter that day. In a second message he revealed: “Another HISTORICAL milestone today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive milestone for peace in the Middle East!”

In the time that has elapsed since then, the old rivalry between Morocco and Algeria – their counter-power in the Maghreb and defender of the independence aspirations of the Sahrawis – has reignited, in one of the worst confrontations of recent decades. After several disagreements, at the end of the summer, Algeria broke diplomatic relations with the Alau kingdom and at the beginning of November it stopped supplying gas to the Peninsula through the gas pipeline that passes through neighboring territory. Tension rises in the heat of the military conflict that has been reactivated in Western Shara itself, between the Polisario Front and Morocco, in a confrontational dynamic that began in November 2020, almost a month before Trump’s tweet.

But it is not because Trump’s decision is shocking that it can be seen as a breakthrough in US foreign policy. “It is the continuity of a long-term policy. There is an obvious line of continuity,” he analyzes sunday gar, Professor of Contemporary History at the University of La Laguna. Gar has just published the book “America in the Western Shara War” (Cataract), in which he studies declassified documents of the Secretary of State, from the presidential archives of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, as well as CIA materials to chart the trajectory of US involvement in the conflict.

With a year’s perspective and Gar’s study in hand, it seems that you could guess that the US was going to get to this point. “Actually, Trump’s decision is a continuation of Reagan’s policies, but taking a step further that implied the effective recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Shara. The issue is that this was latent from the first support that the Ford’s government, in 1974, gave Morocco, with the international policy strategy directed by Kissinger. In a certain way, that was implicit “, considers the professor, in a telephone interview with EL MUNDO.

The unilateral movement of the Republican president was “a priori” called to be seconded by other countries. And that is what Morocco expected, which was carefully watching the reaction of France, Spain and other European countries allied to the United States. A year has passed and none of the main actors in the conflict have followed the direction set by Trump. Only Colombia declared itself last October in favor of the Moroccan sovereign in the former colony.

Supporters of the Polisario Front, in the refugee camps of Tindouf.
Supporters of the Polisario Front, in the refugee camps of Tindouf.J. MartnEFE

The geopolitical link

Under the new presidency of Joe Biden as of January 2021, the US has not backed down on the Trump decree but it has not continued to delve into it, since for now it has not opened the expected consulate within the territory and, for example, nor did it allow the African Lion military exercises to take place in the disputed area. The reason that he does not revoke Trump may be that the consequence would be a weakening of the Abraham Accords, promoted by Trump to normalize relations between Israel and three Arab countries (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan), to which later sum Morocco.

“Trump – who makes this decision on the advice of his son-in-law, who maintains close relations with Israel – links both problems. This again links the conflict between Morocco and the Shara with the Israeli-Palestinian question, which is latent throughout the period. Morocco It always played a proximity role in American foreign policy in the Middle East. This policy was to favor Israel’s position in the area and in return it has received permanent support from the United States, sometimes more veiled and other times directly, depending on how it evolved. the conflict in the Middle East “, comments the Canarian professor.

“Thus the Western Shara conflict is linked through North American geopolitics for the Middle East. It is not that the Shara conflict itself has a direct link, but rather that the link is North American geopolitics and its support for Israeli positions to win allies. They began to grow friendships from the Camp David Accords with Egypt, and it has been a subsequent trickle-down sum that has ended Israel’s original situation of isolation in the region. zone, “he points out, summarizing the path to the Abrahamic agreements.

Trump’s boost to relations between Washington and Rabat is rooted in the massive support that Reagan consecrated to the monarch Hasan II. “Reagan’s, without a doubt, was the US Government that has most favored Morocco’s positions. Its support was definitive, it was the one that made the greatest amount of investment and the one that favored the acquisition of new weapons for Morocco. military on the ground, built – with other allies – the retaining walls, deployed a lot of military intelligence on the ground … From then on a new situation in the war arose. The Polisario Front had a fairly extensive control of the territory, around 80% of the territory. With this massive support from Reagan to Morocco, the tables were reversed and from then on it is Morocco that controls 80-85% of the territory and the Sahrawis They are behind the walls, “he sums up.

It is still too early to analyze where Biden’s helm is heading in the Western Shara conflict and what will be the scope of his policies on the ground. On the horizon is the creating a context to convince the parties to return to negotiations within the United Nations. But what is certain is that the US will play a key role. “There will be no solution if it is not from the hand of the US. There is no other actor that can end the conflict and seek an honorable solution for all,” says Gar.

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