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Anthony Joyce Stephen Zunes and Jacob Mundy. Western Sahara ...

Anthony Joyce Stephen Zunes and Jacob Mundy. Western Sahara ...

Anthony Joyce Stephen Zunes and Jacob Mundy. Western Sahara

Anthony Joyce Stephen Zunes and Jacob Mundy. Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2010. Zunes and Mundy present a detailed and passionate analysis of the origins and potential solutions to the Western Sahara conflict. Their basic argument is that Western Sahara, as a former non-self governing territory, or colony, of Spain, should be granted the right to choose independence. This assertion is completely congruent with the post-World War II consensus on the inadmissibility of territorial invasion to expand national boundaries, as well as the multiple precedents of former colonial boundaries becoming the delimiting lines of new nation states. In terms of straight history, their work charts the outbreak of war in 1975 between the Sahrawi nationalist guerrilla force Polisario, against Morocco; the uneasy ceasefire that emerged in 1991 after 15 years of stalemate; the early 1990’s peace proposals for a referendum to decide the fate of the territory and the UN attempts at organizing a referendum in order to determine who exactly is a “Sahrawi”; and finally the ultimate failure of James Baker’s various peace proposals from 1997 to 2004, when he resigned as the lead UN negotiator for Western Sahara. In arguing for independence, Zunes and Mundy highlight the intractability of the two protagonists, Morocco and Polisario, and the failure of the UN to use its Chapter VII powers to physically enforce the outcome of a referendum, no matter who wins. They stress the damaging role that the US and France have had in blocking all attempts to enforce a solution to the conflict through their generous arms deals with Morocco and through their veto powers on the UN Security Council. The authors ultimately conclude that only a transnational movement of engaged civil society actors can summon up enough pressure on Morocco, as well as on the US, France, and international corporations that do business with Morocco in Western Sahara. This struggle has pitted the Kingdom of Morocco against the Sahrawi nationalist guerrilla organization, Polisario, for nearly four decades. These are the primary actors, but the “sustained intractability” 1 of the conflict has its origins in regional and international actors, such as the United States, France and Algeria, as well as in international bodies such as the United Nations Security Council and the Organization of African Union. Western Sahara was a Spanish colony until October and November 1975, when King Hassan II of Morocco initiated a “civilian invasion” of 350,000 Moroccans into the territory, known as the Green March, in an effort to drive out the Spanish colonial government and “reincorporate” Western Sahara into “Greater Morocco.” Preceding this event by a few days, the Moroccan and Mauritanian governments also clandestinely invaded the territory with troops directed against the Spanish authority. Directly before this occurred, Morocco had appealed to the International Court of Justice (ICJ, presenting Moroccan historical, political and demographical claims to the territory, and they argued that the territory was originally a part of the territory of the Sharifian dynasty before the Spanish cut it asunder in 1884. Concurrently however, the authors detail the rise of an ethnic and territorially based Sahrawi nationalism, beginning in 1973 with the umbrella movement of Polisario representing a growing internal consensus among Sahrawis for independence rather than integration into Morocco. The ICJ ruled against Morocco, but Hassan II ignored the ruling and launched the invasion nonetheless. In response, Polisario declared statehood in exile in Tandouf, Algeria, founding the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (RASD). In terms of political economy, some of the primary sources of sustained intractability for Morocco are the extensive client networks of Morocco’s royal family. Under both Hassan II and Mohammed VI, these networks have rewarded key figures within the military-security establishment with the authority to supposedly monitor lucrative industries in Western Sahara, chiefly fishing and rich sources of phosphate, as well as the ability to extract rent from any future oil discoveries in the region. Though the authors argue that the 1975 Moroccan invasion was not initially motivated by economic concerns, given the resources committed by the state to resource extraction and the future windfalls rising 1 The authors use this term to highlight conflicts where neither side is able to win decisively, but do not have sufficient pressure put upon them to engage in meaningful arbitration

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