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US Policy on the Western Sahara - Morocco On The Move

US Policy on the Western Sahara - Morocco On The Move

US Policy on the Western Sahara - Morocco On The

MIT International Review This article, originally published on April 30, 2010, can be found at http://www.mitir-magazine.com/ Spring 2010Global Problems and Solutionsong>USong> ong>Policyong> on the Western Sahara:Implementing the ong>Policyong> of Three PresidentsAmbassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.) & Robert M. Holley 11Spring 2010During a meeting in Morocco on November 3,2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clintonaddressed the Western Sahara conflictdirectly. She affirmed ong>USong> policy regardingMorocco’s proposed plan to offer a broadautonomy under Moroccan sovereignty toresolve the more than 30-year Western Saharaconflict. “This is a plan that originated in theClinton Administration. It was reaffirmed inthe Bush Administration and it remains thepolicy of the United States in the ObamaAdministration... I don’t want anyone in theregion or elsewhere to have any doubt aboutour policy, which remains the same. 2 ”The debate over the current ong>USong> policy on theWestern Sahara often overlooks that, in fact, itwas launched in 1999 during the Clintonpresidency. Yet this insight is essential tounderstanding current American policy. Thispaper summarizes why the ClintonAdministration shifted America’s policy on theWestern Sahara, explores the implications ofthat policy, and provides directives for the ong>USong>government for generating a workable,sustainable solution.1 The co-authors of this article, Ambassador Edward M.Gabriel and Robert M. Holley, were posted at the UnitedStates Embassy in Morocco at the time of the ong>USong> policy shifton the Western Sahara issue. They were active participantsin the policy review that led to the change in ong>USong> policy.Edward Gabriel was the ong>USong> Ambassador to Morocco at thetime and Robert Holley was Political Counselor at the ong>USong>Embassy. Currently, Ambassador Gabriel and Mr. Holleyadvise the Government of Morocco.2http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/11/131354.htmEnd of the Spanish Occupation; Warbetween Morocco and the Polisario;UN Cease-fire and Attempts toResolve the Conflict through aReferendumIn 1991, the United Nations brokered aceasefire in the war over the Western Saharathat had begun in 1975 between Morocco andthe Polisario Front after Spain withdrew fromthe region. A UN peacekeeping mission for theregion, MINURSO, supported by the ong>USong>, wascharged with organizing a referendum on thefuture of the territory. In the beginning,Morocco and the Polisario Front agreed tosupport this UN-led and ong>USong>-backed process.What was unforeseen was that Morocco andthe Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, wouldadopt radically different views as to whoshould vote in the referendum on the future ofthe territory.The Polisario Front sought to restrict the voterlist to only adult members of the variousSahrawi tribes who were residents in what wasthen known as Spanish Sahara, and who hadbeen included in a 1974 Spanish census priorto the end of the Spanish occupation of theregion in 1975; however, since the referendumwas to be on the future of the region, Moroccoargued for a more inclusive voter list,including all Sahrawis who had tribal originsin the former Spanish Sahara.1ong>USong> ong>Policyong> on the Western Sahara: Implementing the ong>Policyong> of Three PresidentsAmbassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.) & Robert M. Holley

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