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Morocco's concessions to the United States for the recognition of its sovereignty over the Sahara

The Trump administration has seen its foreign policy align with that of Morocco. Concessions which have pushed Washington DC to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara.

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On December 10, 2020, US President Donald Trump signed a decree recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. The move is considered a 2020 victory for the Moroccan diplomacy. The recognition was followed by the resumption of diplomatic ties between Rabat and Tel Aviv following a 20-year breakup.  

The step shows that Morocco’s international policy has converged with that of Washington DC since Trump took office. Since his inauguration in January 2017, Morocco has been taking initiatives and decisions that go hand in hand with the Trump administration foreign policy.

During his term, the US president fulfilled one of his campaign promises, namely withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear agreement signed in July 14, 2015 in Vienna, Austria. Senior American officials prepared the international scene for such an exit, repeating over and over again that the Shiite Mullah regime is an enemy that deserves punishment. 

In this context, Rabat announced on May 1, 2018, it was cutting diplomatic ties with Iran on the grounds of military support brought by Lebanese Hezbollah to the Polisario. On October 14, 2016, Morocco had however appointed a new ambassador to Tehran.

Adapting to US foreign policy objectives

This decision was followed a few months later by the announcement of a project for an international coalition intended to counter «Iranian expansionism». On February 14, 2019, the United States launched the «Warsaw Process» in the Polish capital. Morocco attended the meeting by sending its Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs, Mohcine Jazouli, who was seated not far from Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. 

The Moroccan commitment to the new American initiative was reflected in the hosting, in March 2020 in Marrakech, of a workshop devoted to the fight against terrorism and the illicit financing of radical groups. Israel sent to this session the head of the regional security and counterterrorism directorate at its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After Iran, the US president went after Venezuela. Relations between Washington DC and Caracas were already appalling in the days of Barack Obama who refused to recognize Nicolas Maduro's victory in the 2013 presidential elections.

On January 23, 2019, Trump recognized his opponent Juan Guaido, then president of the National Assembly, as «interim head of state» of Venezuela. Six days later, Morocco's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, held a phone call with Guaido, followed by the recognition of his presidency. 

The rapprochement was materialized with the reception since July 2019 of José Ignacio Guédez in his capacity as ambassador of the Venezuelan opposition in Rabat. In September 2019, Bourita and Guaido met in New York and Morocco attended the Lima Group meeting supporting the opposition movements against Nicolas Maduro.

Morocco and the anti-ISIS coalition in Africa

The political gestures in favor of the USA have also materialized economically. Morocco has increased weapon purchases from the United States, breaking its own record with more than USD 10 billion in acquisitions in 2019. The weapon lobbyists and the White House are known for their proximity.

While Morocco has been able to adapt its policy with the objectives of the United States during the Trump presidency, it will have the opportunity to continue on the same path with his successor Joe Biden, with, in particular, the project of opening a new front in Africa in the war against ISIS.

The first step towards the constitution of a new African coalition against the antennas of the terrorist organization in the continent was taken, on November 11 in Abuja, Nigeria, during a conference between the host country and the United States, marked by the presence of Ambassador Nathan Sales, the US special envoy to the global coalition against ISIS. The Kingdom, due to its experience in the first war against the terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria, was called to play a leading role. 

Just after the signing, in October, of the ten-year military agreement between Morocco and the United States, the former Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, also hailed an «agreement that will open the doors of trilateral cooperation between Morocco, the United States and African countries».

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