In the highly politicized atmosphere in Washington during this US presidential election year, US foreign policy receives little attention except when crises occur. In times past, US presidents could count on “flying the flag,” appealing to American patriotism as a means of building support for policies. Today, every word or action is placed under a magnifying glass to determine or infer hidden meanings that reveal the weakness of the proposed policies. Thus, very little moves in Washington regarding policy that is not related to problems and challenges that cannot be delayed.
This challenging milieu makes the efforts of the Washington Team to move the Obama Administration to approve US funding for projects in the Western Sahara even more daunting. Yet the results to date are largely positive. Despite the negative media coverage of the Amina Filali case and Aminatou Haidar’s regular visits to New York and Washington to speak against Morocco’s human rights record, Morocco continues to find a positive reception in Congress. The Washington Team’s drive to have more than 300 meetings with Congressional offices before the summer recess is making great progress. The key message, that US foreign assistance to the camps should be given on condition that it directly improves the lives of the refugees, is being well received. The Team is also working with members and staff to define what these “conditions” should be and concrete projects that the US should fund in the South.
There is a dilemma in the Washington Team’s activities in that Morocco is not in crisis, therefore, some policy makers would prefer to leave the Kingdom’s issues off the agenda while the Administration deals with Syria, Iran, Iraq, and crises beyond the MENA region. Ending the Western Sahara conflict, while a helpful outcome to US interests in the region, is not given a high priority by some in the government. It was therefore helpful that the remarks following the meeting between the Foreign Minister and Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the centrality of the Western Sahara conflict and the commitment to the bilateral strategic dialogue. This visit, and Secretary Clinton’s visit to Morocco, and the generally high praise that Morocco is receiving for its role on the UN Security Council, continue to make the case that Morocco is a leader in the region, and among America’s friends worldwide.
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