Sahara: Senator Inhofe’s approach criticized by prominent US expert

American political scientist, Robert Satloff, a reference in Arab-Muslim world policy and US policy in the Middle East, expressed his strong disagreement with the approach by Republican senator and fervent defender of the Polisario Jim Inhofe, who urged President Joe Biden to reconsider the recognition of the Moroccanness of the Sahara.

“I think this is the wrong approach to the Sahara issue,” the former director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said on Twitter.

He urged the Biden administration to back the UN mediation and peace-keeping operation in the Sahara, affirming that “there is no contradiction between recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara and backing the mission of a new UN mediator and the continued deployment of UN forces in the area.”

Robert Satloff had co-authored with Sarah Feuer, an expert on policy in North Africa, an in-depth report that had called on the Biden administration to support American recognition of Morocco’s full sovereign over its entire Sahara territory.

The report published earlier this month by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy under the title: “Seizing Opportunities and Strengthening Alliances in North West Africa: Ideas for Policy Toward Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia” affirmed that such recognition serves US geostrategic interests in the region.

The US think-thank had said that building on the stand adopted by the Trump administration on the Sahara will enhance the region’s stability, prevent the spread of terrorism, counter the influence of Russia & China, and ensure security across the Mediterranean Sea.

At the regional level, the think tank had stressed that King Mohammed VI has devoted enormous energy over the past twenty years to bolstering Morocco’s diplomatic, financial and security presence throughout West and Sub-Saharan Africa. Morocco has also invested heavily in key sectors across the continent such as telecommunications, banking and phosphates, it recalled.

The authors of the in-depth report deemed that the Biden administration should “encourage and take advantage of the Moroccan presence in Africa”, underlining that the Kingdom’s ability to serve as a regional stabilizer will become more important to US interests in the coming years.

Also earlier this month, US NGO “Teach the Children International” (TCI) questioned senator James Inhofe on his support for the polisario, while the front’s leadership has been making “daily decisions that have kept the people sequestered in austere conditions for over 45 years in the Tindouf camps.”

In a letter to the Republican senator, head of the NGO Nancy Huff highlighted the reasons why she strongly supports the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara and urged the Senator of the State of Oklahoma to do the same.

Nancy Huff underlined that the polisario leaders have no track record of serving the people who live in the Tindouf camps, and there is no reason to believe, given a chance, they would serve the Sahrawi population.

In her letter, Nancy Huff recalled how the assistance she had been sending to the Polisario-controlled Tindouf camps for seven years never reached the sequestered population and how the polisario uses this population to serve its own purposes, as proved in the recent events in the Guerguarat crossing point.

“The Polisario broke a cease-fire agreement and used the Sahrawi youth from the camps to occupy this UN buffer zone, established to ensure peace in the region. The use of youth as aggressors is a prime example of the Polisario’s misuse of the very people they are supposed to be protecting,” she underscored.

The activist also highlighted the noteworthy development achieved in the Sahara provinces, recalling that Morocco has invested billions of dollars and developed modern cities. The Sahrawis who live in the Sahara “live freely, in stark contrast to those who live in the camps.”

“As a nation, we should never forget our friends. (..) Our government, which has just recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over its Sahara, has continuously supported Morocco’s autonomy plan throughout the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump,” she wrote in her letter.

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