01/27/2016 04:29 pm ET | Updated Jan 28, 2016
Americans have rare excuse to applaud an Arab state given the turmoil in the Middle East. What with ISIS, Iran’s dangerous support for terror, the endless violence, and Jihadi threats gripping the region, it is a challenge identifying a strong dependable, and extraordinarily supportive Arab ally in the chaos.
Fortunately, out of the 22 members of the Arab League, there are several good, reliable American friends, notably Morocco. Morocco has earned a particular expression of gratitude lately because of what its government has accomplished just this year alone in our joint battle against radical Islam.
I served as ambassador to Morocco under President Bill Clinton nearly 20 years ago during a more tranquil period in the Middle East. I had the privilege then to work with its government in its acclaimed peacemaking initiatives to help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, in support of American efforts to end the violence in Rwanda, and providing the U.S. with a continuous flow of reliable intelligence on events affecting U.S. foreign policy.
Morocco has been at the forefront of effective, evolutionary political transformation that has avoided all of the tumult of the failed “Arab Spring.” And following 9/11, the cooperation and “below-the-radar” joint-counter-terrorism initiatives against Al Qaeda and its franchise cells in the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa dramatically accelerated. Morocco’s support is proving indispensable in protecting the U.S. homeland (I know, one of the cells Morocco uncovered in North Africa was targeting U.S. diplomatic and military installations. Pull aside any American counter-terrorism official and inquire. I assure you Morocco earns a unanimous “High Five.”)
Morocco has eliminated Al Qaeda and ISIS cells in North Africa and has trained and transformed Mauritanian, Chadian, Tunisian and Malian intelligence operations into more effective anti-ISIS success stories. I personally participated in joint anti-ISIS counter-terrorism initiatives in recent months led by Moroccan anti-ISIS social media experts. If Americans only knew how much Morocco has contributed to our nation’s well-being in the joint struggle against radical Jihadi extremists they would take heart that there are such shining Muslim stars hovering above those stormy sands.
In recent weeks, Morocco has provided vital counter-terrorism intelligence to U.S. and French authorities on ISIS converts and terrorists plotting attacks from bases in Belgium, Spain, France, Tunisia and Libya. Morocco’s Special Forces are deployed with American and French counter-terrorism special forces in Europe working with local security forces to uncover ISIS cells. Morocco has even been supporting the UN, Kenya and Somalia in the fight against Al Shahab.
Yes, Donald Trump, you know not what you speak!! Muslim Morocco is a worthy, historic, dependable ally.
It is a record of serious support and quiet accomplishment from a country that remains one of the few peaceful, violence-free nations in the entire Middle East — a haven for tourism, and as General Patton once extolled to the then Emir of Morocco in 1943: “It’s like the Bible and Hollywood rolled into one!”
Moreover, Morocco is making a vital contribution to peace and stability by promoting economic development in the North and Sub-Saharan Africa. For the second consecutive year, congress included in the recent Budget Act bipartisan language mandating that U.S. aid to Morocco be spent, in part, in Morocco’s western Sahara region.
The accompanying congressional report goes further, urging the Obama Administration to actively encourage investment there by the US private sector. The law constitutes an important, well-earned acknowledgement by the U.S. government that Morocco is peacefully integrating the western Sahara into its economy and providing new, important political and entrepreneurial liberties to its indigenous population.
It’s a smart move — because in these turbulent times, when many unemployed youth in the MENA region are restless and seeking answers in the wrong places, it is essential to support economic growth and opportunity for those targeted by terrorist recruiters.
Under Morocco’s responsible stewardship, the western Sahara region is achieving remarkable economic growth with a dynamic and pluralistic political culture, a thriving civil society, and an entrepreneurial spirit. US engagement and investment — girded by a U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement, will help the people of western Sahara make the most of their economic and political freedom.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI has committed some $7 billion more over the next 10 years to facilitate economic growth for its southern lands, recently unveiling a range of development programs for transportation, agribusiness, energy, manufacturing, health, education, and tourism.
Morocco has made real progress to provide these new opportunities in spite of a radical, foreign-sponsored Polisario Front political organization intent on waging a shop-worn Soviet-style socialist struggle to create a jihadi-oriented failed state smack in the middle of Al Qaeda’s scope of operations in Sub Saharan Africa.
Rather than place the needs of the region’s people above parochial political ambitions, the Polisario Front’s continuing interference in the western Sahara region’s quest for political and economic stability and growth must be contested.
Now Congress and the Obama Administration are on record to oppose efforts to deny indigenous Moroccan inhabitants the opportunity to transform the region into an economically self-sufficient Western-oriented success story that does not pose a strategic sanctuary for terror or Jihadi machinations. The Polisario’s leadership insists that indigenous Sahrawis live in tents and mud huts, captives in camps where they have no work, no opportunity, and no hope. Corruption and trafficking in contraband are rife under such hopeless conditions, leading UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to voice serious concern that the camps could be a breeding ground for terrorism
Under Morocco’s regionalization plan, which was put into action this year with a series of local and regional elections in the western Sahara, significant political control has been devolved to local leaders. US technical assistance can help them develop best practices to nurture stable self-government.
Morocco has earned a strong, vocal vote of confidence from the American people at a time when we need all of the Arab support we can muster in the struggle against ISIS in North and Sub-Saharan Africa.