It is inconceivable that the Polisario would agree to any arrangement that didn’t give the Western Saharans control of their natural resource assets, most notably the phosphates and fish. These alone would give the small population of the area a good per capita income, probably well above Morocco’s. And if oil is discovered does anyone really think that Morocco would allow the Western Sahara to control the petrodollars? Inconceivable.
The Moroccan military is heavily entrenched in the local economy of Western Sahara. From migrant smuggling to the billion dollar fishing industry, its little fingers are in every part of the Saharan pie. While the Moroccan foreign ministry is going around talking about autonomy, the Interior Ministry and the security agencies are tightening their grip on the Territory. Recent reports of the Secretary General note that Morocco is improving its defenses. Morocco has signed a fisheries agreement with the European Union, which includes Western Saharan waters; Rabat has also renewed its oil exploration contracts with Kerr-McGee for areas off the coast of Western Sahara.
Does this seem like the actions of a government that is contemplating autonomy? Under baker’s 2001 proposal — the one Morocco liked — fisheries and hydrocarbon exploitation would be under the control of the autonomous Western Saharan government. Yet Rabat has not given one indication that it is willing to share, let alone give up, control of these key economic assets in Western Sahara.
The fact that autonomy seems so unlikely in today’s Morocco says a lot about where autonomy is going .
Morocco has stolen a play from Israel’s book: Talk peace, make war. And hope the international community is too preoccupied to notice the difference between the rhetoric and the reality.
Anyone who thinks that Morocco would ever allow the Sahrawi to control any of the territory’s mineral or fishing wealth is wrong. It just won’t happen. As you point out, the Moroccan military, elite, and monarchy have been happily stealing Western Sahara’s abundant resources for over thirty-four years and are not about to relinquish their cash cow.
Anyone who thinks that an autonomous Western Sahara would realize any economic benefits from oil off its territory has probably been smoking too much of the hashish that the Moroccan government and military habitually smuggle into Europe.
In conclusion, it’s just impossible to find any reasons to think that there is anything sincere or serious about Morocco’s autonomy plan. They are floating it not because they want to, but either because they feel they have to or because they feel they just might get away with it.
One need only remember that the Western Sahara would today be independent if Morocco had only lived up to its agreements starting with the Ceasefire Agreement to hold a referendum. Morocco has broken absolutely every agreement it has ever made with the Polisario. Whether Morocco agrees to federation, confederation, or whatever kind of autonomy, it takes an incredible leap of faith to believe that Morocco would stand by its agreement.
Morocco just isn’t Spain. It is an autocratic, impoverished, thoroughly corrupt kingdom, with education numbers on the level of the least developed countries, and whose main exports are terrorism and hashish. Given Morocco’s lack of success in governing its own people, it is incredible that anyone would even consider entrusting even more people (the Western Saharans) to them. Maybe we should be talking here about returning Morocco to the French.
Any autonomy agreement of whatever variety would not be worth the paper it was written on.