Foreign Policy Panel: A State in Western Sahara would pose a Threat to Global Security & Regional Stability.

WASHINGTON -- Experts on Africa and governance warned Wednesday that an independent Western Sahara led by the Polisario Front would surely become another failed state, and pose a serious new threat to global security and regional stability. The panel urged US foreign policymakers to take clear steps to support Morocco's compromise plan for broad autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty as the only viable solution to end the long-running Western Sahara conflict and address the growing instability and terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel.


The Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) hosted the panel at the Council on Foreign Relations which included Dr. J. Peter Pham, Senior Fellow and Director, Africa Project, National Committee on American Foreign Policy, and ASMEA Vice President; Ambassador Herman J. Cohen, former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa; and Dr. Ricardo Rene Laremont, Professor of Political Science and Sociology, SUNY Binghamton.

Dr. Pham presented his new paper, "Not another Failed State: Toward a Realistic Solution in Western Sahara," and asserted that "resolving the Western Sahara conflict does matter, now more than ever." He pointed out that "an independent Western Sahara wouldn't be viable; in fact, it would be a threat to the international community, to the region, and to the people who lived there." Such a scenario raises "the terrible specter of another failed state, one that neither Africa nor the world needs."

Pham highlighted numerous factors contributing to a failed state in a Polisario-controlled Western Sahara. He concluded that the Polisario, in its current manifestation, lacks all of the basic structures of a state, including a permanent population, a defined territory, international recognition, and a viable system of governance.

Dr. Pham called Morocco's autonomy plan "the best way forward for all interested parties" and "for the stability and security in the region." He urged the US to work on the ground to establish conditions for autonomy and sustainable development.  He also highlighted two recent letters signed by 233 US House members and 54 US senators which expressed concern about regional stability in North Africa and the Sahel and called on the US Administration to support a solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

"The world has changed dramatically since the conflict began," Dr. Pham warned; "no longer can a frozen conflict in an ungoverned region be safely ignored." Dr. Pham stressed that this is especially the case in the Sahara where terrorists such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and criminal groups seek to undermine state authority and foment instability. Dr. Laremont added that Western Sahara is part of the Sahel, a region in ecological and political crisis extending all the way across Africa, often ignored, but vitally important as a highway for illegal trafficking in humans, narcotics, and illicit goods, and a haven for terrorist networks.

Amb. Cohen said Morocco's compromise autonomy "proposal is the best possible deal" for Sahrawis because it gives them control over local government and institutions and guarantees their economic means to survive.  He called the plan "an extremely good offer for all parties involved" and said the reason "it isn't happening is Algeria."

Dr. Pham concluded his remarks citing humanitarian concerns of the decades-long Western Sahara conflict: "None of the guarantees of international law are being provided to the Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf."  He added that poverty in the refugee camps in Algeria was also becoming an urgent security concern, creating conditions in which extremism can flourish, and a recruiting pool that can be easily exploited by terrorist groups in the area.

Dr. Pham's paper appears in the inaugural issue of ASMEA's new Journal of the Middle East and Africa.  

To obtain a copy, please contact Suzanne Kurtz with ASMEA at or 202.680.9255.  

For a recent column by Dr. Pham on the issue, go to:

Comments (5)  

0 #1 The ball is in Algeria's courtMorcelli 2010-04-26 01:56
Much have been said and told regarding another added mini state in North Africa and everything that have been said, some make sens, some doesn't, and some almost there.

The real problem is that no one, I mean no one was able to pressure Algeria to end its old date expansionist idea. The reason is very simple. Money.
Everyone is making money out of our conflict. The US, France, Spain, Russia, China, and some African states to name a few.
Who's paying the price? the Algerian and Moroccan citizen. Why are these 2 entities doing nothing about this? the reason is that lack of democracy. We in the Maghreb are rules by self served individuals who thing about nothing but to continue the status quo.
Morocco was able to put Algeria on the spot when it asked time and again Algeria to start a new page. Algeria's said no. First the "independence" of the sahara. They are now adding more ruses to the equation such as, Morocco has to compensate Algerians who left Oujda and renegotiated the eastern borders, they also want morocco stop "using" Algeria as a transit for movement of cannabis and the list grows on a daily basis to quit those in Algeria who want the rapprochement of the 2 countries.

I really do not feel that i could blame Morocco in this, if there is an Algerian out there reading this, who could tell us why we should blame Morocco other than the usual BS that Algeria gives the international community " Algeria stands by its principle to end colonization everywhere"
I did not see Algeria standing with Morocco during the conflict with Spain about the Leila Island, and never stood with Morocco when the latter asked for the return of Sebta and mellilia.
I guess Algeria's definition of colonization is only found in Algerian dictionaries.
Sidi Samir
0 #2 The wiseSidi Samir 2010-04-26 09:01
The current Algerian junta (government/FLN ) fully knows well that THE KINGDOM OF MOROCCO is one nation bound by supernatural cohesion from millenia ago. Furthermore, it fully knows that the nation has a proven track-record of courage, strength, resilience, longevity, civility, and most of all a resolute character to face any kind of threat latent or patent. History can testify to this, and the Algerians do know this. Playing foolish games such as the so called Western Sahara is merely jocular and witless on the part of the Algerian FLN and their proxy army of cowards, the Polisario. Morocco is marching in the path of full democracy while the Algerian government chooses to step back in the quarters of oppression and dictatorship. We, as Moroccans in and out of the country, have extended our hands of brotherhood to the Algerian government and yet the latter chooses to isolate herself. We cannot keep expending our genuine spirit of civility. Truth will eventually come out and the dust will eventually settle in spite of their insidious attempts to destabilize the region. Moroccans let by their brilliant KING must do nothing short of rallying behind our King. The more he works hard for the advancement of our nation, the easier it will get for the world nations to come to his side. Algerian and Moroccan citizens have more in common to unite them than to divide them in spite of all odds. We are bound by one faith, one language, and one destiny.
Moroccans! Let us keep driving forward. Let us not relent. We will prevail sooner or later.
0 #3 Look who's talkingMorcelli 2010-04-30 23:36
In regard the latest UN resolution, Here is part of the statement from the Algerians?
L'Algérie saisit cette occasion pour rappeler les obligations des Nations-unies et de ses institutions, notamment le Haut commissariat aux Droits de l'Homme, pour le respect, la garantie et la protection des droits de l'homme au Sahara occidental".

A country who killed 150,000 of their own people is talking about les droits de l'homme au Maroc.

This should make Algerians sick to hear their leaders talking about human rights.
Nabil Kaali
0 #4 Practical solutionNabil Kaali 2010-05-02 00:25
Morocco needs to realize its mistakes made toward the Sahrawi people which manifest in the absence during the Spanish colonization and not helping the rest of its territories gain effective independence from Spain while the north was free in 1956.
A real development plan and building needs to take place in this part of Morocco, in order for the Sahrawis to feel as valued citizens in Morocco.
An honest and realistic compensation needs be given to Polizario leaders in order to bring them under the Moroccan leadership, and make them feel as if they didn't waste all this time and effort for nothing. Hopefully, important positions could be given to heads of tribes to keep them loyal to Morocco.
Algeria needs to stop its backing of the front and realize the mistakes it made. Time for reconciliation between the brothers.
0 #5 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Foreign Policy Panel: A State in Western Sahara would pose a Threat to Global Security & Regional Stability.JERMOUN 2010-05-04 01:46
IN THIS CASE PALESTINE SHOULD NOT BE A STATE EITHER, BCAUSE IT WILL pose a Threat to Global Security & Regional Stability.

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