108. Telegram 4828 From the Embassy in Morocco to the Department of State1 2


  • Kenitra Facilities
I have just returned from meeting with Prime Minister who summoned me to discuss US facilities at Kenitra. He asked me point blank whether USG considered US facilities at Kenitra to be base or not. He added that judging from press reports of Senate subcommittee hearing on Kenitra, Senators clearly considered US facilities at Kenitra to be base. Reported attitude of executive branch, PriMin maintained, was not clear, and in his view executive branch testimony could have been much firmer.
He noted that in aftermath publication of hearings there had been no official statement from Department of State nor from Embassy Rabat, and Moroccan Government, through statement in MAP (Rabat 4826), had been only official voice to deny there US base in Morocco.
PriMin went on to say that from every Moroccan Embassy in Arab world there had been reports of local press allegations of US base in Morocco and derogatory allusion to connections between Kenitra. Facilities and operations of Sixth Fleet detrimental to Arab cause. All these based on press reports of Senate subcommittee report.
In these circumstances, PriMin said, doubts had arisen in minds of many Moroccans as to nature of US presence at Kenitra. It was important to him to learn exactly how USG regarded these facilities if we regarded them as base, there were established types of agreements which governed existence of bases. If we did not regard facilities as base, we should consider possible ways of attenuating negative effect of recent publicity. He desired an explicit official (private) statement from Department.
I said I would ask for one, but could tell him that we did not consider Kenitra to be a US base. US was using facilities at a Moroccan installation through courtesy of GOM. This had been made clear by executive branch testimony during congressional hearings. State Department had recently been prepared to declare this publicly, but as far as I knew had not had opportunity since no journalist had posed question. I described difference of view between the Senate and the executive branch over nature of arrangements abroad to be submitted to Senate: I expressed opinion that even if President himself had publicly denied existence of US base at Kenitra, views of Senators taking opposite position would still have been given wide publicity and have been picked up by unfriendly regimes in Middle East. I asked whether PriMin felt explicit public declaration now by USG would be helpful, adding that it was my impression that with regard to statement by Embassy Rabat, Mr. Zenined of Ministry of Information had agreed with us that it would be preferable for Embassy say nothing since stories re Kenitra were emanating from Washington. Laraki replied that he thought it was too late to rectify situation through public statement at this time.
PriMin refused to be drawn out with regard to what attenuating steps might be taken should Department’s response be that Kenitra facilities are not US base. He continued to stress the awkward position which GOM had been put into by recent publicity, which he seemed to consider much more harmful than press stories in July owing to fact that it based on public official report of Senate subcommittee. He specifically alluded to one Senator’s reported statement that US might send in soldiers if safety of Americans at Kenitra were endangered.
At no time did PriMin bring King’s name into conversation.
Comment: I found this interview disconcerting owing to Primin’s refusal to be frank with regard to what was on his mind. I am confident he knows the circumstances surrounding our presence at Kenitra. It is unfortunate that opportunity apparently did not arise for department to issue official denial re existence of American base in Morocco as GOM evidently feeling very exposed at present.
I suggest following actions:
Department to send me statement for communication to PriMin along lines that proposed for public use in State 179653.
At same time Department authorize me to convey to Laraki excerpts from confidential opening remarks by Assistant Secretary Newsom to Senate subcommittee last July. I would suggest conveying statements beginning second paragraph page 2, all of page 3, all of page 4 except the sentence about intelligence functions, and page 5 down to last sentence first paragraph. In addition I would include first paragraph page 6 and second paragraph page 6 down to last sentence.
Although PriMin said public statement by Department now too late to be useful, I believe that one might be helpful and suggest that Department urgently create opportunity to make statement along lines paragraph 3 State 179653.
I do not know what may come of this; GOM may calm down if USG makes official statement; on other hand GOM may wish to compenstate for aggravation of political liability of US presence at Kenitra by seeking obtain compensation in some form from US. Such compensation might consist of additional economic or military assistance, more likely latter.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 15 MOR-US. Secret; Priority; Limdis. The hearings of the Senate Subcommittee on U.S. Overseas Commitments, chaired by William “Stuart” Symington, met in July and November, 1970. In telegram 182605 to Rabat, November 5, the Department replied that the base at Kenitra was under full Moroccan sovereignty and control, and agreed that Rabat might have raised the issue to obtain increased compensation. (Ibid.)
  2. The Prime Minister asked Ambassador to Morocco Stuart Rockwell if Washington considered the U.S. facilities in Morocco to be a base, which required agreements to govern its usage.