60. Letter From Robert Murphy to Secretary of State Rogers1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Agreeable to your instructions I visited Rabat, Morocco, on January 28 and 29, 1973, and enjoyed the hospitality of Ambassador and Mrs. Stuart Rockwell at the Embassy Residence. The Ambassador and his staff provided accommodation and access to the relevant Embassy files, together with their advice and comments regarding the political, economic, military and other aspects of the local situation. The events of 1971 and 1972 incident to the attempts on the life of King Hassan were fully explained. Information regarding the purpose of my mission was restricted to the Ambassador.

Ambassador Rockwell, on January 29, easily arranged an appointment for an informal private meeting with the King and myself as the only ones present. It was agreed that that type of tete-a-tete meeting would best lend itself to freer communication by the King. Moroccan protocol representatives called for me at the Embassy Chancery and conducted me to the Palace in Rabat where the King immediately received me at the entrance to the courtyard and conducted me to a reception room where no one else was present. He was effusively friendly and seemed eager for the meeting.

After an exchange of amenities and delivery to him of President Nixon’s letter, accompanied by a French translation, there was a pleasant exchange of souvenirs of the days of World War II, the Anfa Conference and about his Father Mohammed V for whom I happened to have a high regard at the time. We dwelt quite a bit on a small dinner President Roosevelt at Anfa gave for the then Sultan very much to the annoyance of the French Resident General Nogues, and at which the President made it quite clear that he considered the day of the French Empire as ending and the independence of Morocco inevitable. Mr. Churchill who also attended the dinner did not seem to relish that aspect.

We talked, too, about the King’s health because at this time of year he suffers from sinus infection or irritation with what seemed to me a cigarette cough as he is a chain smoker. I assumed the role of father [Page 161] confessor, telling him I stopped smoking in Algiers during World War II, with benefit to my health, and all one needed to do was to take a decision. He said he would think it over.

Then the King launched into a ten minute monologue on American-Moroccan relations interlarded with many expressions of admiration for President Nixon, admiration for the latter’s success in the Vietnamese question and the importance the King attached to a close Moroccan-American relationship. He asserted that at the present juncture a definition of the relationship is of urgent mutual importance, and that there is a choice of three types of relationship: (1) a system of exchange of information and points of view; (2) a situation where Morocco and the United States are close friends and allies; or (3) some form of agreed association.

He expressed the hope that after his Foreign Minister’s return from his current visit to Moscow, the Minister could visit Secretary Rogers for a discussion of the problem. I said that I felt sure Secretary Rogers would be most cooperative but that I was ignorant of his immediate schedule during the coming weeks. I would inform him of the King’s thought and suggestion.

This led to an opportunity to inquire whether on the King’s part, incident to the two attempts on his life, he entertained any suspicion or doubt concerning American involvement in whatever form that might be. The King vehemently and categorically denied he had ever entertained any suspicion that Americans were involved or responsible; in fact, he is confident there was none.

At this point the King said he had decided, however, to cancel the sending of “stagiaires” (Moroccan military personnel for training and study) to the U.S. This in no sense, the King emphasized, represents any doubt regarding the American attitude; it simply means that in sending young Moroccan military personnel the majority of whom come from modest, even primitive peasant background, with very little if any knowledge of the world, they are exposed to a free society with a much higher standard of living, even opulence, which they enjoy—from the drugstore type of availability, to the home life of America with automobiles, television and the lot. After that, with stars in their eyes, they return to the often primitive condition of their parents in the Moroccan countryside. Their reactions range all the way from numb dissatisfaction to outrage and a readiness to rebel. The King said he had no doubt this feature played a role but that it is not to be construed as any witting official American attitude, and he has no suspicion whatsoever of subversion on our part.

The King said also that his feeling about the French is different. We had been talking about the former French Resident General Nogues, [Page 162] and the frustration the French suffered in the postwar period, their loss of status, and the development of a rejected mistress complex. The King said there is a growing tendency on their part to influence and even dominate certain aspects, as in the educational field. Of course their investment in Morocco is about three billion dollars equivalent, and the French colony has grown again to its present ninety thousand. (The American investment, is a modest $50 million.) While the King did not in any way specifically blame French influence for the incidents, there was a rather subtle connection in the way the King brought it up. There was no hint or suggestion of Russian involvement even though the U.S.S.R. now has about 140 officials and technicians in Rabat, Casablanca and scattered around among projects under construction, etc. Russian interest in this gateway to the Western Mediterranean is obvious, and they are no doubt fully cognizant of Moroccan venality.

After having received the King’s assurance that he in no way suspected Americans, there was opportunity at three different times to inquire, which I did, whether the King had any specific suggestion for adjustments of the present situation at the U.S. Naval Communications Center at Kenitra (Sidi Yahia and Bouknadel). Each time the King avoided a direct reply and passed on to points he had in mind. For example, the King deplored that our military personnel lived apart from the Moroccan community at Kenitra, with their own Church, post office, PX and Commissary, etc.,—a sort of sovereignty within a sovereignty as he expressed it. Morocco is well off in foodstuffs, fruits and vegetables, yet our people preferred canned American products. He thinks that unfortunate. I mentioned we had had similar reactions in other countries. But the King did not ask that anything be done about it, or that there should be a reduction in official staff or dependents. He said that Moroccan opposition from time to time criticized his tolerance in this regard. This did not seem to disturb him.

The King made a reference to a retired American Marine Colonel (John Canton) residing in Morocco as the type of American who understood Moroccan ways and problems, and who inspired confidence. We should have more Americans like that living here. In that same connection the King made a complimentary reference to Ambassador Henry Tasca who, he said, always gave him a direct answer.

The King, at this point, referred to an American intelligence report relayed to him via an intelligence officer (Dlimi) in his household [less than 1 line not declassified] The King said that it consisted of several papers containing numerous inaccuracies and distortions regarding his own household and the internal Moroccan political situation. The King said that he was dismayed that the American Government would disseminate such false and misleading statements even though they were [Page 163] made by others than Americans. I said that I was not aware of the report but would make an immediate inquiry.

[1 paragraph (28 lines) not declassified]

[1 paragraph (5 lines) not declassified]

Perhaps it is hasty to form a conclusion based on one conversation, but I certainly left with the distinct impression that barring some unhappy incident, we could continue quietly along at Kenitra.

About this time the King dwelt a little on the Maghreb and the good fortune of having Qadhafi of Libya out of it. The King, with a contemptuous gesture, said Qadhafi is “un fou” who doesn’t know what to do with the large amounts of money which have poured into his country; that he doubts Qadhafi’s ability to hold power. The King made no reference to the recent visit of his Foreign Minister to Moscow, and I did not refer to it. I am sure this will be explained when and if Benhima meets with Secretary Rogers.

As the conversation had continued for almost an hour and a half, I took the initiative to thank the King for the warmth of his reception, and renewed expression of our sympathetic interest in his many problems. At departure he repeated expressions of his high regard for President Nixon and Secretary Rogers.

Conclusion: While the King demonstrated confidence and assurance, with no complaint whatever for the bad luck of the attempts on his life, the problems of corruption in his entourage, or his failure to attain a broad-based government, it is clear to me, I believe, that there is a strong yearning on his part for restoration of his prestige, and a desire to be treated by us on a level with countries like Iran or Spain, for example. Perhaps he has more than an average amount of personal pride, and we should act accordingly. While I touched lightly on American policy resulting from our budgetary imbalance and huge international obligations, the deficit in our balance of trade and payments, we have a problem to stimulate adjustment of Moroccan thinking to the present situation. We should exploit every opportunity, where possible, without expenditure of funds, to reassure Hassan personally of our high regard for Morocco, and associate ourselves with appropriate problems.

The question of the Spanish Sahara did not arise.

After this conversation, Ambassador Rockwell and I dined with the King’s brother, Prince Moulay Abdullah, and a half dozen officials in a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere of no especial political significance except that the host could not have acted in a more pro-American fashion. Ambassador Rockwell tells me that Moulay Abdullah, who was painfully wounded by a bullet which hit his elbow in the Skhirat assassination attempt, demonstrated at the time great [Page 164] bravery and poise. Again, Moulay Abdullah also obviously entertains no suspicion of American involvement.

Respectfully yours,

Robert Murphy
  1. Summary: Murphy reported on his January 29 meeting with King Hassan, during which they discussed the U.S. military presence in Morocco. Murphy gave an analysis of the discussion and suggested a higher profile for U.S.-Moroccan relations.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 758, Presidential Correspondence, Morocco. Secret. The report was forwarded to Nixon, February 7, under a covering memorandum from Rogers.