84. Telegram 1377 From the Embassy in Morocco to the Department of State1

1377. From the Ambassador. Subject: The Potential Strategic Importance of Morocco to the United States—IV. Ref: Rabat 1154, Rabat 1346.

1. The Dept will be relieved to learn that this is the last in the series of personal reflections on U.S. interests in Morocco and the region which I am transmitting immediately prior to my departure from post.

2. In previous messages submitted over a year ago (e.g. my telegram 4467 of January 31, 1975), I urged that the USG undertake a long-range assessment of Morocco’s strategic importance to the United States. Unfortunately the answer was a non-answer and wise counsellors in the Department of State suggested to me that I accept, as a given fact, that under then obtaining conditions, the USG was unable to plan in long-range terms.

3. As a single individual, on the eve of his departure from this post, I cannot hope to substitute for a major planning organization. I can only raise a few questions which the Department of State and Defense might occasionally consider.

4. To begin, my assumptions are: (A) That with the increasingly rapid growth of democratic rights in Spain, our bases there will become increasingly controversial, no matter what agreements we may have. (B) That with the strengthening of the Communist Party in Italy, with the continued inability of the Socialist and Social Democratic mini-parties to make a dent in the CP, and with the possibility, sooner or later, of a deal between at least some elements of the Christian Democrats and the Communists, the Communists may eventually achieve their objective of sharing governmental power, or at least exercising real influence thereon. The least that can be said is that such an arrangement is capable of placing our bases in Italy in jeopardy. (C) That the aftereffects of the 1974 Cyprus crisis will be long-lasting, and that it will be many years, if ever, before the USG can reestablish security relations with Greece and Turkey that are even approximately as close as what we had before. (D) That almost daily we see new evidence of growing Soviet naval strength in the Mediterranean . . . it does not, therefore, re[Page 223]quire exercise of much imagination to envisage a scenario in which the position of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean may become untenable—and all that without a war.

5. Under these circumstances I find it astonishing, to say the least, that our government has not by now given some reasonably methodical and consistent thought to the options which Morocco presents. To be sure, Morocco does so out of self-interest, this is usual. Offers made solely out of pretended friendship are deeply suspect. Agreements to be truly valid have to serve the purposes of all parties.

6. The King has said that if the U.S. helps Morocco more on the Sahara, any kind of open or other military cooperation agreement is possible and would be supported by all Moroccans. I do not suggest that such an agreement is necessarily in the U.S. national interest, or that it could pass Congressional muster. But until we calculate what we might wish from Morocco we cannot really know what kind of a response best serves our interests.

7. A variety of facilities or rights are and remain within our grasp. What might we want? Nuclear submarine pens? Other naval installations? Port facilities? Beaches for landing exercises, simulated or real? Bombing ranges? Rights to activate former SAC bases on short notice?

8. Once again let me underline that I am not repeat not proposing that we do any of these things. But until there is a cool, long-range assessment of the possible value of the above, we cannot really judge intelligently whether political considerations outweigh them. They probably would but I should like to see this question studied seriously and not shoved under the rug on the basis of little or nothing more than a political “quesstimate.”

9. The above I have said, more or less, before. But now there are new factors:

A. The Soviet-Cuban involvement in Angola has made the west coast of Africa vulnerable. How important, now, has a U.S. anchor in Morocco-Mauritania-Senegal become?

B. The world situation imperatively demands a solution of the Middle East problem. This will take years, but so does planning and implementation. Therefore the possibility of future U.S. military arrangements with Morocco ought to be viewed in part in a post-Middle East-problem light.

C. The Angola and Saharan problems have revealed fragility within the African bloc. Oil price differences have revealed weaknesses in OPEC. And a prolongation of the Sahara and other issues could weaken Arab solidarity toward the Arab-Israel conflict. In that case the moderate Government of Morocco could be a prime candidate for jumping off the bandwagon. More reason for keeping our relations with Morocco warm.

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10. In sum, in Morocco we have considerable potential political and military assets. Political and/or military-technical considerations may very well suggest that these not be pursued at this time. But in view of the fragility of our positions elsewhere in Africa and in the Mediterranean region, that picture could change. It follows that it makes sense for us, not only to analyze what Moroccan strategic assets are worth to us, but to keep the Moroccan connection warm and friendly. For even if we continue to refrain from exploiting our strategic opportunities here at this time, we should keep in mind that future circumstances may force us to recalculate our priorities.

11. For the present, keeping our Moroccan connection warm and friendly is preeminently a function of our stance on the Sahara issue. We have generally favored the Moroccan position, under the guise of neutrality—and that is good. As concerns our military supply program, we have not been as forthcoming as we might have been but in view of our own matériel shortages we have, on the whole, not done badly by Morocco. Where we have been most remiss, however, has been in the way we have handled not only certain aspects of our arms program, but also other elements of our relations. All too often we have delayed or postponed decisions on actions of great importance to Morocco for reasons which sometimes could not be understood and on other occasions could be understood all too well. The six month delay in presenting the letter of offer for the F–5E squadron falls in the former category, as does the incredible 13-month delay in deciding on a Title I PL–480 program for Morocco; the postponement of the recently scheduled NPW visit falls in the latter category.

12. Perhaps I can distill the essence of the frustration I have felt in the last two and a half years, and which I have tried to spell out in this series of four telegrams, into one last Parthian shot: Gentlemen, we need to know what we want and what we are doing, if we are to deal successfully with this friendly but complex country. And if we are unable to decide what we want, let us at least try to act in a way that gives the Moroccans the impression, however misleading, that we know what we are doing.

  1. Summary: Neumann offered his assessment of the strategic importance of Morocco to the United States.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Secret. Repeated to Algiers, Madrid, Nouakchott, Paris (also for Ambassador-designate Anderson), Tripoli, Tunis, Casablanca, Tangier, and the Mission to the UN.