173. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Tarnoff) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Moroccan/American Relations

To improve our relations with Morocco, and to give King Hassan some assistance in his efforts to maintain his position, the Department already has taken a number of initiatives in recent weeks along the lines mentioned in your memo to the Secretary.2 The signature of Morocco’s 1979 FMS agreement was accelerated. We have supplied [Page 422] additional spare parts and ammunition for F–5 aircraft. We agreed to provide the Sea Sparrow missile and other U.S. equipment for a Corvette being built in Spain for Morocco. We have authorized U.S. manufacturers to make sales presentations responsive to Morocco’s interest in acquiring aerial tankers. And Northrop-Page has been given permission to make a sales presentation on an intrusion/detection communications system which the Moroccans apparently want to buy. We will give sympathetic consideration to further Moroccan requests for defensive military equipment not primarily suited for use in the Sahara. We are asking the Pentagon if it can suggest items of military equipment which the Moroccans would find useful to defend their recognized borders. However, sympathy for Morocco in the Congress has eroded as Hassan has distanced himself from Sadat.

The Department continues to believe the Sahara conflict can be resolved only through negotiation. We have told the French, the Spanish and interested OAU members that we favor mediation efforts and are prepared to be of assistance. The French have denied that they are engaged in mediation and appear uninterested in working with us or anyone else to help resolve the conflict through diplomacy.3

The Spanish are engaged in a mediation effort. Their Prime Minister has spoken with the Algerians and Polisario representatives in Algiers. King Juan Carlos is scheduled to visit Rabat in early June, and the Spanish Foreign Minister will be visiting Nouakchott. The Spanish are interested in working with us but have not indicated how they think we could be helpful. Head of State Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Traore of Mali have consulted with the parties to the Sahara conflict, in what the Nigerian Foreign Ministry has described as a factfinding mission, rather than an attempt at mediation.

We believe it would be premature to decide to try to mediate the dispute ourselves, particularly while the Spanish are engaged in this process. We will continue to consult closely with them, as well as with the Nigerians and Malians.

Morocco is among those countries which will be candidates for allocation of reserve PL–480 funds as we draw nearer the end of the fiscal year. Unfortunately, there are numerous claimants, and the total sum available is expected to be less than $20 million.

[Page 423]

Relations between Morocco and Saudi Arabia have been on the upswing recently. Crown Prince Fahd has visited Hassan, and King Khalid is expected in Morocco later this month. Hassan undoubtedly is making his case for additional assistance directly to Saudi leaders, and we already have an unconfirmed report that the Saudis have resumed aid to Morocco.4 Given these circumstances, the advice some time ago from a responsible Saudi official that we avoid becoming involved in the Saudi-Moroccan relationship, and the current condition of our own relations with the Saudis, we think it best to let the Moroccans speak to the Saudis for themselves.

Corruption persists in Morocco, and the King recognizes that it is a liability for his regime. We currently are discussing with the Moroccan Government the negotiation of an agreement between the Department of Justice and their Ministry of Justice which would facilitate the exchange of information American authorities might have about bribery of Moroccan officials by American corporations. We are confident that the King is aware of the perils of economic stagnation. But the Moroccan Government has little choice but to reduce expenditures, given the heavy burden of foreign debt incurred before phosphate prices tumbled. Ambassador Parker shares these views on corruption and economic stagnation in Morocco.

A recent analysis by our military mission in Rabat has underlined Hassan’s responsibility for the poor performance of his armed forces in the Sahara. The mission identifies the Moroccan Army’s most serious problem as the King’s refusal to delegate authority for the conduct of the war. Since the coup attempts mounted by military conspirators in 1971–72, the King has been his own chief of staff, and it is unlikely he will allow his military officers the freedom of action they need to wage war efficiently.

Given Morocco’s inability to resolve the Sahara conflict militarily, and the fact Morocco will remain in the doldrums economically for at least another 18 months, Hassan’s position will be precarious for some time. Our ability to influence events is limited by Hassan’s unwillingness to take advice, his poor performance as an administrator, and [Page 424] the massive amounts of capital which would be required to freshen Morocco’s economy. He would not be interested in hearing our views on the origins of the Iranian revolt. We can help him best by encouraging a negotiated end of the Sahara conflict. Occasional demonstrations of Administration support will be helpful in reassuring the King, the military, and the political parties of our interest in his regime, particularly in its security, but we cannot expect them to be decisive in preserving the monarchy.

Peter Tarnoff5
Executive Secretary
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 55, Morocco: 1–8/79. Secret.
  2. See Document 172.
  3. In telegram 14359 from Paris, May 7, the Embassy reported on Parker’s meeting with French Presidential Adviser on Foreign Affairs Journiac: “Journiac said French position has been consistent. France has not been and is not willing to be a mediator. France is willing to play a facilitative role and has made suggestions to the parties. Not being itself a party to the conflict, France does not intend to go further.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790206–0935)
  4. In telegram 3607 from Rabat, May 24, the Embassy reported on Khalid’s May visit: “On the Sahara, the Saudis promised efforts to end Algerian-Moroccan tensions (ref A, C) and there have been reports—as yet unconfirmed—that they may have agreed to a renewal of untied financial assistance to Morocco which could be used in the war effort.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790240–0333) In telegram 137751 to Rabat, May 30, the Department informed the Embassy that a Moroccan source claimed that Saudi Arabia agreed to a $3 billion aid package: “1 billion dollars for military equipment, 1 billion dollars for economic infrastructure, and 1 billion dollars for specific development projects.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790244–0703)
  5. Wisner signed for Tarnoff.