174. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Duncan) to President Carter1


  • Meeting with King Hassan of Morocco, May 29, 1979

I attach hereto a complete recitation, in chronological sequence, of my two and one-half hour meeting with the King.2 The King seemed pleased that you had sent an emissary and the atmospherics throughout my one-day visit to Fes could not have been better. A summary of our discussion follows:

1. Peace Negotiations. The negotiating process has polarized the Arab world against Egypt and could bring results opposite to those we desire. Nevertheless, all Arab countries except Iraq and Syria want peace (and perhaps Libya, which is an enigma). The people of Iraq and Syria want peace but the leadership sees the peace process as threatening to their positions. The King said that President Assad of Syria is a “broad thinker” and understood the necessity for peace in the region, but is a “minority within a minority.”

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I mentioned the Strauss appointment to the King, that he had your confidence and that he is a skilled, fair, and capable negotiator.3 The King said he wants “to help you 100 percent,” because both you and he are “believers” in the peace process. He emphasized that he must “monitor” progress on the West Bank-Gaza negotiations about to commence in Alexandria, and that progress on this issue is essential.

2. The Palestinian Issue. The King said the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty should be “put aside” pending the commencement of treaty negotiations with other involved States. This brings the Palestinian issue into focus. The King repeatedly commented on the overriding importance of the Palestinian issue. He said, with great conviction, that no other Arab country would undertake their peace negotiations until there has been some accommodation with the Palestinians. He said that the Arab countries were more afraid of the PLO than they were of Israel.

The King said he met with the PLO in Fes two weeks ago. They are “ripe” for a negotiation. He said that if the U.S. would “not veto” the proposed Jordanian resolution addressing the rights of the Palestinian people to self determination, the PLO would immediately thereafter accept U.N. Resolution 242. He inferred, without explicitly so stating, that he and King Khalid had discussed this approach during Khalid’s visit to Fes last week. This would enable other involved countries to begin negotiations, looking to a comprehensive treaty, of which the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty would be a part.

King Hassan recommended “informal and very discreet” contacts between the U.S. and the PLO, observing that earlier contacts between General Walters and the PLO had remained secret and moreover had demonstrated that the PLO will honor commitments. While he recommended there be “no agenda,” agreements such as the above could be discussed. He admitted that such contacts were “not without risks,” and offered “his residence and his services” to assist if desired.

3. Jerusalem. King Hassan takes very seriously his chairmanship of the Jerusalem Committee.4 Jerusalem is the single issue around which all 900 million Moslems of the world will rally. He intends to be deeply involved in the resolution of the Jerusalem question, but was pessimistic as to early progress because of Prime Minister Begin’s attitudes. He said that if a man like Shimon Peres, a person of “much broader view [Page 426] and intellect” than Begin should succeed Begin, he would be much more optimistic.

4. The Egyptian-Saudi Arabian-U.S. Relations. Sadat made a “blunder” when he failed to consult with the Saudis prior to his trip to Jerusalem. King Khalid told King Hassan that other Arab nations would see him “either as a fool or as an accomplice” if he renewed support of Egypt “at this time.” King Khalid said the Saudis were in an impossible dilemma: They know they must continue their close relationship with the U.S. over the long term, yet their relations with the other Arab states and their concerns about the PLO require a current posture somewhat more distant. King Khalid told King Hassan during their meeting last week that the Saudis would continue oil exports, would be constrained on price increases, and that they recognized clearly their long term best interests required a close relationship with the U.S. King Hassan urged that we not pressure Saudi Arabia to re-commence aid to Egypt “at this time,” and that we permit things to “cool off” for several months. The King told me he continues “very confidential” contacts with Sadat which he sees as constructive and potentially helpful.

5. Africa

a. King Hassan said he would withdraw his troops from Shaba Province by July 1, that their morale was poor, and that this venture had “cost him $60 million.” Prior to the withdrawal he will send instructors to Zaire to train Mobutu’s soldiers. I told him I had heard of a “phased” withdrawal plan to occur over two or three months. He was quite emphatic that this would not be acceptable; that he must withdraw all of his troops now. (Since there was an obvious disconnect in what Mobutu had said publicly, and what I was hearing from King Hassan, I did not tell him we were prepared to participate in the airlift to return his troops and equipment to Morocco. I felt we might wish to negotiate a “phased” withdrawal, and should withhold any such offer until that time.)

b. Rhodesia. King Hassan believes that the Rhodesian “experiment” must work, and that the comments of Ambassador Young are not helpful.5 He urged that we make Andy “keep quiet.”

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6. Bilateral Relations. The King said we understood his views on all bilateral issues, his problems in the Western Sahara, and his specific arms needs. Rather than go over them again, he said he would only mention that economic development was essential for Morocco; that “freedom and poverty cannot co-exist”; that his projected population growth (from 19 million to 40 million by the year 2000) required significant economic development. He mentioned phosphate, oil and oil shale as having economic potential, and solicited our help on these or other development initiatives.

He said he had asked King Khalid for various forms of assistance, and seemed optimistic that he would receive it.6

He said that the Mediterranean was “very polluted politically” and that Morocco’s enemies did not want to see the “constitutional example” of Morocco succeed. If his development needs are not met, an extreme government of either the left or right would inevitably be the result.

7. Conclusions. In my judgment, the King was speaking to me out of deep conviction and a genuine desire to be helpful. He feels himself under great pressure from a combination of economic problems and a war in the Western Sahara that may not be winnable. The lack of Saudi aid, discontinued in 1978, has affected the Moroccan economy adversely, and he feels compelled to re-establish this economic assistance. This has driven him to an accommodation with Saudi views on the peace negotiations.

He thinks he has made a valuable suggestion on the Palestinian issue which could enable peace negotiations to commence with other involved states. He would welcome your asking him to assist you on this.

I would recommend an interagency review of our arms supply policy to Morocco in view of Polisario incursions into Moroccan sovereign territory, and a reassessment of our options to assist in a negotiated settlement of the Western Sahara issue.

The King spoke of you and your family in the warmest possible terms emphasizing throughout the meeting his desire to help you in any way possible. He said he would welcome a “privileged” channel of communication with you such as he had with U.S. Presidents “prior to Watergate.” He asked me to mention to you that his wish is that [Page 428] the next U.S. Ambassador to Morocco be a political employee rather than a career diplomat.7

CW Duncan Jr.
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 55, Morocco: 1–8/79. Secret; Sensitive. Copies were sent to Vance and Brown.
  2. The memorandum of conversation is attached but not printed.
  3. Robert S. Strauss was named the President’s Special Representative to the Middle East peace negotiations in April.
  4. Reference is to the Al-Quds committee, an offshoot of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, whose purpose was to support Moslem claims to Jerusalem, including the formation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
  5. Possibly a reference to remarks Young made warning against recognition of the newly-elected government in Rhodesia. In a televised interview, in which he also opposed lifting sanctions, Young suggested the economic sanctions could force Muzorewa to negotiate a settlement. He also called into question the legitimacy of the election: “Mr. Young said the election in Rhodesia was ‛stolen before it got there,’ meaning the Constitution drawn up by Prime Minister Ian D. Smith was fraudulent in that it served to perpetuate white minority power.” (“Young Warns Against Recognition of the New Rhodesian Government,” New York Times, April 26, 1979, p. A15)
  6. See footnote 4, Document 173.
  7. In a June 5 memorandum to Vance, Brzezinski wrote: “After reading Charles Duncan’s report on his meeting with King Hassan, the President has asked that we move now on the appointment of a more compatible ambassador.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 33, Morocco: 1979)