214. Telegram From the Embassy in Morocco to the Department of State1

5951. For the Secretary. Subject: King Hassan on Sahara Situation.

1. King Hassan called me to his retreat at Bouznika October 27 to express extreme unhappiness at the suspension of deliveries of paid for ammunition for US-supplied 54 M–48A tanks, which “are sitting at Errachidia without ammunition.” The subject, which I believe is on the road to a satisfactory resolution, is described in a separate telegram.2 King went on to discuss current military situation in Sahara. He indicated he wished Secretary to have this information before latter’s meeting with Foreign Minister Boucetta November 7.3 (Boucetta will be prepared to go into greater detail.)

2. King stated that there had been serious escalation in Sahara guerrilla warfare during recent weeks. Polisario now had armored vehicles, advanced automatic weapons, and large numbers of scouting vehicles. Polisario’s repair capabilities were “unbelievable.” Quantities of equipment in Polisario hands had increased tremendously.

3. When our people come over a dune, King continued, they might well meet a wall of armor. Saharans themselves could not possibly operate this far more sophisticated equipment in Polisario inventory. There was no question but that regular Algerian forces were operating this equipment. King wanted Secretary to know that further indication of non-Saharan involvement in the fighting was recent aborted Algerian efforts in Dakar to recruit Senegalese for Polisario guerrillas and President Senghor’s intention to have public trial condeming this action (see Rabat 5579 for my conversation with former Foreign Minister Laraki on this subject.)4

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4. Furthermore, French intelligence from assets in Dakar had informed him of significant number of new air fields in Chegga area of Mauritania, near northwestern corner of Mali, and of Soviet-provided AN–12 aircraft flying large quantities of equipment into that area.

5. King stated that something had to be done. He was the only one in the whole area making serious effort to prevent collapse of moderate regimes in Africa and ward off creeping Soviet take-over of the continent. King expected recurrence of Shaba insurgency, and had had reports that infiltration had already started up again.

6. King stressed that it was the U.S., and only the U.S., which could effectively prevent further Soviet inroads. He recalled a statement by Secretary in support of territorial integrity of Sudan, which he welcomed. To ensure this integrity, however, one must be concerned about the situation neighboring on Sudan. He cited Soviet-equipped Qadhafi in Libya, and “the virtual Soviet takeover of Ethiopia,” as well as strong Soviet position in Tanzania, Mozambique and Angola. After recalling his initiative in Zaire, King said he could not combat the Soviets alone, especially in Northwest Africa in the face of increasing Soviet military deliveries to Algeria. The problem, as he saw it, was two-fold: (a) no Soviet limitation on the use of arms and equipment by the Algerians and (b) possible Soviet or Cuban manning of the more advanced items. On the latter point, King said that he knew the Algerians were not good pilots, and therefore he would not be so concerned about recently delivered MiG–21’s but for possibility that non-Algerians might be flying them.

7. King urged U.S. to enter discussions with Soviets to induce them to stop the current Algerian escalation threatening Morocco and Mauritania. Recent Sahara escalation had come about “either because people were illogical or logical.” King had to assume latter, which would lead to conclusion that this was part of Soviet strategy in Africa. At this point, King recalled that Presidential Assistant Brzezinski, in September 13 conversation in Washington with former FonMin Laraki, had expressed understanding of Soviet threat in Africa and support for Moroccan efforts to counter this threat5 (having received no account of this conversation, I was unable to comment.)

8. King noted that Royal Counselor Reda Guedira was currently in Paris for private meeting with Giscard d’Estaing to brief him on situation and to urge France to weigh in with the USSR.

9. A serious problem for Morocco was that its friends were in the “moral camp,” King continued, with its enemies in the camp without morals. The U.S. and France and other friends would undoubtedly [Page 516] stop deliveries of military equipment in case of a serious outbreak. Morocco must therefore build up stocks in self-defense, as those allied to the immoral camp would not suffer a cut-off of supplies.

10. King emphasized that he would never ask the U.S. to get into another Vietnam or Korea, and that Morocco would do the fighting but must have the wherewithal. In this connection, he noted current visit of Deputy Air Force Chief Colonel Terhzaz to Washington to discuss with U.S. Navy release of six used OV–10 aircraft which he looked forward to receiving soonest. As the United States well knew, Morocco would never commit aggression, King continued, but it must defend itself against escalating attacks from outside its borders. If the escalation continued, he would have to react. He did not, however, want to be forced into a position where he would have no choice but to respond with a counter offensive. If Moscow could be persuaded to restrain the other side, this possibility would remain academic.

11. Comment: While King studiously avoided alarmism, he clearly views mounting military pressures, especially against Mauritania, as very serious, and within the larger context of Soviet expansionism in Africa. He therefore sees a more active U.S. role vis-a-vis the Soviets as increasingly urgent.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770398–0780. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information to Algiers, Moscow, Nouakchott, Paris, and USUN.
  2. In telegram 5950 from Rabat, October 29, Anderson wrote: “King stated that this situation raised ‛1000 questions’ in Moroccan minds regarding U.S. policy. He wondered if Belgium, France and other NATO countries, who had the same tanks, had been cut off by the U.S. as Morocco had been, even though some were manufacturing their own ammunition. Morocco had already been in contact with certain countries with a view to purchasing tank ammunition from them, and received positive replies, and would now proceed with purchases.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770398–0723)
  3. See Document 216.
  4. Telegram 5579 from Rabat, October 7, is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770367–1057.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 213.