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


  • Proposed Presidential Message to King Hassan of Morocco

Events in the western Sahara are moving rapidly following Mauritania’s separate peace with the Polisario. The Polisario has mounted a major attack on a Moroccan position at the southern end of the Moroccan portion of the western Sahara. Morocco appears to be in the process of claiming the former Mauritanian portion of the western Sahara.2 While such a move might temporarily reduce pressure in Morocco to attack Polisario bases in Algeria, the situation is unsettled and fighting could escalate rapidly. We recommend that the President send a friendly message to King Hassan acknowledging the problems he is facing and reiterating our interest in a peaceful solution. A proposed message is attached.3

Peter Tarnoff
Executive Secretary
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 33, Morocco: 1979. Confidential. There is no indication Brzezinski saw the memorandum.
  2. Mauritania and the Polisario concluded a peace agreement on August 5. Mauritania renounced all territorial claims to the Western Sahara. In an August 17 memorandum to Carter, Christopher wrote: “Morocco has ‛incorporated’ the former Mauritanian portion of the Western Sahara into Morocco as its 37th province. Although Algeria has denounced this Moroccan takeover as ‛aggression,’ it will not ask for a UN Security Council meeting at this time. The Polisario have vowed to continue their attacks in Morocco proper.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 22, Evening Reports (State): 8/79)
  3. The undated message is attached but not printed. In part, the message reads: “I want you to know that I have been deeply distressed by the attacks on your forces well inside Morocco. I sympathize with you in this situation, and recognize that there have been other recent developments which have serious implications for Morocco and the region. All of us must do our best to ensure that these developments will not lead to further widening of the conflict. In this regard, I am uneasy about the possible repercussions of the reported new Moroccan moves in the Tiris al-Gharbia.”