Document Type: 
Document Number (FOIA) /ESDN (CREST): 
Release Decision: 
Original Classification: 
Document Page Count: 
Document Creation Date: 
December 19, 2016
Document Release Date: 
November 30, 2005
Sequence Number: 
Case Number: 
Publication Date: 
October 19, 1978
Content Type: 
PDF icon CIA-RDP81B00401R002100090008-5.pdf290.08 KB
65X1 ? Approved F I IA/ORPA/ME 19 October 1978 Background Paper The Western Sahara Conflict The three-year-old conflict over the desolate but mineral- rich Western Sahara has entered a new, political phase. The military coup in Mauritania on 10 July brought to power a government committed to ending its involvement in the dispute. The coup also prompted the two key players, Morocco and Algeria,. to reassess their positions, and this may eventually produce a ? compromise settlement. Moroccan-Algerian diplomatic contacts--initiated well before the,Mauritanian coup--have moved beyond the exploratory stage. Senior Moroccan and Algerian emissaries met in Paris in early August and in Brussels in late September. Mauritania has also established its own contacts with Algeria and the rebel Polisario Front. Although these contacts are hopeful signs that a dialogue will continue, they do not assure a dramatic breakthrough. Moroccan allegations of Algerian aggression in southern Morocco nd )Scunlel-ene's i roes Sus in early Octobe ave temp rarily tee a ~ ??? ?r talks. ? Approved For Release 2006/01/03 : CIA-RDP81B00401 R002100090008-5 Approved For Release 2006/01/03 : CIA-RDP81B00401 R002100090008-5 Only protracted negotiations are likely to find a solution to the conflict over Western Sahara, which is part of a larger historic rivalry between Algiers and Rabat for preeminence in ? Morocco bases its claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara Moroccan Irredentism northwest: Africa. on pre-colonial history, when Moroccan rulers intermittently exercised varying degrees of control over much of the area. The International Court of Justice, in an advisory opinion in October 1975-determined, however,. that Moroccan and Mauritanian precolonial links with the area did not establish a tie of Bu Craa, and Mauritania gained control of a lucrative fishing industry at Dakhla and unexploited iron ore reserves at Agracha. Algeria considers the partition illegal, demands a referendum on self-determination, and gives substantial material support and sanctuary to the Polisario Front guerrillas. The lack of internationally supervised consultations to determine the wishes of the territory's inhabitants, as called for in various UN General Assembly resolutions, sovereignty. Morocco considers its partition of Western Sahara with Mauritania in April 1976 irreversible. Morocco acquired the northern two-thirds, including the rich phosphate reserves at Approved For Release 2006/01/03 : CIA-RDP81B00401 R002100090008-5 Approved For Release 2006/01/03 : CIA-RDP81 800401 R002100090008-5 ? ;remains a contentious issue. Spain still holds that its transfer of administrative control under the Madrid Accords did not resolve the question of sovereignty -.a matter that only the Saharan pMle could decide. Morocco argues that Saharans were consulted in February 1976 via the . territorial assembly--a. consultative. body subservient to Rabat at the time--and again last year when Saharans participated in Moroccan regional elections. While Morocco's annexation and administration of its part of the territory seem to be regarded internationally as a fait accompli, recognition of Moroccan sovereignty there has been withheld. Military Situation The focus of fighting is now in southern Morocco and the Moroccan portion of Western Sahara. Moroccan casualties have increased The cease-fire against Mauritanian forces declared by the Polisario Front after the 10 July coup there is still holding. substantially above the estimated monthly average of40..killed before the Mauritanian-coup. In response to alleged Algerian incursions into southern Morocco in late September-early October, King Hassan is said to have ordered retaliation in kind to any future attacks. The SECRET Approved For Release 2006/01/03 : CIA-RDP81 800401 R002100090008-5 Approved For Release 2006 /D CIA-RDP81B00401 R002100090008-5 ? ? difficulties of mounting such attacks may dissuade Hassan from following through against the Algerians. Moroccan armed forces operations in general continue to be hampered by low morale, logistic problems, and lack of effective air support. Some difficult compromises will be required from all.partici Negotiating Prospects pants if a peace settlement is to be reached. Morocco and Algeria will have to overcome/ deep-seated distrust of each other's inten- tions, and this fact alone argues. against a quick solution. Morocco, given its popular,'irredentist claim, will not compromise on the issue of its sovereignty in the northern two- thirds of Western Sahara or its-control of the large reserves of high-grade phosphate rock around Bu Craa. It is highly unlikely to accept an independent Saharan ministate. Morocco has repeatedly stressed that it will not allow itself to be cut off from: the rest of Africa by a Saharan state with borders that run from Algeria to the Atlantic. Morocco might reluctantly agree to-ja rigged referendum for that independence not be Sahara. Morocco probably Mauritanian portion feerat-P wit-h taurit via, would accept, after much bargaining, a Saharan homeland in the the Saharan people, but would insist an option for its portion of Western Mauritania is the only party that can be counted on to be ? genuinely flexible. The new military-dominated government which recognizes that only a settlement will enable SECRET Approved For Release 2006/01/03 : CIA-RDP81B00401 R002100090008-5 Approved For Release 200 ?/r HUTCIA-RDP81B00401 R002100090008-5 "? ? it to get the economy moving again, gives first priority to an early end of the Saharan conflict. Maruitania is willing to with- draw from its portion of Western Sahara but is restrained from federated with Mauritania and probably would grant Saharans a agree to their sector becoming an autonomous Saharan state doing so by Morocco. The Mauritanians,almost certainly would Algeria's negotiating pogition is less easy to define. Algeria has no territorial claim in Western Sahara, although ------------------------------ proportional role in the central government. it has steadfastly maintained that it has political and security interests to protect. Boumediene seems unwilling to accept a Moroccan fait accompli in Western Sahara without some way of salvaging his own prestige. He is, however, a pragmatist and may think his chances of obtaining compromises now are greater than they will be later. The Algerians Saharan state if a laid the basis for portion of Western Moroccan influence might settle for less than an independent controlled referendum were held that at least creating an autonomous region in the Mauritanian They would hope eventually to supplant in such a federation with their own. In return for recognizing Moroccan probably would insist on under Moroccan control. sovereignty in the territory, Algeria limited local autonomy for the Saharans SECRET Approved For Release 2006/01/03 : CIA-RDP81B00401 R0021000900'08-5 Approved For Release 2006 ?f/03 : CIA-RDP81 B00401 R002100090008-5 a lasting settlement. Its militant leaders appear genuinely committed to a Saharan republic, and they will not easily be The Polisario Front will have to be dealt with to achieve :_ persuaded to accept--anything less than. an. independent Western 0 operations, however, without Algerian support. The Polisario Front has an estimated 3,000_t Sahara. They could not sustain the present.level of military 5,000 active guerrillas and a shadow government in exile recognized by 15 countries. The guerrillas also control the large Saharan refugee population in southwestern Algeria, which could range as high as 20,000 to 40,000---nearly a third to a half of the estimated population of Western Sahara in 1974. Some of these exiles may be nomads from surrounding countries, but most probably are from Western Sahara. Three years of Algerian and Polisario indoctrination may have create a sense of national identity that will be difficult to satisfy in the future. SECRET Approved For Release 2006/01/03 : CIA-RDP81 800401 R002100090008-5 25X1 Approved For Release 2006/01/03 : CIA-RDP81 800401 R002100090008-5 Next 2 Page(s) In Document Exempt Approved For Release 2006/01/03 : CIA-RDP81 800401 R002100090008-5