Western Sahara: Trump Signs Pro-Morocco Spending Bill

Rabat – At a news conference in the White House’s Rose Garden yesterday, President Trump controversially called for a national emergency and announced his signing of a sweeping 2019 spending bill which he said would avoid a repeat of a painful government shutdown.The bill includes sections that favor Morocco’s Western Sahara position, suggesting that after a period of doubt in President Trump’s first months in power, the two allies are again set on a good course.Trump’s Rose Garden address, which essentially laid out the president’s high-handed take on border security, saw him complain that waves of “aliens” that have been invading the US. The spending bill he pledged for as a consequence includes bolder moves to unlock the funds needed to build his “Mexico Wall.” The move is reportedly not sitting well with policymakers in Washington, with dissenting voices condemning the circumstances of the president’s national emergency call as an assault on the separation of powers.Reiterating US support for MoroccoElsewhere, though, a bit farther from the seemingly shambolic US domestic scene, the bill that Trump signed on Friday reiterates US support for Morocco. It seals the previous pro-Morocco steps that both the president and the two houses of the US Congress had taken earlier this year.President Trump signed a similar spending bill in late January, but back then it was simply a temporary move to secure a partial end to the painful government shutdown.The country was just emerging from a three-week government shutdown, the longest in US history, and there were reports of US government workers turning to food banks to survive.“I will sign a bill to open our government for three weeks… Over the next 21 days I expect that both Democrats and Republicans will operate in good faith,” Trump said at the time.But having failed to secure the “cooperation” he had hoped to get from Democrats for his migration policies, Trump said he felt compelled to resolve to the boldness he seemed to embrace in his Friday address.The 2019 spending bill would still prevail, but it felt burdensome to wait for all the normal congressional procedures and the traditional hurdles of Washington politicking, Trump suggested as he announced his national emergency. “I didn’t need to do this. I just want to get it done faster.”While the bill is allegedly vague and –understandably— controversial on US domestic issues, it is unequivocally pro-Morocco and unusually forthcoming on US development funds for Western Sahara.It reiterates Morocco’s position that Western Sahara should be considered as part of the US aids funds allocated to Morocco. “Funds appropriated under title III of this Act shall be made available for assistance for the Western Sahara,” read the bill’s “Morocco” section.The bill also calls for better monitoring of the humanitarian aid to the Tindouf camps’ “vulnerable refugees.” The plea for international action to better track whether Tindouf-bound humanitarian assistance does actually reach its rightful recipients has been a crucial point of order in Morocco’s Western Sahara diplomacy.Morocco-US relations have been erratic in recent months, culminating in heightened doubts in Rabat when National Security Advisor John Bolton appeared to embrace Polisario-friendly rhetoric when he unveiled the US Africa strategy in December 2018.In more recent weeks, however, the relationship seems to be reverting back to its traditional line, with Washington viewing—and treating—Rabat as its most reliable and strongest ally in North Africa.

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