Subtracting the Sahara

It is no surprise to see a party of the Spanish left betraying the Saharawi people. Moreover, they seem to sacrifice their own principles in favor of a PSOE completely devoted to the narco-dictatorship of Mohamed VI and his expansionist aspirations.

The affinity of the Spanish left with the Saharawi cause has been a constant in their electoral programs and public statements. However, the repeated betrayals to this cause have sown doubts. It all began with a young Felipe Gonzalez, who in 1976 promised, on a trip to the Saharawi refugee camps, to accompany the Saharawi people in their just struggle until the final victory. However, when he came to power, Gonzalez strengthened his alliance with the Moroccan monarch, forgetting the already punished Saharawi people.

The left has united and regrouped under various acronyms, from “Izquierda Unida” to Podemos, now Unidas Podemos, and recently SUMAR. It seems that the Spanish left only knows how to move and survive between the hopeful novelty and the supposed definitive alliance that promises much but falls, devoured by its own failure, being reborn again under new acronyms and promises.

This is how we Saharawis have been for more than 40 years, listening to false promises, receiving “solidarity” politicians in our refugee camps and falling again and again into the same mistake by believing those who disappoint us. I have to make it clear that we do not expect anything from the Spanish right wing, which is neither here nor expecte;, they never promised nor were there. Those who championed the Saharawi cause were the leftist political parties in Spain, which have always disappointed and disillusioned. From Gonzalez, through Zapatero, who was the president who sold the most weapons to Morocco, weapons then used against the Saharawi people, to Sanchez who was the most indecent president to publicly recognize that Western Sahara should be an “autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty,” supporting a fierce illegal occupation and violating the international legality that calls for a referendum of independence in Western Sahara. This position contradicts the will of the majority of Spaniards who support the Saharawi cause and tramples on the aspirations of the Saharawi people who have been resisting for more than 50 years for their independence.

Looking at the parties to the left of the PSOE, we Saharawis may have to settle for a tweet or, hopefully, a statement in the press in support of the “just struggle of the Saharawi people.” But beyond this media gesture, there will be no clear initiatives or actions, and it is time that we recognize and accept it. We are only an electoral slogan, a badge to wear on our chest to look really “leftist” in some demonstration or public act, but beyond that, we are nothing. Morocco will always be the friend, the ally and the chosen one.

The party led by Yolanda Diaz, SUMAR, promised to reverse the decision taken by Pedro Sanchez and return Spain to its “neutral” position on the Western Sahara issue. However, in the recent government agreement signed between the PSOE and SUMAR, the Saharawi question is nowhere to be found. SUMAR had to choose between the just Saharawi cause or the illegal occupation of Mohamed VI. It had to choose between fidelity to its promises or ambiguity out of self-interest. In both cases, I choose the second option.

Meanwhile, the Saharawi people continue to believe in the Spanish “new left” that always finds a way to be reborn under new acronyms, new colors and new promises that, of course, will never be fulfilled.

Finally, we recall that the Saharawi people do not ask for solidarity or alms, they simply ask that Spain fulfills its legal duty as a colonial power in Western Sahara; but this request becomes a demand, especially to those who have championed our struggle and have promised to carry out the long-awaited decolonization, and then betray us in the most shameful ways. At this point, I recommend to my fellow Saharawis to change the demand for a simple request: that the Spanish left stop trafficking in our pain and using our cause as a bargaining chip.

Taleb Alisalem was born in the Sahrawi refugee camps and grew up in Spain. He trained in International Cooperation and Development Aid at The Open University. He is a prominent political activist and analyst who specializes in the Western Sahara, the Middle East as well as African issues. This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

One Map and Two Betrayals

Numerous setbacks, criticisms and scandals have haunted and continue to haunt the coalition government, led by Pedro Sanchez, which currently aspires to extend its mandate for another four years. Undoubtedly, one of the most prominent chapters of this government centers on the Western Sahara issue. The decision taken by Sanchez in March 2022 stands as the epicenter of a political earthquake that has left its footprints in the middle of the Sahrawi desert.

In the 1970s, Spain surprisingly opted to abandon what was until then known as its fifty-third province, the Spanish Sahara. This move also implied disengaging from its commitments to the Sahrawi population and to international legality, which expected the Spanish state to lead an organized decolonization process, culminating in the declaration of independence of Western Sahara. Instead, however, Spain was forced to hand over that rich territory to an expansion-hungry Morocco, which used its usual tactics of pressure, blackmail and machinations, with the collaboration of the United States and France, to prevent decolonization from taking place.

From Spain, it was argued that this shameful abandonment of the Sahrawi people was due to a complicated period in the country’s history, with Franco’s agony and an uncertain future. In that context, yielding to the blackmail of King Hassan II and his allies seemed almost inevitable, as advantage was taken of the moment of weakness and uncertainty in Spain. This explanation, to some extent, may have some merit. However, what is completely incomprehensible is the position taken by the President of the self-styled “most progressive government in history,” Pedro Sanchez, who publicly endorsed, in March 2022, the idea that the Western Sahara should become an autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty. This position justifies and supports an occupation that has been labeled illegal by all international courts and bodies. It is a new betrayal of the Sahrawi people, who have seen Spain abandon them once again.

Beyond the opinions and personal views that I may have as a Sahrawi, it is undeniable that if we evaluate the situation from an impartial perspective and considering the strategic and geopolitical interests at stake, Sanchez’s decision not only represents a betrayal to the Sahrawi people, but also to the Spanish people. This is because it clearly fuels Moroccan expansionism, which constitutes a continuous threat to the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla. At times, Morocco even claims the Canary Islands and their maritime space as part of its territory. This represents a clear danger to the integrity of the Kingdom of Spain.

José Manuel Albares, who holds the highest responsibility in the Spanish government’s foreign policy, has made it clear that his main duty and priority is to serve his monarch and master, His Majesty Mohammed VI. This loyalty persists, even when it is known that the Moroccan intelligence services spied on half of the Spanish government using Pegasus software. It persists, despite the serious consequences derived from the immigration that Morocco constantly directs towards the Spanish coasts. It persists, despite the contempt and humiliation on the part of a monarch who did not even bother to receive the Spanish President in what was announced as the most important Spain-Morocco summit in many years. Nothing seems to disturb or modify Albares’ loyalty towards Morocco.

This murky relationship raises many questions, not only about Minister Albares’ relationship with Morocco, but also about the PSOE and its continued submission to Rabat, a submission that seems to lack all logic. If it is necessary to break with Algeria, it is broken. If it is necessary to buy more gas from Russia, it is bought. If it is necessary to sell to the Sahrawis, it is sold. If it is necessary to remain silent and accept humiliation, one remains silent and accepts it. “If you have to swallow toads, you swallow them,” as the socialist López Aguilar said. But what if it is a question of handing over Ceuta and Melilla, will they be handed over? It is clear that when it comes to the PSOE and Morocco, anything is possible; anything Morocco wishes.

What every Spanish citizen should keep in mind is that problems with Morocco will always be a constant on the agenda. The cession, submission and friendly approach towards the Rabat regime only strengthen its hostile positions against Spain, and sooner or later this could explode in the form of a diplomatic crisis, migratory waves or territorial disputes. If Spain really wants to safeguard its geostrategic interests and protect its territories from the Moroccan expansionist threat, it must start implementing a firmer policy towards Morocco immediately. It must be uncompromising and play its cards on the complex geopolitical chessboard, seeking an alliance with Algeria and supporting an independent Sahrawi Republic. Such an alliance could mark the beginning of the end of the Moroccan regime, which poses a constant threat to all its neighbors.

Taleb Alisalem was born in the Sahrawi refugee camps and grew up in Spain. He trained in International Cooperation and Development Aid at The Open University. He is a prominent political activist and analyst who specializes in the Western Sahara, the Middle East as well as African issues. This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.