by Alif Daoud
The Polisario Front hardline position produced a Peace Plan so one-sidedly in favour of Morocco. That even the pro-independence Saharawi negotiators became ashamed of it, thus assuring the defeat in the "war of peace". The lopsided Peace Plan sealed the alliance between the angels and the devils. Baker's high-handed style was so extreme that he even tried to persuade the Polisario leaders to accept all Moroccan settlers in the final list of voters.
The unaccomplished mission of the shabby Settlement Plan of Western Sahara Conflict by concerned negotiators is instructive for those closely following the negotiations, now turned into a Cross-Servicing Agreement called the Informal Negotiations. It shows how the U.S. bullies look at small nations like the Saharawis , ignoring the latter's history and particularities, always operating on the assumption that what must be good for America must definitely be good for all freedom-loving people of the world.
The Polisario negotiating panel thought it got what it wanted: Five years autonomy 'phasedown' with access to a referendum. But by being too greedy, the Polisario lost precisely what it sought to gain: Formal negotiations. The loss was suffered at the hands of a struggling, sacrificing people and their dreams.
The Polisario underestimated the post-war negotiations era by thinking that, like the East-Timorian negotiating panel, it was merely temporarily grandstanding or just a phase-out. It thought that resistance to Moroccan allies pressure merely consisted of opportunistic and vacillating Western politicians who would ultimately give way to its wishes. In the end, the Saharawis had the greatest shock of their lives when the Security Council rejected even investigating basic human rights issues.
Throughout the years, and despite all the concessions by Polisario side, MINURSO officials scaled back their commitments and did not hesitate to fire stinging salvos against certain legitimate Saharawi claims which they said, persistently and successfully undermined the UN settlement framework. These officials included Erik Johnson, Peter Van walsun and many others in the shade like Christopher Ross, whose particular mischief lays in initiating 'backchanneling' informal talks with the Morocco.
By trying too hard for too long to make that necessary dream come true, the Polisario instead only demonstrated to its militants, and a wider supporters audience, how limited its influence is in conflict compared to the other major power players on the terrain.
Not simple, as Polisario is finding out. On the contrary, according MINURSO, the negotiations are likely to drag on indefinitely, because prospects for either a clear battlefield victory or a quick negotiated settlement are non-existent and bleak, in that order.
So why not agree to end it? Now.
The difference of eventual outcome of this choice is huge and breaks down to a difference only of timing. Timing for what, one may asks? Timing for how long it would take for the Polisario, most probably with assistance from militants in the Occupied Territories, to initiate actions leading to another war with Morocco. No matter the road taken, the end result is predestined to be war. That, for sure, besides internal resentment, would leave Morocco perilously vulnerable.
For this strategy to work, though, it would require sustained Polisario military pressure on the Moroccan regime as soon as possible. Then, were Morocco agrees to negotiations, the Polisario would have to keep a substantial number of troops fighting on the ground, to prevent the Royal Armed Forces from gaining on the ground what they failed to win at the bargaining table.
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