On December 10th, Donald Trump upended over 30 years of US diplomacy with a Tweet in which he declared American support for Morocco’s claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Since the 1970s, Morocco and a local group called the Polisario Front have fought for control of Western Sahara. In the early 1990s the United States brokered a ceasefire agreement which called for the people of Western Sahara, who are predominately Sahrawis, to vote in a referendum to determine their status as an independent country. A UN Peacekeeping mission was deployed to region to help maintain the ceasefire and prepare for the vote.

Despite years of diplomacy, that referendum has never taken place, for reasons we discuss in this episode.

Now, the United States has abandoned its previous support for the determination for the Sahrawi people and simply affirmed that Western Sahara is part of Morocco. In exchange, Morocco has begun to establish formal diplomatic ties with Israel.

On the line to help make sense of the significance of this move by outgoing US administration is Intissar Fakir.  She is a fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and editor of Sada, a publication that focuses on political, economic and social developments in the middle east. We spend a good deal of time in this episode discussing the recent history of the Western Sahara conflict from the 1970s to today. We then discuss the implications of the United States’ sudden reversal of its long held diplomatic position.

If you have 25 minutes and want to better understand the conflict in Western Sahara, have a listen

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