Mauritania Table of Contents
For their part, Polisario strategists sought first to remove Mauritania from the conflict and then to direct their efforts against the far stronger Moroccan forces. In mid-1977 the Polisario launched a general offensive against Mauritania to cripple its economy and incite internal opposition to the war, hoping thereby that the government either would withdraw from the conflict or would be overthrown by one more sympathetic to the Polisario cause. In May Polisario guerrillas attacked the SNIM operations at Zouīrāt, killing two French technicians and capturing another six. The remaining expatriates at Zouīrāt immediately left, and Mauritania promptly requested aid from Morocco. In June 1977, Morocco's military command merged with Mauritania's in the Supreme Defense Council, and 600 Moroccan troops arrived to protect Zouīrāt. Following further attacks against the railroad linking the SNIM iron ore mines with the port at Nouadhibou, the Mauritanian government reversed an earlier position and requested--and received--military aid from France. In December 1977, French aircraft, in their first action, attacked Polisario guerrillas returning from raids into Mauritania.
Several wealthy Arab oil-producing states, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi, also provided Mauritania with significant aid to contain the revolutionary fervor advocated by the Polisario. Between 1976 and 1978, Saudi Arabia, in particular, provided funds amounting to twice Mauritania's annual budget.
In spite of the military aid it received, Mauritania was not able to prevent the Polisario from bombarding Nouakchott for a second time, in July 1977. The rocket attack against the capital stunned Daddah, who immediately reorganized both the army and the government, appointing for the first time a military officer to the post of minister of defense. Daddah previously had resisted bringing the military into his civilian government for fear of a military takeover (see Role of the Military in Society , ch. 5).
By the end of 1977, Daddah faced growing opposition to the war and to his administration. In the military, black recruits from the south, who had joined the army because they lacked other employment opportunities and who formed a majority of the ground troops, had little interest in fighting Polisario guerrillas in the north. Moreover, black civilians resented having to pay a tax to support a war between Arabs. In addition, many Maure soldiers sympathized with the objectives of the Polisario, with whom they shared ethnic ties. Finally, anti-Moroccan nationalists within the PPM opposed the war on the grounds that it afforded Morocco opportunities to expand its influence.
Data as of June 1988