Rabat, Morocco — The Arab world's three kings -- Khalid of Saudi Arabia, Hussein of Jordan, and Hassan of Morocco -- are closing ranks to meet what they regard as a tide of radicalism and revolt sweeping outward from embattled Iran.
Each monarch supports Iraq in its continuing war with Iran's ayatollahs -- in his own way and for his own reasons. All appear to agree that Tehran's brand of militant Shia Islam and its radical Arab allies, Syria and Libya, have become threats.
Each expects, in turn, that Iraq will continue its support of them: Saudi Arabia against subversion, Jordan against both Israel and the new Syria-Soviet alliance, if need be, and Morocco against the Algerian- and Libyan-backed Polisario Front guerrillas waging a five-year-old war of attrition against Morocco's royal armed forces in the western Sahara.
Here, in the Arab world's extreme west, King Hassan turned this weekend from entertaining Britain's visiting Queen Elizabeth II to face a possible adverse majority vote on the long-smoldering Sahara question in the United Nations.
King Hassan's pledge of help for Iraq against Iran, resulting so far only in the symbolic dispatch of Moroccan medical personnel to Iraq, stems largely from Iraq's steady backing on the Sahara question, say diplomats here. Morocco will need all the support it can get, especially since the United States is likely to abstain (instead of support Morocco) on a new UN resolution demanding self-determination for the Sahara.
In return for the Iraqi oil that took care of nearly half its petroleum needs before the Gulf war halted Iraqi exports, Morocco agreed last August to ship uranium ore, associated with its phosphate deposits, to an Iraq eager to move rapidly into the nuclear age. Saudi Arabia, say the Moroccans, can make up for the loss of Iraqi oil here.
King Hassan's diplomats seem to approve Saudi Arabia's break in relations with Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi. So does Jordan's King Hussein. The firebrand Libyan leader's support of the ayatollahs of Tehran has led him to airlift arms (through Soviet-controlled air space) to Iran.
Saudi King Khalid's powerful radio transmitters now are exchanging insults with those of Colonel Qaddafi, after the Libyan leader called for a Saudi "peoples' revolt" to "cleanse" the Muslim religious centers of Mecca and Medina from what he termed "pollution" by US aircraft and troops.
King Hassan recently has indicated that he believes Colonel Qaddafi is gaining his own leverage over the Saharan guerrilla Polisario movement, and that Algerian control may be waning. A Polisario raid last month against the outpost of M'hamid, in territory undisputedly Moroccan and claimed neither by Algeria nor the Saharans, was proof "of a plot against both Morocco and Algeria," the King said.
Current strategy of would-be peacemakers in the Sahara conflict, including the US and Saudi Arabia, is to try to nudge the Polisario Front, if possible, away from Libya and toward a negotiated solution. Mauritania, Morocco's former ally that now is neutral in the war could play a role.
Such a solution, according to Algerian and other Polisario supporters in Africa, would have to include self-determination by the Sahara's sparse nomad population of 100,000 or less -- in short, a referendum on maintaining what Morocco considers their historic allegiance to the throne in Rabat, or forming the Sahara state that the Polisario demands.
Saudi King Khalid, whose family frequently visits Morocco and reportedly is acquiring substantial real-estate holdings in land and houses here, is helping Morocco bear the growing economic burden of the Sahara war. Secret Saudi cash subsidies, perhaps reaching well over $500 million yearly, help support Morocco's defense budget.
The Saudis are also paying for US arms finally authorized by the US Congress after a long battle within the Carter administration last winter. Following this, King Hassan drastically centralized and strengthened his military command structure, better equipping it to fight the present two-front war -- in northern Morocco, where the royal Army seeks to cut off Polisario supply lines from Algeria, and in the far southern zone of the sunbaked, rocky, sandy steppes of the former Spanish colony that Morocco and Mauretania divided in 1975.