carnegie logo

Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next »

MOROCCO: Rabat tells Iranians to back off

Iranmorocco

Rivalry between Iran and the Arab states on both sides of the Persian Gulf makes sense. After all, they share the same cramped quarters.

But one could wonder why Morocco, an Arab kingdom located in northwest Africa thousands of miles away from the Islamic Republic, would engage in a heated row with the Iranians.

Some are wondering whether Morocco is assuming the role of a proxy for the epicenter of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia, which for decades has been competing for power in the region with Shiite Iran.

Nowadays Moroccans are officially accusing Tehran of trying to spread Shiite Muslim ideology in their country under the guise of cultural activities. 

Morocco's foreign minister, Taieb Fassi Fihri, lambasted Iran for its “activism” in the North African kingdom, in interview with the French news agency AFP:

Morocco cannot accept activities of this type, whether ordered directly or indirectly, or via so-called NGOs. Supposed cultural activities cannot take this form because they are a restriction of fundamental Moroccan [rights].

This came nine days after Morocco cut its diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Morocco was reportedly reacting to Iran’s infringement on the sovereignty of its smaller neighbor Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet in the Gulf.

But the small Sunni-ruled but mostly Shiite-populated island did not even go as far as severing its diplomatic ties with Iran following comments last month by some Iranian figures that Bahrain was an Iranian province.

That row was defused quickly after Tehran stated out loud that it fully respected its neighbor’s sovereignty. The two sides kissed and made up and salvaged a big gas deal.

But the Moroccans are seemingly still angry about something.

An op-ed piece in the Abu Dhabi-based publication The National argued that Morocco might be acting as a "verbal proxy" for the U.S.-backed "moderate" Arab states' ongoing tension with Iran:

Morocco’s move is tied directly to Rabat’s ties to Riyadh. Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Morocco is based on a shared outlook regarding Iran as well the close relationship between the ruling royals. Saudi royals spend a large amount of time in Morocco either working, vacationing, or convalescing. There are also military ties that are being boosted in joint co-operation projects. In addition, both Saudi Arabia and Morocco are concerned about Iran exerting its efforts to convert Sunni Muslims to Shiism out of its diplomatic offices.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly pressuring Arab countries to unite and stand firm against the threat that a nuclear Iran would pose on the region.

Meanwhile, Iran sees the real enemy as being elsewhere.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the recent tension with Arab states is the making of a nasty plot by "the enemy," which most probably refers to the United States. He told state-run television earlier this month:

We also advise our friends in foreign countries to be careful of the mischief [by the enemy]. After all, I visited all Muslim countries. We shook hands to be brothers and analyzed the enemy's plots. We should all be careful.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: The Iranian embassy in Rabat, Morocco, which has decided to sever ties with Iran. Credit: Oughanemi / AFP/Getty Images

P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

Comments () | Archives (7)


covert means is defined as meaning concealed especially for an evil purpose .
That saying "show me your friends and I will tell who you are"
What ? covert foreigners with arms using force on the locals , no they are missionaries spreading the word of god with an evil purpose .

Mr Fair, Iran for sure cares, and they care a lot, that's why they were investing so much in Morocco (not business). You see, we are the western wing of the Islamic nation, the passage to Europe and even to America, and Muslims in general are fascinated by our geographical location. When they stand on a hilltop overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, they remember past glories, when the Islamic Empire, which included ALL Middle Eastern peoples, especially Persians, extended north into Europe and perhaps tried sailing westwards. And the Empire also "sailed" south accross the Sahara from here thanks to Sufi captains like the Tijanis.

Although things have changed since those times, Morocco is still a strategic passage, and the tens of thousands of would-be harraga from all countries (from our continent and even from Asia) who camp here waiting for the right time know that. Also, the five or so million Moroccans who live in Europe but keep coming back here on every occasion are a strategic link. And more, the Iranians are convinced nobody in the Islamic world knows Europe better than Morocco and Moroccans. The Iranians also know the influence Morocco has on many west-African countries, especially through religious ties and Zawyas.

So please, Mr Fair, don't tell me they don't care. They will surely find a way of getting back here, in force.

I do not feel Iran even cares which is why Iran did not even apologize yet. Morocco wants attention and respect, but u dont wanna mess with Iran. Stupid move, now Iran can openly back Algeria and the Western Sahara.

I think there is too much of a fuss. breaking diplomatic ties with Iran isn't going to change a thing. As for Venezuela, it's just a chess move for the politicians. Anyways as a Moroccan i'm for not having much ties with anyone we don't have a pragmatic interest into having a relation with. This applies for Bahrein too.

This is just too rich, foreigners are currently occupying majority of Middle-East through force of arms and by keeping carved up Middle-East population from uniting by covert means and ironically Arabs despots are worried about one neighbor who is standing up to these foreigners!

Some people also explained Morocco's decision to break relations with Venezuela as a result of pressure from the US. I think Morocco's position is much more complicated, and to understand the reasoning one has to go back in history a few decades and be familiar with the system. Morocco and Iran have just tolerated each other ever since the Shah was overthrown, we had a close relationship with the Pahlevis even when they were Saudi Arabia's enemies, and the first Islamic Summit was purposely held in Rabat (and not in KSA) just so that the Shah could attend. And the Pahlevis are now living in Morocco (Farah even attends public events).

Morocco pretty much weighs the pros and cons before undertaking any action, and in both cases (Venezuela and Iran), the system had nothing to lose by breaking relations, and was perhaps convinced there were some gains. Of course, outside of the system it's another story, popular feeling is different, there is plenty of sympathy for Chavez and Ahmadinejad, although people regret their position on the Sahara issue.

this is just normal, if you claim that you are USA ally you have to act like Morocco did, we svered relation with venzuela too, so it's normal to support us efforts to limit some dangerous emergin powers, Morocco as the most stable ally of the us, (i don't have to remember you that morocco was the first country to recognize usa as an independent country)


Connect

Recommended on Facebook


Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Recent News
Introducing World Now |  September 23, 2011, 8:48 am »

Categories


Archives
 


About the Contributors