by Harry Clynch
Saturday, 20
August 2022
Dispatch
13:30

Morocco is torn between East and West over Ukraine

The country's divided loyalties make it vulnerable to great power manipulation
by Harry Clynch
What are they up to (Photo by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Marrakech, Morocco  

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, one crucial American ally in North Africa tried to maintain a neutral stance: Morocco. At the meetings of the UN General Assembly in early March, Morocco abstained from condemning Russia’s “special military operation”. This stance was largely the result of strong commercial relationships between Rabat and Moscow, with Morocco being Russia’s largest trading partner in Africa.

However, in a sign that the world is increasingly dividing into two camps, this position of neutrality has now been dropped. This is partly because of considerable diplomatic pressure from Washington, which ultimately led to Morocco participating in a US-led military summit in Germany. Rabat joined Nato members, and 13 other non-Nato countries, in pledging more support for Ukraine.

This change may also reflect a hardening of public opinion within Morocco. Russia is perceived by many across North Africa and the Middle East to be responsible for rising food prices across the region. Russia’s naval blockade of Ukrainian grain exports in the Black Sea has disrupted global supplies and contributed to higher inflation for essential goods. Moroccans were also outraged after a dual Moroccan-Ukrainian national, Brahim Saaudun, was sentenced to death by Russian separatists in Donetsk, alongside Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner.

While Rabat is keen not to voice support for Ukraine too loudly, and has been notably quiet on the plight of Brahim Saaudun, Morocco’s clear alignment with the US on this issue could have important ramifications in the Western Sahara. Since Spain withdrew from its former colony in 1975, Morocco has claimed sovereignty over the territory, while neighbouring Algeria supports the indigenous Sahrawi people in their quest for self-determination. Algeria has also poured money and weapons into the Polisario Front, an independence movement frequently engaged in armed struggle against Morocco.

While Morocco continues to occupy around 75% of the Western Sahara, there are signs that the conflict in Ukraine could unsettle the balance of power in the region. For one, the tightening of global oil and gas supplies has offered greater leverage to energy-exporting Algeria. In the past, Algiers has cut gas supplies to Europe, via pipelines in Morocco, as a way of applying pressure on the issue of the Western Sahara.

Furthermore, the Polisario Front has long appealed to Moscow for support, which has occasionally flirted with backing the group — mainly as a way to exert pressure on Rabat and Washington when needed. Now Morocco has dropped its neutral stance, there’s the distinct possibility Russia could retaliate by offering greater encouragement and resources to the Polisario Front.

Indeed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently made an unannounced visit to Morocco’s main adversary, Algeria, with Moscow declaring that “the two countries see eye to eye on all key issues of international politics”. Could Russia be about to join Algeria in assertively supporting separatists in the Western Sahara?

Kremlin-aligned groups have helped to destabilise various countries in North Africa and the Middle East — from Libya to Mali to Sudan — and there’s reason to suspect Moscow may now attempt the same trick in the Western Sahara. Instability and tension in the Maghreb is known to foster the conditions in which extremism and organised crime flourish, undermining security both in the region and further afield.

The conflict in Ukraine is affecting global politics in unexpected and dangerous ways. The Western Sahara is yet another region where tensions are rising — with unpredictable consequences.

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Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago

Morocco is torn between East and West over Ukraine

I guess you could say it like that…… But what the real headline would be is more:

Morocco forced by Washington and Moscow to take sides in issue which is none of Morocco’s Business.

(And Morocco will lose; which ever side it ends up going with…..as Biden’s team likely put it, ‘Come on Morrocco, pick a side, no one is allowed to sit on the sidelines on this one; you are either for us or against us….so pick wisely…)

David Bell
David Bell
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron James

“Morroco takes the moral stand and supports Ukraine.” There, fixed the headline for you.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago
Reply to  David Bell

You did not fix anything but your SJW credentials by your simplistic repeating of the MSM agenda.

I believe if Putin had just marched into a Ukraine without Western ‘support’ he would have quickly won and killed/imprisoned/chased off the Oligarchs and their puppets and replaced them with his puppets.

The factories, farms, apartment blocks, schools, hospitals, power plants, railroads, infrastructure, mines, gas production, left intact. The people would have kept going to work, the children to schools, and migration very limited.
I heard it is something like 4 million woman and children left, and statistically 30% of refugees never return to a war torn nation. These young people are more vital to Ukraine’s surviving than anything else Their demographic time bomb, (like all the West and developed lands, and China) makes these children and childbearing woman the most important resource a nation has.

I suppose your ilk would have been to encourage France in WWII to fight to the last man, the last building rather than accept Vichy terms.

If Biden had not let the Neo-cons have him send $60,000,000,000 of military aid (of which 10% gets to the front line, the rest disappearing into corruption), but still – that is huge. If the Neo-cons did not give USA real time battlefield intel and more, ultra sophisticated targeting information – if the Decadent and weaklings in Western Europe has just kept out of it………..It would just have been regime change and Ukrane being kept from NATO and the EU for good.

But a war was good to distract voters, and feed Ike’s ‘Military Industrial Complex’ which is the most robust corrupt force in Western Politics (maybe now eclipsed by the evil Bio-Pharma-Health Industrial Comples in harms delivered and money corruptly gained and politicos captured by their filthy money and power)

Morocco has no need to join in the cynical business of coming in to the fray which is none of their business.

This war is not about sacred Freedom – it is just ‘War as another means of Politics’, and a very well paying one indeed.

harry storm
harry storm
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron James

I am so glad you brought up Vichy in WWII so I didn’t have to, Neville. Indeed, by your logic the French should have let the Germans take over without a shot, and Britain was wrong to oppose them, because it led to 6 years of war.
I was also amused by your use of the very outdated and previously overused term “neo-cons.”
Actually, apologies to Neville, who realized within 6 months just how badly he’d been duped. You strike me as far more intransigent.

Last edited 1 month ago by Vilde Chaye
Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago
Reply to  harry storm

Harry, they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing – there were a whole lot of things the French did not need to do.

One was the punitive Treaty of Versailles which brought about German hyperinflation and destruction of their economy, and so a drive to get revenge – then the French could have (they had the legal and military power) stopped Germany re-arming and instead built the Maginot line and other huge monuments to stupidity – worst of all they should not have scattered their armor all over their borders so the German invasion spearhead met no solid resistance, they should not have had their Biden like senile military leaders be locked in a castle with no lines of communication but motorcycle couriers so they were always 24 hours late in reacting…lots they should have done differently.

Giving up when defeated did mean they did not compound their stupidity by having their nation flattened after defeat.

And by the way Neville Chamberlain played an interesting game, he dragged out the actual beginning of hostilities so the British industry could be making fighter aircraft, which saved the war. He was plying on a couple levels.

and your line:

”I was also amused by your use of the very outdated and previously overused term “neo-cons.””

Neo-Cons is the correct word. What would call the war-mongering, lobbyist fed, tools of the military Industrial Complex who took us to this crazy war then – if you have a better word?

A. M.
A. M.
1 month ago
Reply to  David Bell

They know US can carpet bomb the whole country at drop of a hat. You ally with the side, that is more dangerous to you as an enemy.

Denise Lewis
Denise Lewis
1 month ago
Reply to  A. M.

Goodd