The rearmament of Morocco and its consolidation in the Sahara could constitute a challenge for the territorial integrity of Spain.
The American recognition comes in a context of weakness of Moroccan rivals and reorganization of existing relations in the region.
Economic projects such as the port of Tanger-Med, which competes directly, with significant advantages, Algeciras, Valencia and Barcelona, are another factor destabilizing the interests of Spain.
Read the report “Morocco, the Strait of Gibraltar and the military threat to Spain”.
The recent recognition by the United States of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara is the latest in a series of diplomatic, political and economic successes for the Alawite kingdom. In addition, Morocco’s growing political and military power poses obvious challenges for European economic interests and Spain’s territorial integrity. These are the main conclusions of the report Morocco, the Strait of Gibraltar and the military threat to Spain, published by the Institute for Security and Culture and written by Guillem Colom, Guillermo Pulido and Mario Guillamó.
This recognition, which commits Morocco to normalizing its relations with Israel and which, according to some reports, the Biden administration has no intention of rescinding, is part of the Abrahamic accords, through which the United States hopes. that “the normalization of relations between the most powerful Arab countries and Israel will oblige the Palestinians to sign a peace agreement with Jerusalem on the most advantageous terms for Netanyahu”. The Abrahamic Accords also aim to improve strategic and security relations in order to meet the serious strategic challenge posed by Iran.
The authors of the report explain that Morocco was able to take advantage of this American strategy to obtain diplomatic success at very low cost, because “Israel and Morocco have long maintained deep economic, political and security relations. It remains to be seen what the domestic cost of an official normalization of Morocco’s relations with Israel would be.
American recognition also undermines the influence that Spain and, above all, France retain in the Maghreb and strengthens the position of the United States as a balancing power through their Moroccan ally. In a context of weakness in other countries in the region, strategic autonomy for Europe and growing Sino-Russian influence, for the United States. “Morocco is becoming a solid bet as a guarantor of regional security and an agent for channeling its national interests”.
On the diplomatic level, American recognition benefits and strengthens the Alawite kingdom in its dispute with the European Union over the exploitation of the waters of Western Sahara, as well as Morocco’s aspiration to extend its continental shelf to 350 nautical miles and to expand its exclusive economic zone, coming into direct conflict with the waters of the Canary Islands. The economic interests of these waters go beyond fishing, as the seamounts of the Canary Islands are rich in metals such as tellurium, cobalt and lead. American support could embolden Morocco vis-à-vis its neighboring countries and lead the Alawite kingdom to “take decisions which unilaterally undermine the sovereignty of other states”. A week after Trump’s recognition, the Moroccan Prime Minister defended that “the day will come when we will reopen the question of Ceuta and Melilla, Moroccan territories like the Sahara”.
On the economic level, the American recognition favors the opening of new markets and gives a serious boost to the will of economic leadership of Morocco, which is already the fifth economic power of Africa and one of the “African Lions”. . Western Sahara is part of the economic development plans of the Alawite kingdom, first as a source of export, mainly of phosphates. Second, it is essential for Morocco’s main infrastructure project, the port of Tanger-Med. As the end point of the “Tangier-Dakar Axis” commercial infrastructure network, its success and future vision depend on the free and secure transit of land goods through Western Sahara. Third, Western Sahara has important economic and geopolitical implications due to the planned construction of a trans-Saharan gas pipeline connecting Nigeria, Morocco and Europe. The bottom line is that in addition to supplying gas to 13 West African nations, this project will shake Algeria’s gas monopoly.
This last point is important in relation to the historic conflict between Morocco and Algeria and the new arms race between the two countries. In addition to its political and economic ambitions, Morocco aspires to regional military supremacy, for which it has notably led since 2017 a five-year rearmament plan of 22 billion dollars with the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia. This rearmament has eliminated Morocco’s main military weaknesses and endowed its armed forces with significant advanced capabilities, which aim to dethrone Algeria, which is not going through its best moment, as the main regional military power.
In addition to the strategic instability that this race generates in the short and medium term in North Africa, in the long term, Moroccan rearmament could pose a challenge to Spain’s military capabilities. This, added to economic projects such as Tanger-Med, which competes directly and with significant advantages with the ports of Algeciras, Valencia and Barcelona, and to the political and territorial ambitions of Morocco, means that the economic interests and the Spain’s territorial integrity could be seriously threatened in the future.
Institute of Security and Culture, 06 May 2021
Tags: Spain, Morocco, United States, Western Sahara, Donald Trump, terrorist integrity, Ceuta, Melilla,