Washington’s action has unearthed Madrid’s true “feelings” and intentions toward its neighbor to the south.
Washington D.C – Surprised and stunned by the United States decision to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara territory, the Spanish government struggled to control its displeasure, anger and fear of the ramifications of such monumental development on its policy in North Africa.
Washington’s action has unearthed Madrid’s true “feelings” and intentions toward its neighbor to the south. Complicating matters further is the Moroccan Israeli alliance that would strengthen Morocco and empower it to stand against Spain’s hidden agenda.
Morocco’s normalization with Israel and the future military and political cooperation between the two states represent a real nightmare for the Spanish military and intelligence agencies. This new development coupled with the American support should be an impetus for the Spanish government to start a new, honest, respectful and open dialogue with the Moroccans on all outstanding topics.
Meanwhile, the Spanish political establishment must come to terms with Morocco’s security seeds and adjust to Rabat’s new politico-military significance and prominence.
Morocco and Spain have gone through several vicissitudes in their decades-old bilateral relationship since the collapse of the Franco dictatorship. The two nations appear at present to be going through a complicated and decisive phase.
Madrid’s long standing “covert” strategy of keeping Morocco bogged down in the Sahara conflicts is no longer operational. Spain’s intelligence agencies distracting tactics to burry Rabat’s demands to decolonize the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla came to the surface once Spain rejected the U.S. endorsement of Morocco’s Autonomy Plan for the Western Sahara.
Spain’s refutation of the new American position has fueled the Moroccan public’s perceptions that Madrid position in the Western Sahara dossier is in fact adversarial. Failing to take advantage of this opportune moment to settle the Sahara conflict and end the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians stuck in Algeria , the Pedro Sanchez’s government chose instead to urge the Trump administration to reverse position , thereby not only discounting Moroccan interests, but also engaging in a deceptive diplomatic maneuver against its neighbor to the south.
In fact, reassurances form the Spanish Monarch and statements by foreign minister Ms. Arancha González Laya that relations between the two kingdoms are in “good health” are unlikely to squash speculations about the true state of bilateral affairs, especially considering the relentless attacks on Morocco in the Spanish press and from several political organizations.
It is insulting and offending to Moroccans to see Spain’s foreign ministry summon Morocco’s ambassador in Madrid to explain a declaration by its prime minister claiming the two enclaves in North Africa, when the Moroccan government deliberately ignored deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias statements calling Polisario separatists brothers and promising to stand with them.
How would Mr. Iglesias, Ms. González Laya and the rest of the Spanish political establishment feel if a Moroccan official invites pro-independence Catalan politicians to Morocco and give refuge, funds and non-governmental support to Catalan separatists and their leaders who are currently refugees in Brussels?
If Spain feels righteous in claiming Catalonia and in negotiating with Britain over the future of Gibraltar, so does Morocco in claiming the Western Sahara and asserting the rights to Ceuta and Melilla.
Moroccans are neither ignorant nor ambivalent to the fact that Spanish parties on the right and far-right like Vox and Popular Party or on the left like Podemos hold deep seated anti-Moroccan feelings. In fact, it looks more and more like Spanish and Moroccan positions on some key issues are in a direct collision.
Unfortunately, Spain is the only European country that opposed, on record, the American position and lobbied the Biden administration to reverse recourse. Thus, there is a clear and growing rift in Moroccan-Spanish relations. Not only different positions but also opposing interests, which could lead to further consequences.
Spain faces today the hard choice of whether or not to stand by Morocco as a friend or come out as a foe. Thus far, the signs from Madrid have been vague, contradictory and unsatisfactory; even tough, Spain can prove its sincere friendship with Morocco by explicitly endorsing Morocco’s Autonomy Plan and opening serious and fair dialogue over the status of the enclaves.