Thursday, April 18, 2013

Morocco Cancels Joint Military Exercises with U.S., Condemns Proposal for Human Rights Watch in Western Sahara

            From Wednesday, April 17th: The U.S. is redeploying troops, which were supposed to take part in annual joint Moroccan-American military exercises.  Morocco announced that it would cancel its part in the annual African Lion exercises amid a dispute over Western Sahara.  These exercises would have involved 1,400 U.S. troops and 900 members of the Moroccan military.  The U.S. backed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's proposal for “sustained” human rights monitoring in Western Sahara.  This was strongly criticized by the Moroccan government as an “attack on the sovereignty of Morocco” and as something which “will have negative consequences on the stability of the whole region.”

            This characterizes the ongoing territorial dispute within the region of Western Sahara.  Moroccan sovereignty over the region is not recognized by any member state of the UN, nor is Western Sahara recognized as being independent.  That being said, the willingness of the U.S. to deploy troops to the region indicates that the international community will continue to play a major role in shaping the region and the politics of Morocco. 

A Moroccan Soldier grappling with a reserve U.S. Marine during a martial arts training in Tifnit, Morocco, May, 16, 2010 at African Lion.

            The topic of human rights is also of major concern to the stability of the Moroccan Monarchy, much like many other countries in the region.  However, Morocco differs from other countries in the region in that it doesn’t have vast natural resources to support the regime and its level of cooperation with the West, notably the U.S.  Without vast resources, like Saudi Arabia, the West does not have to please the regime for the sake of resource security.  This means that the west would most likely be more supportive of democratization than in oil rich regions.  The fact that the U.S. also has military alliances with Morocco means that it will be more likely to intervene, than say in Syria, if instability arose.  Looking ahead, how with the refusal by the Moroccan government to engage in the military exercises affect the region?  It’s not likely to change U.S. and European foreign policy goals in the region, as they already have a heavy influence there, nor will it change the disputed status of Western Sahara, which is not recognized as part of Morocco.  

"US to redeploy Morocco troops in Western Sahara spat." BBC News Africa. BBC, 18 Apr 2013. Web. 18 Apr 2013. <>.

1 comment:

  1. The problem of Western Sahara definitely highlights some of the underlying issues in Morocco that need to be addressed in order to consider the country a true parliamentary democracy.

    It is interesting that despite the human rights issues in Morocco, even the organized protestors were never looking to overthrow the monarchy. Mohammed VI has been able to maintain a miraculously stable regime with broad support, even without the presence of oil as in the case of Saudi Arabia. It seems that any conceivable outcome will still include the monarchy in some capacity.