Confidential

Moroccan Influence: Expansion and Regional Presence

Moroccan Influence: Expansion and Regional Presence
Royal Moroccan Armed Forces; via le360.ma

Summary:

Morocco faces an environment of potential growth and almost certain threats. The conflict in the Western Sahara coincides with cooperation agreements between Morocco, the US and Israel. Spain and the EU continue to be pressured through unconventional means with consequences to diplomatic relations, including Algeria. Attempts at pushing Moroccan influence will almost certainly be carried out in an unstable environment.

Key Judgments

It is likely that aggressive action by Morocco with the Polisario is going to be reactive in the following 12 months. The favourable status-quo reduces the need to carry the initiative in the conflict to maintain Moroccan influence.

  • Recent security cooperation agreements provide Morocco with a long-term capability to wage a low-intensity conflict. Acquiring armed UAV’s and intelligence cooperation reduces the capacity of the Polisario front to strengthen capabilities and carry out attacks.
  • The Polisario is likely going to increase aggressive action. The resumption of hostilities is an opportunity to re-establish constant pressure to Moroccan influence and presence in the Western Sahara. Algerian support to the Polisario is likely going to increase given the UAV targeting of 3 civilians.
  • The increase of foreign investments increases the attractiveness of maintaining a low-intensity conflict. Morocco will almost certainly take aggressive action. Simultaneously, it is almost certainly not in Moroccan interests to increase the likelihood of investment reduction due to security concerns.
Moroccan influence
Polisario Front soldiers during a demonstration; via Flickr

It is likely that pressure placed by Morocco on Spain will attempt to stay out of the umbrella of the EU. The conditions of the Spanish-Moroccan relationship provide an opportunity for Moroccan influence to pressure Spain and avoid an intervention by the EU.

  • The degree of mutual-cooperation with the EU is likely not enough to sustain attempts at increasing Moroccan influence. The balance between economic subsidies and the control of frontiers likely gives Morocco a limited margin of action against the EU as an organisation.
  • The cooperation agreements and relationship between Spain and Morocco is likely asymmetric. The control of border flows and maritime expansionism in Spanish EEZ are indicators of the significance of Moroccan influence. Spanish dependence on Moroccan cooperation for security purposes is likely projected in the degree of secrecy and lack of public reaction by the Spanish government.
  • Actions will highly likely be directed through soft-power means to increase the uncertainty of reactions. Moroccan influence will likely avoid aggressive kinetic action against Spanish or EU interests and remain in a blurred cooperative position. Morocco almost certainly needs to maintain the cooperation of the US, a NATO member.

The unstable environment in the Sahel and North Africa likely forces an increase in the readiness of Morocco. An increase in Moroccan influence in the Maghreb depends on a minimal degree of environmental stability and capability of reaction 

  • Moroccan dependence on the imports of resources creates a long-term need to re-address the security of energy capacity. 90% of energy usage originates from imports and stopping the flow of Algerian gas likely created a minimal deficit in energy consumption.
  • The long-term conditions of an LNG pipeline from Nigeria almost certainly force Morocco to secure current capabilities in the next 12 months. Direct aggression is likely prevented in investments through the US and Israel. The foreign industrial investments in the Dakhla zone of the Western Sahara increase the likelihood of states intervening to protect respective interests. As a consequence, Morocco is insured against attempts to de-stabilise any long term energy strategy.
  • The increase in relevance in the Sahel make it likely that Morocco’s role will increase from a geographical perspective. Concerns of Hezbollah financing the Polisario and Israel using Morocco as an entry to Africa are indicators of the regions strategic importance. The combination of industrial investments and security cooperation make it highly likely that resources are a driver of the increase in Morocco’s geographic and geopolitical relevance.

Author

Iñigo Camilleri De Castanedo

Iñigo is a graduate in psychology specialised in decision-making. He is currently finishing a postgraduate in Politics and History, with particular interests focused on intelligence, non-state actors and information warfare.

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