Will Morocco remain on the sidelines as Arab and Western countries normalise relations with Iran?

China reconciles Saudi Arabia and Iran

A number of countries are working to normalise their relations with Iran, in particular the United States and Saudi Arabia. However, Morocco may remain the only Arab and Islamic country that could remain in a state of break with Iran after Egypt indicated the possibility of exchanging ambassadors with Tehran before the year end.

Arab relations with Iran have been strained in recent years, due to its alleged spread of Shiism and interference in a number of countries such as Syria and Lebanon. Especially its interference in the war in Yemen, where Tehran is accused of using the Houthi movement to wage war on its behalf.

Saudi Arabia and Iran signed a reconciliation agreement last March thanks to Chinese mediation, and this resumption of relations could evolve into military cooperation to secure shipping in the Persian Gulf. Signs of future close cooperation between Tehran and Riyadh for peace in the region are becoming increasingly visible. Egypt could also re-establish relations before the end of year, and perhaps even in September 2023, as Cairo does not want to remain on the sidelines of developments in the Middle East, particularly after Syria’s return to the Arab League.

On the other hand, Morocco remains the only Arab and Muslim country that has shown no sign of wishing to normalise relations with Iran. Iran’s initiative was expressed by Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdoullahian’s statement on Thursday that his country wished to re-establish relations with a number of countries, including Egypt and Morocco.

Morocco has developed a discourse against Iran based on warning against its infiltration of North and West Africa, and then its assistance to the Polisario Front. Morocco has shown solidarity with the Gulf States in their conflict with Iran, whether in the war in Yemen or in the crisis between Bahrain and Iran. The Gulf States have committed themselves to resuming relations with Iran, regardless of Morocco’s rhetoric. It seems that the Syria scenario is being repeated, with Rabat having demanded that Syria’s return be conditional on its commitment not to oppose Morocco on the Sahara issue, but the Arab Gulf States have ignored this condition.

Morocco is now faced with another challenge, which is to see how the process of normalisation between Iran and the West, in particular the United States, which is concerned about the nuclear issue, unfolds. While the West is not bothered about Morocco’s concerns about Iran’s supposed role in North and West Africa. In this respect, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged last week that there were indirect talks between Washington and Tehran. All the indications are that these talks have been going on for months with the mediation of the Sultanate of Oman.

By seeking appeasement, Iran seems to be showing pragmatism in its foreign relations by not imposing any conditions on the resumption of relations with other countries. The question that remains is whether Morocco will remain the last country not to resume relations with Iran, or will it also adopt the pragmatic approach and exchange ambassadors with Tehran?


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