12 Mar 2009

The Iranian-Moroccan Relations: If it rains, it pours!

After the establishment of the Islamic Republic, it is not surprising for an observer to Iranian-Arab relations to come across the cutting off of the diplomatic relations between Iran and Morocco. What is most striking is that even amid the endless tension and distrust, the relations between many Arab countries and Iran were in a nonstop process. For some decades after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, many factors played a huge role in the political separation between Iran and Arab countries. Some of the major factors are: The Iraqi-Iranian War, the talks of prefacing the revolution from its Iranian style to the change resistance regimes in the region, and the Iranian negative attitude against the countries that had strong relations with the prevous Iranian regime. Although Morocco had the same position as other Arab countries towards Iran, the Iranian-Moroccan relations started in the beginnings of the 90s when both countries initiated the reestablishment of the diplomatic relations at the level of their ambassadors. But the Moroccan concern grew when the presence of the Polisario front increased in Iran especially under the approval of the Iranian authority where they gave them the right to open a liaison office in Tehran.

After the conference of 1984 in Casablanca, both countries exchanged press campaigns, where it seemed to the Moroccan authorities (at least) that it is nothing but an advocacy towards the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Not surprisingly, after the conference, many Shiite Moroccan figures were arrested and a number of Muslim Sunni scholars stated a Fatwa where they supported the Moroccan regime and considered the Imam Khomeini’s beliefs erroneous. After these events, a diplomatic crisis and a political break down lasted till the beginnings of the 90s. Consequently, an Islamic conference in Senegal attended by Hashemi Rafsanjani took place and as a result of his meetings with many Arab leaders, the diplomatic relations between these countries and Iran was revived. Although a new era emerged in regard to the diplomatic relations between Iran and the Arab countries, the opening of the embassies was at least for representation, coordination, and mutual work. So far, the mistrust between the Iranians and the Arabs is obvious.

As described by a Moroccan blogger activist in 2007, “that the presence of Shiites in Morocco today is simply a bunch of intellectuals who don’t exceed 50 by number (which is not necessarily the accurate number but at least gives the impression of their being a minority). Most of them received their education in Lebanon or Iraq and were influenced by the writings of the French thinker Henry Corbin and the political Islamic ideologies of Al-Imam Khomeini. Most of these intellectuals are settled in Rabat, Marrakech, Fez and other Northern regions. Shiites have no spiritual authorities in Morocco but they follow the one in Iraq and Iran.” This information about the Shiites in Morocco needs a lot of discussion, however, there is a certain kind of affection from the Moroccans for Al-Albiet (the Family of Prophet Muhammad) rooted in the history of intellectuals as well as the existence of Sufism cult in Shia’ism. What is remarkable in this relation is the emergence of Al Mustabsiroon dogma (the Clairvoyants). Those are a group of people who changed their beliefs from Sunni to Shiite and some of them are prominent figures in Morocco. What enlarged the tension between Morocco and Iran is on the one hand, the expansion of this phenomenon in Morocco which has increased after the Islamic Revolution, and on the other hand, the political tune addressed from Tehran regarding the revolutionary support of the 80s; these two factors caused a constant fear of other countries in facing any external intervention.

Even among the hostile positions of Eastern Arab countries against Iran, no change has taken place in the Moroccan position in respect of Iranian relations with Iraq and Hezbollah. Morocco has been in line with the Arab countries in their criticism of the Iranian intervention in Iraq. Additionally, Morocco was not satisfied with the War of 2006 that happened after arresting the two Israeli soldiers and which consequently led Morocco to announce its position in regard to the Bahraini sovereignty. The Moroccan opposing position drew the attention of some Arab capitals such as Cairo and Riyadh, but Tehran never asked for any explanation which was the last straw.

This model of the Iranian-Moroccan relations and their aftermaths is the typical model of all Iranian-Arab relations. It is a model that would be easily repeated in the middle of those vast disagreements which started since the establishment of the Islamic revolution and which are getting wider through history especially with the huge gap in both positions.

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