The Europeans criticising the Ottoman barbarous conduct towards the Arabs was a justification designed to occupy and establish various new states in the Levant to serve their interests and the rulers’. The inhabitants have, ever since, been grazing their camels under Western spell. The Europeans also had their eyes on Morocco and worked tirelessly to conquer it and finally managed to divide it into four areas: the two Spanish zones, one in the North and the other in the Southern regions of Western Sahara, and France kept the bulk of useful central Morocco and the territories that form nowadays Mauritania. France put Spain as a buffer zone between Morocco and Mauritania to improve its security and make it difficult for the ALN to attack them. This extended independence of Morocco was resented by the Arabs, because the Moroccans rejected any link with the Mashreq and its masters, the Ottoman Empire, but accepted a limited and cautious one with Europe. The world became de facto divided after the Second World War, and the Middle East and North Africa were either in the Socialist Russian Camp or the Capitalist American Camp. However, the 1955 Bandung Conference created a third way leading to the non-aligned movement that was founded in Belgrade in 1961 and the Tricontinental that was initiated by Mehdi Ben Barka before his Moroccan enemies assassinated him in Paris in 1965, and was founded posthumously with a successful Tricontinental conference taking place in Cuba in August 1967. Though there were successes amongst the non-aligned countries but it was not really the case for the majority of the leaders who did not remain faithful to that commitment and most of them moved with the wind of change opting for self-interests. For Morocco it was mostly political as well as historical and played on both to draw benefits from the USSR and from the USA, but successive Algerian governments, since they became a Nation-State at independence in 1962, adopted the Revolutionary slogan of the FLN anti-imperialism to achieve their personal goals and count amongst the heroes of revolutionaries like Chee Guevara and Fidel Castro or supporting terrorist as shown by Bouteflika embracing Carlos while holding OPEC Ministers hostages at Algiers Airport tarmac and receiving him as a hero. They developed animosity towards Morocco for different reasons and only the leadership of the FLN could, perhaps, one day explain.
Spain had its own reasons, going back to 711, and showed similar resentment which was deeply rooted in the Spanish psyche ever since it emerged as a barbarous and a savage state after the Moors left. History records Spanish crimes against humanity with its large ethnic cleansing operations in South America, ‘a people with no souls’, in mainland Spain from the Reconquista to the Inquisition, a savagery they practised in all the colonies to the most recent past by gassing the people of the Rif and of the Moroccan Western Sahara. Spain ignored its barbarous acts in occupied Latin America, its massacres during the Reconquista, the effect of the Inquisition with the Alhambra Decree/Edict of Expulsion of Jews on 29 April 1492 and the Edict of 9 April 1609 to expel the Moriscos, and now is set on its wars to conquer Morocco in order to show its artificial greatness to hide its deep rooted weaknesses. Algeria, as a country that never was prior to 1962, just as Spain never was before the XVth century, acted on its instinct based on poor historical achievement when compared to Morocco, and what a better way to cover up its deficiencies of a failed state than defy its neighbour who helped it more than anyone else to gain independence, and the payback was to backtrack on its agreements (made before it became a State) with Morocco and withdraw its original support for Moroccan Sahara, as agreed with Boumediene at the Rabat Conference held in October 1974. Jacob Mundy writes, “At the October 1974 Arab League summit in Rabat, Boumediene allegedly gave his blessing to a Moroccan-Mauritanian division of Spanish Sahara. Nor did Algeria initially seem enthusiastic about Polisario, founded in May 1973; Algerian officials were known to have even deported its leaders on occasioni. It is for reasons of realpolitik, on the one hand, and supremacy in the region, on the other, that both, Algeria and Spain, vilify the Kingdom they could not subdue. They see Morocco as a powerful enemy who ruled them and not as a civilisation that treated them fairly and equally giving them the gift of life, which is the enlightenment of a culture and knowledge that are perennial and second to none.
A rapprochement with England did not stop English ambition to expand into Morocco which, unlike the rest of the Levant and North Africa under Ottoman Empire, remains independent. It managed, so far, to escape the grip of colonialism but, nevertheless, became a pray to Britain, France and Spain as the three competing countries increased their incursions. England for a short period was able to secure a commercial post near Tarfaya in the Moroccan Sahara when it sent in Donald Mackenzie, a Scotsman, to set up Casa Mar in 1878 only to be negotiated between the Sultan Abdelaziz of Morocco and England in 1895, thus proving Moroccan sovereignty over the region, if proof was needed, and Mackenzie received £50,000 in compensation to leave the Moroccan Saharan shores. However, the Imazighen victory at Oued el Makhazine altered certain views on Moroccan military capabilities. This resulted in some hesitation to provoke Morocco to another war and for a while here was a short time of respite for the Moroccan army to take stock. This situation changed and was interrupted when Spain with its new allies organised an aggressive attack against the Moroccan town of Tetuan. In fact, Spanish, French and English ambition on Morocco was never in doubt and in 1859, they merged their forces and took the opportunity to defeat Morocco, the last independent Nation-State in Africa and the Middle East that remained sovereign. It involved three major powers to engage in a fierce combat in Tetuan against the Moroccan army. As a result, the military lost that battle and Spain, with the approval of the French and the British, drew a treaty imposing war damages far beyond the means that the Moroccan economy could afford, reminiscent of what was to emerge in the post-World War One, after the Treaty of Versailles that led to a rise in German nationalism and to the Second World War. The 1860 victory of the West against the Far West Morocco was a new type of piracy when Spain imposed heavy compensation damages on the Kingdom leading the country to run heavy debts which drove the country into bankruptcy and forced to accept loans with exaggerated conditions. Furthermore, during the Berlin Conference of 1884, Spain declared “a protectorate of the African coast” from Cape Blanc to Cape Boujdour on 26 December 1884 as its zones of influence which was reinforced by the Algeciras Accord of 1906 imposing a Protectorate to ‘modernize Morocco’s institutions, administration, police, military and finance in 1912’. Nevertheless, this did not break the Amazigh spirit, but reinforced its determination to fight another day. The conflicts between Spain and Morocco over the Sahara intensified after the 1884 Berlin Accord when the Sahraoui people of Morocco challenged the Spaniards by stiff resistance, as in the past, to make Spanish occupation limited to a few military shacks in some isolated Moroccan shores. This uprising saw the powerful Smara tribes of Sheikh Ma al’Aynayn lead a rebellion in 1904 that was only interrupted by French intervention from their bases in Algeria in 1910. It was only after the second destruction of Samara in 1934, which coincided with a new Moroccan Nationalist Movement that emerged in the same year, that a political solution was put as an alternative. This coincided with the failure of the French Berber Dahir of 16 May 1930, which was totally rejected by the Imazighen, an act that now some people perhaps regret because of the long neglect to establish the Amazigh language and culture as a national heritage and belong to all Moroccans. The armed struggle was never out of the equation and was renewed in 1953 and lasted to the declaration of independence in 1955, but some elements of the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN), with different names, which was active in Morocco since 1953, continued its fight in Western Sahara till 1958, when most of it was integrated into the newly created Forces Armées Royales (FAR), and other movements continued their political struggle for liberating all Moroccan occupied territories.
However, in addition to Morocco-Spanish conflicts, there was also a direct continuous Franco-Morocco conflicts that was declared by France in 1844 and only ended in 1955ii, though by 1912 Britain and Portugal were out of the equation, except for the 1925 Tangiers International status. The Moroccans, from the Sahara to the Rif, intensified their combat particularly in the constant wars near Melilla, the nearby Mountains of the Rif, the Sahara wars which continued to the 1950s. The wars for independence started in 1953 and extended beyond present Morocco to include Mauritania and the Sahara countering the alliance of the two fascist dictatorships: Spain and Vichy France. The irony, however, is that the Moroccans also chose to die for France in the First World War, and it was the Riffian army that put Franco into power during the Civil War and remained, ever since, as Franco’s Presidential Guard, and part of the African Units today. Furthermore, it was the Moroccan army that liberated French Corsica in the Second World War, broke the Monte Casino German siege in Italy opening the road to the Allied armies to march through Italy, France to Belgium and finally with the Imazighen Goumiers to make together their final stand in Berlin, Germany. They equally led the most important contingent in Egypt, Indochina, and Africa. So, if they liberated France from the Italian fascists, Nazi Germany and Petain’s supporters, why not liberate Morocco and this was the other main concern for the nationalists when they signed their First Manifesto for Independence on 11 January 1944. By 1950s, these reflections were turned into actions and by 1955, Morocco, through diplomacy and a show of force that is by now beyond any doubt, partly won its independence. Nevertheless, the question of the Moroccan Sahara is still a subject of the United Nations diplomacy; the Presidios of Ceuta, Melilla and the surrounding Islands with the Amazigh Guanche of the Canary Islands as well as occupied Tindoufiii by Moroccan Polisario units under Algerian administration, are still awaiting a clear government orientation and, sooner or later, have to be put on the Official Agenda for liberation.
The Spanish army had a bad experience in Morocco throughout its history and life was not made easier for a weak state like Spain to adventure into such military conflicts it could ill-afford; it found itself faced with a major continuous problem in the Rif which, more often than not, turned into military engagement Spain could hardly deal with. The fear of failure and humiliation suffered by the Spanish army when facing the Sanhaja Imazighen from the Moroccan Sahara to the Zenata of the Moroccan Rif is no different from the fear the Franks experienced with the British; this is historical and stems from witnessing the crushing defeat suffered by Portugal at the Oued el Makhazine at Ksar el Kebir in 1578 and king Sebastian to lose his head in that battle as well as over 8000 of his soldiers were slaughtered at the hands of the Amazigh Saadi Sultan Abdel Malik as well as taking 15000 prisoners. A good reason for Phillip II and III to take revenge and cover up for Spanish defeat in Morocco that he decided to expel all Moriscos and Marranos from Amazigh al Andalus. A humiliation that is reminiscent of the 18 June 1815 defeat of France’s Napoleon with the British Wellington at Waterloo, Belgium. This defeat led to Spain and Portugal forming a short-lived union of the two kingdoms under Philip II of Spain, who persecuted Muslims and Jews there, whereas Morocco reinforced its relations with England when Queen Victoria was in conflict with Spain. Spain was to suffer another humiliation under the siege of Larache undertaken by the strong army of Moulay Ismail when it dislodged them in 1689 from the region they had occupied for over 80 years. However, the French attack on Tangier and the battle that the Beni Snassen lost at Oued Isly in 1844, as well as the British securing, under pressure, a friendship agreement leading to Anglo-Moroccan commercial treaties in 1856, were interpreted by Spain as signs of Moroccan weaknesses. As a result of these interpretations, they sought the help of the British and the French to provoke the Tetuan war that lasted from 1859 to 1860.
This was only a loss of a battle considering the outcome of subsequent conflicts when Spain suffered major defeats in the hands of the Rif people starting with the Rif capturing a Spanish merchant vessel in 1890 and by the time the Spanish could intervene, they discovered that the captives had already been sold into slavery. Reminiscent of Oued el Makhazine when the whole Spanish army was crushed, it was difficult for Spain to swallow this situation and as bad losers, they started to foster hate and revenge which overtook compassion and tolerance. They provoked more wars to save face, and never could they put it through their thick skulls that they were invading a country that ruled and civilised them for over 700 years. As a result of this incident over the capture of the Spanish vessel, tension rose on both sides and finally the people of the Rif set siege on Melilla on 6 October 1893. This led to a series of skirmishes that were provoked by accidental shells falling and destroying a Mosque which added oil on fire when most tribes joined the jihad. Causalities were not substantial but, nevertheless important as the Governor Magallo of Melilla died on 28 October 1893 amongst other retreating soldiers leaving many dead victims on the run. Finally reinforcement arrived from Spain and war was declared on Morocco on 3 November, and towards the end of the conflict there were some 200 dead with another 12 officers on the Spanish side, and possibly more than the Spanish care to declare, and on the Moroccan side there were around 500 declared dead. An agreement was formulated in the Treaty of Fes of 25 April 1894 to pay damages to Spain amounting to 20 million pesetas but were never paid.
Furthermore, when Spain discovered iron ore in the region of Nador, the local people objected to the rail company to take their land to build a railroad and killed 6 of its agents on 9 July 1909, leading to the disastrous several lost battles that ensued in the second Melilla war from 1909 to 1910. Each time Spain lost a battle it called for more reinforcement to settle the score until common sense prevailed and an agreement with the people there was reached. By the end of the hostilities in 1910, Spain lost over 2,517 dead and over 1,000 Prisoners, including the death of Colonel Alvarez Cabrera. There were 26 dead in early 1909 with another 230 wounded and on 27 July 1909 battle, there were, at the el Barranco del Lobo of Mount Gurugú 1000 dead including General Guillermo Pintos Ledesma, others put figures as low as 153 killed only. When the conflicts finally ended around the region of Melilla in 1910, Morocco was punished and forced to pay 20 million pesetas on war damages, in addition to the 100 million pesetas already imposed on the country after the Tetuan defeat in 1860. This was not to be the first or the last lost battle in which the Spanish army suffered and found it difficult to accept and live with. They felt humiliated worldwide because their army was wiped out for the third time and their spirit and pride destroyed, reminiscent of Oued el Makhazine. Melilla was a prelude to what to come during the first encounter with Abdelkrim in the third Rif War of 1920. Spain faced the Rif alone and without the treachery and the military assistance which the French and the British previously provided. Nevertheless, now the King of Spain, Alfonse III, and his general turned to Germany chemical specialist, Hugo Stoltenberg, to develop chemical technology and managed to set up a plant in Madrid, for the sole purpose to destroying the Rif people. In 1925, France convinced the sultan of Morocco that Abdelkrim was annexing Morocco to his design and Lyautey was given the green light to participate by setting up camp on the Rif border with some 20 000 soldiers under his command at Ouargha River. By July 1925, Lyautey lost 5000 soldiers and the Ouargha Battle became synonymous for the French as was the Anoual battle for the Spaniards where they lost 14000 soldiers dead and 1000 were taken prisoners of which only around 350 survived and freed. This marked the end of Lyautey who was replaced by the fascist, Marshal Petain, who was not a diplomate but happy to gas the Riffians, as he later send French Jews to German concentration camps and gas chambers. Petain gave all he could to destroy the people of the Rif and provided ground support and air cover, using French and American pilots who were led to believe, by French and Spanish fascist world propaganda, that they were fighting communism. The Spaniards took their revenge on the Rif people and in addition to ground fire power that decimated not only the army but the civilian population (children, women and old) but what remained was left to French, American and Spanish pilots to gas and finished them from the air. Nevertheless, the allied forces lost 31000 dead and wounded, 12000 of them were French, whereas Abdelkrim lost 15400 dead and wounded. This fourth war in the Rif, led to the exile of Abdelkrim in 1926 and for Franco to return to the Rif to recruit soldiers to destroy Spanish people in mainland Spain and govern Spain with an iron first from 1936 to his death that delivered back the Moroccan Sahara in 1975, just before his last gasp. Spain with France so far escaped any war damages, condemnation of genocide or compensation for using mustard gas in the Rif and later in the Western Sahara.
Spain has always lived in fear of, perhaps, unpredictable Moroccan action, and has always been on the offensive and ready for confrontation and prepared to use force out of proportion to carry out its actions, as demonstrated again over the Moroccan Leila or Perejil Island in 2002, when Morocco lacked any serious Navy deterrence. This deficiency has been partly remedied in the last few years that can cause serious worries to the Spanish Navy, reminiscent of the Sahraoui Almoravid and Almohad Empires. Morocco, with its new multi-mission frigates equipped with MdCN deep-strike cruise missiles, Aster anti-air missiles, Exocet MM40 anti-ship missiles and MU90 torpedoes etc., has reinforced and created a new and well equipped Navy with the latest technology to defend its territorial waters with surface to surface, surface to air, and surface to under water anti-submarine weapons and be a credible deterrent to any foolish adventure of the past. Moroccan command relies on ONE Commander in Chief and not subject to Parliamentary debate or any institution to delay a swift action (shoot first and ask questions later) if such action is deemed appropriate and necessary within the Military High Command, headed by the King.
The Rif war has not yet finished and the big showdown remains to be seen with Ceuta, Melilla, Jaaffarines and many other smaller islands around the Moroccan coast as well as the return of the Gouache Amazigh Islands. Though, and more seriously for both countries, the real war is more economic than a military one, but, if diplomacy fails, armed conflict as an option, as required by realpolitik, is never ruled out by Spain or Morocco. The new Strategic Ksar Essaghir Navy Base to be fully operational in 2016, the Tangier Med and the Nador West Med are seen both as economic and military threat, a fact which Spain does not hide and sees the glass only half-empty and to which it is hostile as they impinge on the Spanish economy affecting Malaga and Motril in general, and Algeciras and Almeria ports activities in particular. The Moroccan Navy base adds to the British Navy in Gibraltar and the entente cordiale or alliance between Morocco and England represent another challenge to disturb and threaten the Spanish navy’s hegemony on the Straight of Jabal Tarik. Morocco, however, sees its first role as securing its 81,000-square-nautical mile exclusive economic zone that stretches over 2,952 km of which the Strait of Gibraltar is an important international strategic world navigation passage and forms an integral part of its policy on security. Secondly, Morocco considers its role as complementary to security and to reinforce the control of the region from sea piracy, terrorism, black market and drug trafficking in addition to illegal immigration, thus ensuring the safety of the shipping lines and respond more effectively in case of emergencies as well as sea disasters, including sea nuclear disasters. On the one hand, there is an existential military threat when they are facing the Moroccan navy which they see as a source of confrontation, rather than a complementary force to control together, with the UK, the safety of navigation in the region and ensure the security of the Mediterranean, as the Moroccan government insists on. This threat increased since Morocco reinforced its navy facilities, both material and strategic, and acquired many new multi-mission and multifunctional vessels equipped with some of the most up to date frigates, corvettes as well as the ongoing negotiation of the purchase of one or two Russian Submarines AMUR 1650, though there is a possibility of purchasing a Spanish vessel S-80, or even a German model, American and others have also been considered by the Moroccan Navy Admiralty.iv As previously stated, there are more innovations, modernization and equipment taking place to update the Navy which is under-equipped, but gradually reinforcing its arsenal to represent a real deterrent to Spanish Navy as well as to Algerian Navy and keep a balancing power that is now more in favour of Spain and Algeria. However, the Ksar Essaghir base is to be ready in 2016, after a delay of more than 6 years, and the reasons are kept secret, possibly because there have been more modifications to accommodate future Moroccan submarines and also NATO and American fleets including nuclear vessels, but not confirmed by any official source. Moroccan Navy Zones or the Military in general is no match to the Spanish Armada and NATO, with 4 major Maritime Zones: Ferrol on the Atlantic, San Fernando near Cadiz, Cartagena on the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands facing Laayoune in Southern Morocco, and Las Palmas, but the will to engage and the long term consequences of such an engagement is far serious than gaining a battle. Morocco has only 2 major bases of the Royal Moroccan Navy located in Casablanca, and the most modern and sophisticated one at Ksar Sghirv to be fully operational in 2016, with another 4 minor ones found in Al Hoceima, Agadir, Dakhla and Laayoune. Borders insecurity and opening the shores of Morocco are more important weapons than any Moroccan Navy or military confrontation. However, Moroccan power may lay in fact, outside the exchange of security information and the control of terrorism, on this existential possibility of opening the floodgate to Europe which would shadow the 2 million or so Iraqis, Syrians and other persecuted victims seen today cross from Turkey to Europe when compared to millions of African and other harraga from around the world landing in a Moroccan existential visa free country to access Europe, a serious weapon for one, and a worry for the other.
Spain more than France experienced first-hand the capabilities of the Moros for more than 700 years and their fear are real and could not forget the Moroccan navy professionalism. This goes back to the Naval Force of the Sahraoui Amazigh Almoravid dynasty of the XIth century that dominated the Mediterranean under Admiral Abdullah Ben Mimoun. He was able to reinforce and consolidate the Amazigh Empire in Spain and ensure the logistics to secure the delivery of supplies of men and material between Morocco and Andalus, a navy that was kept alive for centuries. There were other world famous admirals that Morocco produced over the centuries to include Abdellah Ben Aicha, admiral of Salé and Ambassador to Louis XIV of France in 1689, Abdelkader Perez, ambassador to England in 1723 and in 1737, Abdellah Ben Sleiman, Commander of the Almohads fleet under sultan Abdel Moumen, Abdellah Ben Taa Allah, Commander of the Almohads fleet under Mohammed Annasir and Governor of Majorca, Corsair Triki of Salé in the 17 century, to be revived by Vice-Admiral Mohammed Triki of Safi as Commander in Chief of the Royal Moroccan Navy from 1991 to 2005. Moroccan navy was the best in the world during the Almoravid Empire from the 11th century when it had sea hegemony in the region.
This sea power was further reorganised and reinforced under the Amazigh Almohads dynasty, a force that survived in the region and threatened free navigation to world trade during a long drawn Barbary and World Piracy that became a world legend. The Spaniards are aware of the Moroccan naval historical capacity to dominate the sea, as they used Moros to help them with their navy as did France use the expertise of the exiled Moriscos to modernize their navy. This naval capacity was reinforced with the arrival of the Almohads who reorganised their navy to become the first fleet on the Mediterranean. The Moroccan navy power became world famous to the point and in spite of their differences, even the Ayyubid dynasty of Egypt and Salah Eddine sought their help against the Crusades expeditions. The Moroccan contribution to the war effort against the Crusades was rewarded with a token of appreciation by Saladin’s son, el Malik el Fadhil when he established, in their honour, Bab al Maghariba Quarters in 1193, as the French would do to value the Muslim contribution to France during the First World War by building the Grande Mosquée de Paris. The Moroccans have ever since been expanding this area of occupied East Jerusalem with different Moroccan donners and benefactors to promote Islamic studies and values and waiting for its liberation from another fanatic Zionism colonialism. Moroccan navy was so powerful that all emerging European powers fought it to destroy its naval capacity.
However, Spain has not developed mentally to deal with the XXIst century and is still carrying its venom of the Reconquista, or the mentality it developed with South America, applying the concept of the ‘theory of humans without a soul’, pre-dating Hitler by more than 400 years. If the king of Spain invited Germans to build gas factories to use against the Rif Republic, Franco’s Spain turned once more to Nazi Germany to benefit from its inhuman policies when Franco sent Vallejo Najera to Germany to study and develop the principles and the concepts of eugenics, a doctrine of racial hygiene, by stealing Spanish babies, breaking them psychologically and distributing them to Franco’s faithful Catholics, which also included stolen Moroccan babies. They were given and brought up by Catholic Franco supporters, the kind of people we see today in the PP like Aznar and his family or le Dauphin, Mario Rajoy who is clinging to power in spite of his failure at the 2015 general elections. They are still supported by ever more increasing Franco movement protected by a general amnesty and still very active and reminiscing on the return of the good old days. These are the descendant of the very people who extended the conflicts in the Sahara, even when Spain was only able to assure certain success in 1958 with the help of the French military joining them against the Moroccan and Sahraoui ALN. But Moroccan intransigence and diplomacy won over the barrel of the gun and the country got back the Tarfaya Strip in 1958, Sidi Ifni in 1969 and the Western Sahara on 6 November 1975, marking thus the 40th anniversary of Liberation on 6th November 2015. This justifies that the Sahara is well anchored in Moroccan shores, because it is the Sanhaja Amazigh of the Sahara that made Morocco, and now the Sahara is in its historical Amazigh Morocco it created in the first place.