“The partnership between Morocco and the Emirates and the challenges of the ‘Greater Mediterranean'”. By Jean Sylvestre Mongrenier

With the election of Joe Biden as President, American foreign policy is likely to take several turns. In the Middle East, the desire to resume communications with Tehran is accompanied by strong words. In fact, it would be dangerous for the new government to systematically undo what was achieved during the previous presidency, especially in the last few months.

Irrespective of all critics, the “Abraham Accords”, the expression and vector of a geopolitical reorientation in the Near and Middle East, from the Maghreb to the Arab-Persian Gulf, can be attributed to the Trump administration. Signed on September 15, 2020, they consist of the establishment of bilateral relations between Israel, on the one hand, and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, on the other, under the figure of Abraham, the patriarch of the Bible. A trilateral agreement strengthens these bilateral relations. As a testament to the dynamism of this “family” diplomacy, embodied by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Khartumet Rabat rallied its partners in the Arab-Persian Gulf on October 25 and December 10, 2020.

With good reason, the Abraham Accords and the formation of a geopolitical axis designed to contain Iran and stabilize the “Greater Mediterranean,” as geopolitician Yves Lacoste put it, has caught the attention of observers in the region. The overall goal is to contain the worrying rise in power of Shia Iran, which through its ballistic-nuclear program could soon deploy an “aggressive safe haven” strategy and destabilize the Middle East, with repercussions in the western Mediterranean. For their part, they may have eclipsed the importance of the “strategic partnership” between Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, two key countries in the system of Western alliances.

Diverse help. Bilaterally, Abu Dhabi and Rabat do not aim to create a new reality: the challenge is rather to deepen a relationship written in history since the founding of the United Arab Emirates (1971), close and mutually beneficial. Because of what these two countries represent—in their respective geographic settings, as well as on the scale of the Arab-Muslim world—strengthening these ties with their diplomatic and strategic outcomes presents a number of challenges.

Indeed, from the perspective of France and Europe, which are dependent on the balances in the Mediterranean, it is crucial that Morocco – a key country at the crossroads of the Maghreb and West Africa – benefits from Abu Dhabi’s multifaceted aid. Especially since that support is backed by increased American aid, fair compensation for Rabat’s contribution to the diplomatic normalization of Arab-Israeli relations.

“If the spiritual dimension of this enterprise can escape the observer scalded by much rambling about Sufism; Rest assured that its success will determine the outcome of the “long war” against Islamic terrorism and its ideological roots.”

In this web of political-strategic hopes, diplomatic calculations and overlapping interests, the international recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over its “southern provinces” (Western Sahara) is an undeniable success of the Cherif monarchy. While Abu Dhabi has opened a consulate in Western Sahara, Washington should follow suit, unless the Biden administration scuttles that breakthrough. If common European diplomacy remains cautious on this issue, the Quai d’Orsay could only welcome the contribution of such an agreement to regional stability. Indeed, we know the links that connect France to Morocco.

For its part, the United Arab Emirates are expanding their influence and consolidating their diplomatic role in this vast spatial entity, from the Atlantic coasts of North Africa to the Arab-Persian Gulf, as well as in the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa. Furthermore. At this level of analysis, the challenge is to counter the threat of subversion of Sunni Arab regimes by the policies of Tehran, which has built a sort of “Shia bridge” across the Middle East, thereby securing access to the Islamic State in the Mediterranean. It is also about fighting Sunni Islamism.

palace and mosque. In fact, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco are engaged in a long struggle for the soul of Islam at the same time. The main idea is to promote a different, more peaceful and balanced conception of the relationship between “palace” and “mosque”. It contradicts the various forms of Islamism that undermine the very purpose and ultimate goals of religious practice. If the spiritual dimension of this enterprise can escape the observer scalded by much rambling about Sufism; Rest assured that its success will decide the outcome of the “long war” against Islamist terrorism and its ideological roots.

Seen from the north coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the future of the strategic partnership between Morocco and the United Arab Emirates can therefore not leave anyone indifferent: the security and stability of Europe, considered a “soft bottom” by Islamists and jihadists of all persuasions in the West, are in Question. Therefore, it is important that the Biden administration’s inevitable corrections to US regional policy do not jeopardize what is essential.

In addition, it is vital that the two shores of the North Atlantic coordinate their efforts to consolidate the Rabat-Abu Dhabi diplomatic axis, a key factor in the grand geopolitical game being played out on Europe’s southern and south-eastern borders. In this undertaking, France, a European and Western power located on the Atlantic-Mediterranean isthmus, must assume special responsibility. It is up to her to negotiate a transatlantic partnership with Washington that will allow her to stay true to her own calling at the heart of the “Greater Mediterranean”.

Jean-Sylvestre Mongrenier is Associate Researcher at the Thomas More Institute.

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