Cablegate: Embassy Rabat


DE RUEHRB #1001/01 3561613
P 221613Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Summary: Senator Gregg, we look forward to
your arrival in Morocco, a long-standing U.S. ally
and model in many respects for other Arab, Muslim
and African countries. The U.S. Mission's goals in
Morocco are promoting economic growth, enhancing
democracy and governance through political and
economic reform, resolving regional conflicts while
maintaining close strategic cooperation by promoting
U.S.-Moroccan partnership in diplomacy, military
engagement and countering terrorism. Morocco itself
is in mid-stride in far-reaching transformations,
albeit uneven, addressing economic development,
political reform, gender equality and religious
tolerance. We believe expanding Morocco's economic
base will do as much to address popular
dissatisfaction with the political system as will
strengthening democratic institutions. A bumper
crop in 2009 buttressed growth against the backdrop
of reduced exports, lower investment and declining
remittances. Thus, despite the global economic
crisis Morocco's economy will grow by over five
percent in 2009. Slums are coming down, and
according to official statistics, so is
unemployment. Morocco has made great strides in
freedom of the press and remains a leader in the
region, but those who cross redlines still face
jail. Other human rights have grown as well,
although Morocco remains very much under the control
of a monarchy and a system with roots going back
hundreds of years. Morocco's top priority in
foreign relations is winning U.S. and other
countries' support for its position on the Western
Sahara territorial dispute and for North African
integration. End Summary.

Economic Development and U.S. Assistance

2. (U) The economy is relatively healthy, although
marred by disparities in wealth. Moroccan
authorities are concerned, however, by the impacts
on important export, tourism and remittance earnings
of the global recession. Growth is expected to be
above five percent this year, despite the global
economic slowdown, thanks to record agricultural
harvests. Since implementation of our Free Trade
Agreement (FTA) on January 1, 2006, bilateral
commerce has more than doubled. A number of U.S.
firms have increased their investment in Morocco,
seeing new markets develop as a result of the FTA.
The Department of Commerce's Commercial Law
Development Program and the U.S. Trade and
Development Agency conduct capacity building and
technical assistance projects to assist Morocco.
Both agencies help the Kingdom to create an open and
transparent trading environment and to fully develop
its trading potential. However, significant export
growth to U.S. and other markets will also depend on
Morocco's ability to capture a larger share of value
added in its export products.

3. (U) Millennium Challenge Account: In 2007,
building on decades of USAID and Peace Corps
efforts, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
signed a five-year, USD 697.5 million Millennium
Challenge Account Compact with Morocco in 2007 in
order to reduce poverty and increase economic
growth. Currently, through the MCC the USG is
advancing programs in Fruit Tree Productivity to
stimulate growth in the agricultural sector and
reduce volatility of agricultural production. It is
also working on an Artisanal Fisheries Program to
modernize the means of catching, storing and
marketing fish, thereby improving the quality of the
catch, maintaining the value chain, and increasing
fishermen's access to both local and export markets.
It seeks to stimulate growth by leveraging the links
between the craft sector, tourism, and the Fes
Medina's cultural, historic and architectural
resources. The Compact will also increase financial
services for micro-enterprises in Morocco by
addressing key constraints to the development of the
broader, market-based financial sector. It will
also help reduce high unemployment among young
graduates and encourage a more entrepreneurial
culture through two existing Moroccan government
initiatives, Moukalawati (a program for supporting
small businesses) and the National Initiative for
Human Development (INDH), a framework of efforts
aimed at creating opportunities for the poor,
vulnerable and socially excluded. Finally, the
program is investing over USD 30 million in
functional literacy.

Government and Political Reform

4. (SBU) Government: Prime Minister Abbas El
Fassi's government, formed after the September 2007
legislative elections, is currently built on a
fragile coalition. There has been periodic
speculation that it might not last for the full
five-year mandate. El Fassi's government, filled
with young technocrats from within and outside his
Istiqlal (Independence) party, has performed better
than many expected, however, and speculation
regarding a change of government -- or at least a
major cabinet reshuffle -- has intensified in the
wake of the Aminatou Haidar case (see below). El
Fassi has participated extensively in international
events and diplomacy. Internal democracy is growing
within political parties. A political formation
founded by Fouad Ali El Himma, an intimate of the
King, has evolved into a new Party of Authenticity
and Modernity (PAM) by grouping several smaller
parties. It now constitutes the largest political
bloc in Parliament, and could lead should the
current coalition falter. In addition to the PAM,
the leading parties are El Fassi's Istiqlal, the
Islamist-referent Party of Justice and Development
(PJD), the pro-Berber Popular Movement (MP), the
National Rally of Independents (RNI) and the
Socialist USFP, which has seen its support decline
steadily since 2007.

5. (SBU) Parliamentary Reform: Despite the
emergence of the PAM and the increasingly democratic
internal structures of the parties, we currently see
no prospect for a significant shift in Morocco's
foreign and security policies, nor in the way in
which policy is formulated. Neither Parliament nor
the Prime Minister has much say in these issues,
which the King manages directly with the concerned
ministries. Morocco's political parties and the
bicameral parliament are weak and structurally
hamstrung from taking legislative initiatives or
strongly articulating dissent. The Parliament
provides no effective check on the monarchy or
Government. Changing the Constitution would be
necessary in order to change the power imbalance and
institute formal democracy, but both Parliament and
parties will have to improve their capacity and
performance first. Nonetheless, the parties and
Parliament have made some technical improvements,
largely thanks to USG-funded programs from the
National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the State
University of New York (SUNY), which have modestly
improved the body's administrative capacity. These
include establishment of a budget analysis office, a
verbatim transcription service, a consistent forum
for training and debate among parliamentary members
and staff, and the introduction of question time.
This innovation has required the Government to
answer over 2,800 questions in the last two years,
with the PAM posing the over 1,000 and focusing on
the work of the Ministries of Interior, Education,
Health, Agriculture, Transport, Employment, Justice
and Communications -- in that order.

6. (U) Political Reform: Although the September
2007 parliamentary elections were the most
transparent in the country's history, record low
participation (37 percent of registered voters)
reflected the lack of voter confidence in the
institution. Despite this challenge, the State
Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative
(MEPI) funded NDI to run the first ever
international election observation in Morocco. MEPI
also supported an ambitious training program for
women running for municipal councils in June after a
quota was established reserving 12 percent of the
seats for women. Voter turnout in the June
municipal elections was approximately 54 percent,
and women captured nearly 13 percent of the seats,
exceeding the number reserved for them. The USG had
also sponsored the training of over 3,500 women via
an unusual collaborative project between the
National Democratic Institute (NDI) and
International Republican Institute (IRI). The entry
into politics of over 3,000 elected women office
holders (the 130 before local elections have
historically been more effective and immune to
corruption) and many thousands more candidates may
have a potentially transformational impact.

Social Reform

7. (U) Human and Women's Rights: King Mohammed VI
has embarked on a determined and continuous program
of human rights reforms that include the Arab
world's first truth commission and a revised Family
Code [Moudawana], granting expanded legal rights to
women, growing government transparency,
accountability and rule of law. Palace support has
produced more elected women officials than in any
other Arab country. Now women serve as policymakers
and religious leaders, instructing women about their
new-found legal rights, and advocating a more
moderate view of Islam. Although Morocco has become
the leader of reform in the region, the reforms are
still not deeply rooted in law, tradition or
Constitution and could be rolled back. Continued
support and encouragement from partners like the
United States and Europe are essential. Another
recent development has been the expansion of
cultural rights and outlets for Berbers, one of the
largest groups in Morocco and perhaps the largest.

8. (U) Religious Freedom: The Moroccan
Constitution provides for the freedom to practice
one's religion, although Islam is the official state
religion. The GOM prohibits the distribution of
non-Muslim religious materials and bans all
proselytizing while tolerating several small
religious minorities. It also occasionally
restricts Islamic organizations whose activities
have exceeded the bounds of "acceptable religious
practice" and become political in nature, lately
targeting Shi'a. Morocco has become protective of
and even positive toward the tiny remnant of its
once substantial Jewish minority.

9. (U) Social Reform: Morocco benefits from
several MEPI programs, including country-specific
projects and inclusion in regional efforts. Some
recent and ongoing programs that include the above-
mentioned program for women candidates [Political
Reform], breast cancer awareness, sustaining civil
society and youth associations, developing freedom
of expression via the Internet, supporting
development of democratic leaders, supporting
technical assistance to meet environmental
obligations under the FTA, political party training
and capacity building, and the Financial Services
Volunteer Corps. Other USG-funded projects support
anti-corruption efforts (with the American Bar
Association) and prison reform to undermine the
foundations of extremism.

10. (SBU) Recent Developments: Over the past
several months, there have been some setbacks on the
human rights front, notably in the areas of freedom
of the press, of expression and of assembly. The
Aminatou Haidar case represented an extreme example
of the difficulties those Moroccans who advocate the
independence of Western Sahara or the right to self-
determination of the Sahrawi people face when they
seek to express their views publically and
internationally. On November 13, the GOM refused to
allow Haidar -- a prominent Sahrawi pro-independence
activist and human rights defender -- to enter
Morocco, confiscated her passport and sent her to
the Canary Islands. Once there, she embarked on a
34-day hunger strike until the GOM relented and
allowed her to return on December 18. Her health
remains precarious, but she has safely returned to
her residence in Laayoune, Western Sahara. Now
resolved, the case attracted significant
international attention and widespread accusations
that the GOM had come dangerously close to forced
exile. Likewise, there have been several recent
incidents of limitations on the free press,
including court cases in which journalists and
bloggers have been sentenced to jail terms. In all
these cases, the Embassy has pressed the GOM to
respect its international human rights commitments
and to continue the impressive array of reforms that
has characterized King Mohammed VI's overall human
rights policy.

Regional Security Issues

11. (U) Algeria: Moroccan foreign policy is
dominated by defending and seeking international
recognition of its sovereignty claims over Western
Sahara. The issue remains the most visible source
of tension with long-time rival Algeria, which has
historically supported the POLISARIO Front's quest
for independence by way of an UN-sponsored
referendum. Algeria closed the border between the
two countries, and it remains closed. While the
King and other GOM officials have publicly proposed
opening the border and upgrading bilateral relations
between the two countries, their entreaties have
been repeatedly rebuffed. The Government of Algeria
(GOA) has linked progress on the border to all
issues, particularly the Western Sahara. The issue
led Morocco to leave the African Union and has been
an obstacle to regional integration through the Arab
Maghreb Union.

12. (SBU) Western Sahara: In April 2007, Morocco
proposed a new autonomy plan for Western Sahara, and
a series of UN-sponsored negotiations with the
POLISARIO have taken place in Manhasset, New York.
The Moroccan proposal would provide Sahrawis, the
indigenous people of Western Sahara, autonomy in
administering local affairs under Moroccan
sovereignty. In April, the UN renewed the mandate
of the UN peacekeeping operation MINURSO until 2010.
Following the controversial lapsing of the contract
of the former UN Secretary General's Personal Envoy,
the UN selected retired U.S. Ambassador Christopher
Ross to be the new Personal Envoy, and he made his
first visit to the region in February and his second
in July. He hosted informal talks near Vienna in
August; while they produced no breakthroughs, the
parties agreed to continue negotiations. Over the
past month, the Aminatou Haider case (see above) has
dramatically increased tensions and the levels of
distrust among the GOM, the GOA and the POLISARIO.
In response, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for
a fifth round of formal negotiations, although
bringing the parties to the table for productive
discussions will be very difficult, at least in the

13. (U) Western Sahara Continued: Western Sahara
experienced gross violations of human rights from
1975 until the end of King Hassan II's regime, and
repression intensified after the short-lived Sahrawi
uprising of 2005. Since late 2006, Morocco has
improved the human rights situation in the
territory. Arbitrary arrests have sharply
diminished and beatings and physical abuse by
security forces have all but disappeared. However,
dissenters still face harrassment and sometimes even
criminal charges if they publish or speak too
publicly in support of independence or on a vote for

Military and Counterterrorism Cooperation

14. (U) Military Cooperation: The GOM has been
formally invited to participate in the Global Peace
Operations Initiative (GPOI) and extended USD 1
million to support a program in Morocco. Under the
GPOI program, the U.S. intends to provide peace
operations training and other support to the
Moroccan military so that it can continue to develop
and sustain peace operations capacity. Africa
Command proposed Morocco as a potential GPOI partner
for FY 2009 in Fall 2008, and the GPOI Coordinating
Committee agreed to that proposal in Spring 2009.
The current plan is to provide training and
facilities refurbishment to a peace operations
training center in Morocco. In order to ensure
long-term sustainability, the GPOI program
incorporates train-the-trainer elements into its
training events. The Mission is working with the
Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
Cooperation, which will coordinate Morocco's GPOI
request, to finalize the program. In addition, the
Embassy is currently engaged in negotiations with
the GOM on a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
Moreover, Inspector General of the Armed Forces
(CHOD) General Abdelaziz Bennani and Africa Command
Commander General William Ward are scheduled to sign
an Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA)
in late December.

15. (U) Military Cooperation Continued: The
Moroccan military has undertaken a sweeping effort
to modernize a military force that fields
predominantly Korean and Vietnam War-era equipment.
While F-16 and T-6 sales form the bulk of the dollar
figure for this modernization, the total Foreign
Military Sales and Foreign Military Financing
portfolio totals some 120 cases in excess of USD 3
billion. Military modernization further strengthens
the Moroccan military by continuing and expanding
exposure to U.S. doctrine, tactics, techniques,
procedures and personnel. The expanded requirement
to train operators and maintenance staff for the F-
16 and T-6 aircraft alone will practically equal the
current annual training allocation for all Moroccan
personnel across all the services and government
organizations. Moreover, the integration of a
fourth generation fighter into the Royal Moroccan
Air Force will stimulate a full spectrum
modernization approach from operating and sustaining
such aircraft, maintaining facilities, logistics and
aerial deployment to command and control. This
provides an unparalleled opportunity to shape our
engagement with the Royal Air Force. A superb boost
this year was the selection of Morocco to
participate in the CSAF Counterpart Visit program,
as well as Morocco's decision to send an observer to
AMC's Airlift Rodeo. These engagement activities
add to a robust exercise program that includes
in addition to at least two annual JCETs.

16. (SBU) Counterterrorism: The terrorist threat
in Morocco emanates especially from small grassroots
radical Islamic cells, which have shown some
capacity to attack. In 2008, security forces
disrupted six terrorist and foreign fighter cells,
prosecuting 100 people. So far this year, five
cells have been disrupted, including one group of 24
who were detained in September. The biggest threat
is that attacks could deter tourism, an important
component of the economy. The GOM's implementation
of a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy
emphasizing vigilant security measures, counter-
radicalization policies, and robust international
cooperation has been largely successful in
containing the threat. Economic disruption, whether
from attacks or the global economic crisis, remains
the principal threat to stability here, but most
observers believe Morocco will manage.

17. (U) Counterterrorism Continued: In early-
October, a multi-agency Embassy team participated in
two days of wide-ranging, frank discussions with
representatives of the Moroccan Ministry of the
Interior. Those discussions addressed issues
including counterterrorism, trafficking in persons,
illegal migration, drug
trafficking/counternarcotics, regional threats and
stability, human rights, and assistance/development
efforts. Designed as a strategy session to share
information and lay the groundwork for future
engagement, both sides agreed that the talks were
useful and could lead to substantive programmatic
and other collaboration. Under the King who as
"Commander of the Faithful" leads Moroccan Muslims
and Jews, Morocco has standardized religious
doctrine, consolidated control over religious
schools and sent specially trained imams to Europe
to preach moderate messages to the Moroccan
Diaspora. The vast majority of Morocco's population
rejects Salafist and Wahhabist approaches to Islam
and so does not support terrorist groups.


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