Cablegate: Scene Setter for General William Ward, Commander,


DE RUEHRB #0998/01 3560852
P 220852Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: General Ward, we welcome you back to
Morocco. Morocco has been an exemplary partner in the
struggle against terrorism, and our military and political
cooperation is growing. As a result, Morocco has been
designated a Major non-NATO Ally. Morocco serves as a
regional model for economic change and democratic reform; yet
it faces significant external and internal challenges, which
U.S. assistance attempts to ameliorate. While Morocco's
principal foreign tie is with Europe and it has advanced
status with the European Union (EU), Morocco is one of our
strongest allies in the Broader Middle East and North Africa
(BMENA) region. Its top priority is U.S. support for its
position on the Western Sahara territorial dispute and for
integration in North Africa. End summary.


2. (SBU) Morocco is a country in the throes, albeit
unevenly, of change and reform. Economic growth has averaged
about six percent per year; and investment, tourism and
remittances have boomed, although they have been slowed by
the global financial crisis. Slums are coming down, and,
according to the government of Morocco,s statistics, so is
unemployment. Freedom of the press has expanded, but there
are still serious restrictions. Those who challenge them can
suffer heavy fines, libel judgments, and, more rarely, jail.
Political freedoms have grown as well, although they remain
constrained by a system in which Parliament lacks much power.
King Mohammed VI has stressed the need for judicial reform
to revise a system that is widely seen as corrupt and
inefficient. Additional reforms could strengthen Morocco's
democracy, but, with stability a priority, it could take

3. (SBU) Mission strategic goals are economic growth and
reform, countering terrorism, promoting U.S.-Moroccan
partnership, enhancing democracy and governance, and
resolving regional conflicts while maintaining close
strategic cooperation. Military-to-military engagement
contributes to advancing these goals. We believe expanding
Morocco,s economic base will do as much to address popular
dissatisfaction with the political system as will
strengthening democratic institutions. The purchase of F-16
and T-6 aircraft, and the enhanced engagement they will
trigger, promotes modernization in a military already fully
under civilian control. U.S. military engagement focused on
professional training and education programs helps
counterterrorism efforts. The robust interaction between our
two militaries is an important example of institution
building that is a centerpiece of our relationship. The
reinforcement of the Moroccan military helps maintain
regional stability in a context of even greater Algerian
modernization expenditure. It assures the Government of
Morocco that it is a strong, long-term Major non-NATO Ally,
and it facilitates U.S. regional objectives not only in
Africa but in the Middle East.

Military Engagement

4. (SBU) The Moroccan military has undertaken a sweeping
effort to modernize a military force that fields
predominantly Korean and Vietnam War era equipment. While
the F-16, T-6 and Gulfstream sales comprise the vast bulk of
the dollar figure for this modernization, the total Foreign
Military Sales and Foreign Military Financing portfolio
totals some 100 cases in excess of USD 3 billion. The list
of pending or prospective sales includes 200 M1A1 main battle
tanks; CH-47D and SH-60 rotary wing aircraft; Beechcraft
operational/Distinguished Visitor (DV) support aircraft;
Hawk, Chaparral and Stinger anti-aircraft systems; and
solicitations for surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft
and unmanned aerial vehicles. Morocco is the second largest
recipient of excess defense articles (EDA) from the U.S.
These sales and transfers permit the Moroccan military both
to hold its position as a regional power and be able to
participate as a coalition partner. They further solidify
the substantial U.S. inclination by the Moroccan military,
although there are competitors that can dramatically underbid
U.S. offerings, and Morocco does not limit itself to U.S.

5. (SBU) 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 maintainers
in the U.S. for the F-16 and T-6 aircraft alone (over 160
personnel) 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 modernization of the full-spectrum approach
to operating and sustaining such aircraft, from facilities to
logistics to aerial employment 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. These engagement activities add to a robust
exercise program that includes AFRICAN LION, PHOENIX EXPRESS,
and FLINTLOCK, in addition to at least two annual JCETs. The
Royal Moroccan Air Force has also requested the revival of
MAJESTIC EAGLE, an annual air exercise that the U.S.
suspended due to OIF and OEF commitments in 2003.

6. (SBU) 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 keeping
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 during the Fall 2008 and
the GPOI Coordinating Committee agreed to that proposal in
Spring 2009. The current plan proposed for Morocco 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.

7. (SBU) The Embassy is currently engaged in negotiations
with the GOM on a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and
Inspector General of the Armed Forces General (CHOD) Bennani
has indicated interest in signing the Acquisition and Cross
Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with the USG in the spring of
2010. However, the discussions over the SOFA have been
ongoing for over a year. The Moroccans, who hosted U.S.
bases throughout the Cold War, may not be convinced a
full-fledged SOFA is needed. Unfounded rumors of prospective
U.S. basing in connection with Africa Command have been
publicly controversial here. Nonetheless, both the SOFA and
ACSA would benefit the Moroccan armed forces, and your
support for these two efforts would be appreciated.

External Issues

8. (SBU) Troubles with Algeria: The Moroccan relationship
with Algeria is difficult, and the border between the two
countries was closed by Algeria and 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 has linked progress on
the border to all issues, particularly the Western Sahara.

9. (SBU) Western Sahara: 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 Algeria,
which has historically supported the POLISARIO's quest for
independence by way of a UN-sponsored referendum. The issue
led Morocco to leave the African Union and has been an
obstacle to regional integration through the Arab Maghreb
Union. In April 2007, Morocco proposed a new autonomy plan
for Western Sahara, and a series of UN-sponsored negotiations
with the POLISARIO began in Manhasset, New York. The
Moroccan proposal, deemed "serious and credible" by the USG,
would provide Sahrawis, the indigenous people of Western
Sahara, autonomy in administering local affairs while
respecting Moroccan sovereignty over the territory. There
have been four rounds of formal talks and one informal round
near Vienna, Austria, in August.

10. (SBU) Western Sahara Continued: 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. While the informal talks produced no
breakthroughs, the parties agreed to continue negotiations in
an as-yet-to-be-determined format and location.

11. (SBU) 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 slowly 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. Dissenters cannot publish or speak
publicly in support of independence or a vote on
self-determination. In 2008, known abusers were transferred,
further easing the situation. However, we saw an uptick in
alleged abuses in early 2009.

12. (SBU) Western Sahara Continued: In Fall 2009, tensions
rose as the Government arrested seven pro-independence
activists and then deported Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Prize recipient Aminatou Haidar. Upon arrival in Laayoune
from Lanzroute (Spain) on November 13, she had asserted that
her nationality was Sahrawi and began the process to renounce
Moroccan nationality. Haidar is now recovering in Morocco
from a hunger strike which she began in the Canary Islands
(Spain) on November 14th. The Embassy maintains a Human
Rights Dialogue with the Moroccan government in order to
address these and other human rights issues. This situation
was recently resolved. The result was she was allowed into
Morocco and is current in the hospital.

Internal Issues

13. (SBU) Current 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 it now looks capable
of a full term. 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. We currently see no prospect
for a significant shift in Morocco's foreign and security
policies. However, neither Parliament nor the Prime Minister
has much say in these issues, which are managed by the Throne
directly with concerned ministries.

14. (SBU) Parliamentary Reform: 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, both 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, and a consistent forum for training
and debate among parliamentary members and staff.

15. (SBU) Parliamentary Reform Continued: 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. 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.

16. (SBU) Human Rights and Reform: King Mohammed VI has
embarked on a program of human rights reforms that include
the Arab world's first truth commission and a revised Family
Code. Although Morocco is a paragon 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.

17. (SBU) 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, but tolerates 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 Shia. Morocco has become protective
of and even positive toward the tiny remnant of its once
substantial Jewish minority.

18. (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, unless there is catastrophic collapse.

19. (SBU) 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. The discussions addressed
issues including counterterrorism efforts, 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.

20. (SBU) Counterterrorism Continued: 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.

Economics, Trade, and Assistance

21. (SBU) The economy is relatively healthy, with growth
expected to be above five percent this year, but marred by
increasing disparities in wealth. 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 to create an open and
transparent trading environment and 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.
Targeted assistance programs from USAID and MEPI aim at
improving Morocco's ability to produce and market its exports
in key sectors.

22. (SBU) U.S. assistance to Morocco is focused on four
priorities: economic growth, counterterrorism, democracy and

governance, and supporting quality education. In addition to
a 2009 USAID budget of USD 18 million, it includes projects
through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and MEPI.

23. (U) The MCC signed a five-year, USD 697.5 million
Millennium Challenge Account Compact with Morocco in 2007 to
reduce poverty and increase economic growth. The five-year
clock started ticking on September 15, 2008, with the
compact,s entry into force. The MCA supports five major
projects selected for their potential to increase
productivity and improve employment in high potential sectors
of Morocco's economy: Fruit Tree Productivity, Small Scale
Fisheries, Crafts, Financial Services, and Enterprise Support.

24. (U) Morocco benefits from several MEPI programs,
including country-specific projects and inclusion in regional
efforts. Some recent and ongoing programs include the
program for women candidates, breast cancer awareness,
support for civil society and youth organizations, developing
freedom of expression via the Internet, supporting
development of democratic leaders, 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.

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