Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Time to Intensify Turkish-Moroccan Partnership

Time to Intensify Turkish-Moroccan Partnership

Moroccans view with great enthusiasm the imminent, historic visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Rabat. Our countries, which are bound by a common Islamic heritage, share aspirations and vital interests at this sensitive and pivotal moment, and it is imperative to intensify cooperation not only for the sake of Turkey and Morocco, but also for the welfare of the Muslim world and global security writ large.

Both countries have largely weathered the storms of chaos and upheaval that have brought suffering over the past five years to so many parts of the Arab and Islamic heartlands. Yet both countries are also deeply engaged in the affected areas. For Turkey, civil war and jihadi expansionism in Syria and Iraq have profound domestic implications, and for Morocco, the chaos in Libya and burgeoning jihadi threats from the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa are equally troubling. The fact that some of the very same jihadi groups now straddle the peripheries of both nations means that greater coordination between Turkey and Morocco in the face of the transnational threat is warranted.

The leaderships of Turkey and Morocco also agree that the rise of Sunni jihadism is inextricable from the rise of Iranian expansionism: Tehran’s proxy militias in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and beyond have been fanning the flames of sectarianism and working to degrade the integrity of Arab nation-states. The mullahs, meanwhile, use the likes of DAESH as a convenient foil in their campaign to normalize relations with the West. Sunni jihadis serve to draw attention away from Iran’s own extremism, and enable Tehran to portray itself as a force for stability in the Middle East. Ankara and Rabat both see through this ruse and share an interest in helping to counter Iran’s transnational aggression.

From a European standpoint, Turkey and Morocco are both areas of concern as crossing points for refugees and economic migrants whether originating from Syria and Iraq, as in the case of Turkey, or Libya, the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa as is the case for Morocco. But Turkey and Morocco both understand that one of the major drivers of mass migration is the vast economic disparity between Europe and the developing world, a gap for which Europe bears its portion of responsibility. Although Ankara and Rabat maintain a free trade agreement with one another, now in its 10th year, economic cooperation remains modest. It is in both countries’ mutual interest not only to strengthen bilateral trade, but also to partner in presenting a united front to Europe with respect to the economic development needs of the world’s “South.”

In discussing these and other areas of mutual concern, the Turkish and Moroccan leaderships can draw enormous goodwill from…

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