Friday 21 Sep 2018 | 11:41 | SYDNEY
Friday 21 Sep 2018 | 11:41 | SYDNEY

Iran: Morocco delivers a Rabat punch


Rodger Shanahan


13 March 2009 08:11

The latest episode of Iranian irredentist claims against Bahrain, apparently resolved as a result of a message from the Iranian president, appears to have tried the patience of Arab states outside the Gulf. Morocco has announced the cessation of diplomatic ties with Iran, ostensibly as a  result of Iranian prosletysing amongst Morocco's overwhelmingly Sunni population.
This announcement was essentially a fig leaf — the real reason was a show of Arab solidarity as part of a broader effort to draw boundaries for what they see as Persian interference in Arab affairs. The timing of Rabat's decision was not coincidental; it had been preceded by criticism of Iranian interference at a foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo by the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and a statement from another foreign ministers' meeting held early in February calling  for an end to non-Arab (read Persian) interference in regional affairs.

At the same time, Arab states appear to be working on repairing relations with Syria as part of the broader effort to split Iran away from its Arab allies — President Assad, for example, has recently been in Riyadh at the invitation of King Abdullah, his first visit for four years.
Morocco is a good country to lead the Arab diplomatic offensive against Tehran. It has a negligible Shi'a population, thus obviating any internal backlash against its policy decision. And Morocco played host to the Shah following his exile from Iran, leading to a decade-long severing of diplomatic relations from 1981, so Rabat has experience in dealing with frosty relations with Tehran. Most importantly, Morocco is far removed from the Gulf, has no ethnically Persian population, is not a regional strategic competitor, and has two-way trade of only $20 million with Iran. 

While essentially a minor diplomatic spat, seen in the context of a broader regional security issue it is further evidence that Arab patience with Iranian nationalism and regional interference is wearing thin.