After one-sidedly severing ties with Tehran, Rabat claims that Iran is to be blamed for the situation due to its lack of respect for Morocco
Tensions between Morocco and Iran have been intensified and grabbed worldwide attention, since Morocco said last month it was cutting off ties with the Asian country after its “irresponsible expressions” over Bahrain’s sovereignty. However, later, the tensions were compounded by the Iranian comments toward Sunni-led Bahrain that have raised hackles in the Arab world.
Relations between Iran and Bahrain ventured into troubled waters after a senior Iranian politician, Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, recalled how during the reign of the last monarch of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Tehran had renounced its right to its 14th province, Bahrain.
Nateq-Nouri later explained that he had only intended to compare historical events before and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
While Iran and Bahrain continue to enjoy close relations, Morocco used the incident to accuse Tehran of failing to respect the sovereignty of other nations.
While a statement from Morocco’s foreign ministry accused the Iranian embassy of “intolerable interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom”, and of engaging in activities which threatened the religious unity of the country.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri cited singling out Morocco by summoning its representative in Tehran as the reason for ending relations with Iran.
Morocco claims that Iran seeks to impose Shia Muslim ideology on the Sunni-ruled Persian Gulf Arab kingdom and interfere in unnamed countries in sub-Saharan Africa, elsewhere in the Islamic world and in Europe with “sustained, structured action”.
“Morocco is not the only country to experience this,” Fihri said. “Morocco cannot accept actions of this type on its territory, directly or indirectly.”
As a result, Iran emphasized that the severing of ties at this time would harm Muslim unity and affect support for and solidarity with the Palestinians.
Monouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s Foreign Minister said that Morocco’s decision was unexpected.
“The action by the Morocco government is surprising and questionable,” Mottaki told reporters.
Considering the status quo and history of the bilateral ties between Morocco and Iran, it is no surprise that the Iranian-Moroccan relationship deteriorated greatly in few weeks following Nuri’s controversial remarks.
Though Iran, Morocco and Bahrain are all Islamic countries, they have different dominating religious sects and leadership. While Iran is a Shiite country, Morocco is a Sunnite Muslim state; and Bahrain, despite having a Shiite majority population, is ruled by the Sunni Khalifa family.
According to Sunni scholars in Morocco, Iran has been exerting its efforts to convert Sunni Muslims to Shiites. And such actions might lead to similar conflicts as those in Pakistan and Iran.
Meanwhile, the relations between Morocco and Iran have been marred with an inherent defect, which is a hidden trouble for healthy bilateral links.
Both countries had a pleasant time with each other before the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran, in which the Shah was deposed and the Shiite took power.
When Iran found that Morocco had been hosting the exiled Shah, it cut relations with Morocco in the early 1980s, and relations had not been normalized until the two countries exchanged envoys in the late 1990s.
Rabat said the Shiite country Iran’s Embassy in Morocco has been trying many times to “interfere in the internal affairs” of Morocco, according to a Moroccan announcement on breaking diplomatic relations.
From Iran’s side, it has not yet decided to end the diplomatic relations with Morocco by now, making the future of the links between the two countries even harder to predict.
But one thing is certain, the whole event has cast a shadow over the already complex situation of the Middle East.
By Ahmed Morsy