Cold War between Spain and Morocco

4 June, 2021

Brahim Ghali's escape last night opens a stage of cold war with Morocco.
Brahim Ghali's escape last night opens a stage of cold war with Morocco.

After the departure of the self-proclaimed Saharawi president by the hand of the Algerian and Spanish secret services, we can only expect a cold war with Morocco… which, like all cold wars, will not only have consequences for the capital invested in Africa by the ruling class, but also for the security and lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Table of Contents

From pressure on the border to the cold war

Entry of young Moroccans through the Tarajal beach. The beginning of the alleged
Entry of young Moroccans through the Tarajal beach. The beginning of the alleged

After the Audencia Nacional declared Brahim Gali, the top leader of Polisario, to not be a flight risk and let him depart the country without being subjected to security measures, he left Spain through air taxi.The Spanish government, which organized the departure hand in hand with Algeria with a French air taxi after it made an official plane from Algiers return, declared that the humanitarian reception, which was granted to him in secret and with false documentation provided by the state itself, ended with his medical discharge.

Moncloa and the Palacio de Santa Cruz thus intended to close the crisis without negotiating anything with Morocco. They felt boldened by the inaction on the Sahara reaffirmed by the European Commission, which in reality expresses nothing other than the difference of interests between France and Germany, and by the gesture of the United States to move its joint maneuvers with Morocco from the Sahara to the South of the Atlas Mountains.

But it is likely that they are mistaken. According to Polisario sources, Morocco will declare the rupture of relations with Spain in the next few hours.. The Sanchez government has plunged headfirst into a cold war with Morocco that threatens not only Spanish capital invested in the Maghreb, the Sahel and West Africa, but the safety and lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

The Sanchez government began by invisibilizing the tension that had been growing for more than a year. Privileging the relationship with Algeria and its secret services, it tried to welcome Brahim Ghali, president for life of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (sic), a tool of Algiers. Since Ghali is not only the Makhzen’s public enemy number one but also has pending cases in Spain for a whole variety of crimes ranging from genocide to rape, Minister Laya had the brilliant idea of concealing Ghali’s hospitalization by arranging his arrival under a false passport.

Obviously, it did not take long for the Moroccan secret services to discover the irresponsible amateurism of the Spanish minister and President Sanchez. They leaked the news to the media and demanded the resignation of the minister even before closing channels of contact. But the Spanish government took no notice and when Morocco went further and its intelligence services mobilized thousands of people to the border, it simply feigned insanity by characterizing the move as a migratory crisis, lying to everyone who crossed its path by speaking of contacts and agreements with the Moroccan government that simply did not exist. Step by step, Moncloa’s incompetence was leading to a cold war with Morocco.

And finally, when the situation put Spain’s fragility on full display,, Sanchez played the EU card presenting himself as the victim of migratory blackmail and trying to get France and Germany to endorse the course of Spain’s clumsy policy. The indignation of the Moroccan government then became explicit and Sanchez’s response did nothing to calm the waters.

The Makhzen then made public through all the official press and with various accents a road map for its imperialist conflict with Spain. The first demand was clear: if Spain wants to take in Ghali, it should not hide in the EU and it should try him for the crimes of which the Spanish justice system itself accuses him.

Minimizing the strictly bilateral Spain-Morocco character of the crisis and the Spanish responsibility in it is to harm Spain’s strategic interests. To introduce a war criminal behind the back of a strategic partner has consequences. To solve this problem, it is necessary for the Spanish rule of law to be expressed and for justice to be served. Otherwise, we return to square one, that is, the multifaceted crisis.

Ghali’s escape, announced by Minister Ábalos to the press in real time after the Audiencia did not consider him a flight risk, represents the crossing of a Rubicon by the Sanchez government. The next phase of the conflict has been opened: a cold war with Morocco begins.

The direction of the upcoming cold war with Morocco

Strawberry seasonal workers, the first victims of the new cold war with Morocco.
Strawberry seasonal workers, the first victims of the new cold war with Morocco.

In what looks like the road map of the cold war with Morocco, the first threat issued by the Moroccan power is the displacement of Spanish companies inside the country by French capitals:

If this crisis continues without a credible, legible and convincing solution, it will be France that will pull the chestnuts out of the fire and find its natural place in the Moroccan economy. This would be the greatest historical achievement of the Sanchez government in light of this crisis.

The first target would be Spanish exports to Morocco, which make up more than 45% of total Spanish exports to Africa as a whole. The second target, immediately following the first, would be the capital invested in the country.

This threat – the first material consequence of the cold war with Morocco – not only means financial and bureaucratic suffocation of Spanish companies on Moroccan soil. It opens a period of extreme insecurity for the 15,000 Spanish workers in Morocco, who will now suffer a real open season. It opens up a stage of legal harassment for them in a country where repression is as ubiquitous as the air, where the legal framework allows all kinds of arbitrariness and where the conditions of imprisonment are absolutely terrible.

At the same time, the Spanish government itself is warning that the Moroccan government could make it impossible for 12,600 strawberry seasonal workers to return, who would be left stranded in Huelva without a work permit or the possibility of returning, in a bureaucratic, labor and social hell… to which neither one government nor the other will provide a remedy.

Although the first to suffer will most likely be the Canary Island fishermen. BothAlgeria and Morocco have expanded the limits of their Exclusive Economic Zone taking advantage of what they perceived as a moment of weakness of the Spanish state. In the case of Morocco, precisely on account of the Sahara. So it is very likely that the kidnappings of fishing boats in the disputed waters will return, scenes known in other stages of the cold war with Morocco.

But the move goes further. Morocco promises that the political crisis of the Spanish bourgeoisie, which as far as they are concerned is materialized in the inability to contain the Algiers generals will translate into a generalized check on Spanish imperialist plans in Africa.

Spanish imperialist interests in Africa at stake in the cold war with Morocco
Spanish imperialist interests in Africa at stSpanish imperialist interests in Africa at stake in the cold war with Moroccoake in the cold war with Morocco

The fragility of Pedro Sánchez’s government, whose days are logically numbered, is one of the constituent elements of this crisis and is inseparable from its alliance with Podemos, a far-left party, and two separatist parties.

[The Sanchez government] is not strong enough to keep the Algiers generals, rejected and hated by their own people, at bay. In the Ghali affair, Pedro Sanchez agreed to be sullied. He also lacked the strength to explain himself and to look in the eye of a strategic partner that he is betraying in the most disloyal way.

The Spanish deep state -which exists despite the country’s new democratic varnish-, the experienced political and parliamentary class as well as economic circles, all reject the amateurism of Pedro Sanchez’s government that strips their country of its natural strategic depth, permanently diverts Spain’s real interests, and creates anarchy in the Western Mediterranean.

Apart from the obvious nod to the Spanish state apparatus and the PP, the offer/threat is clear: Morocco recognizes as legitimate -that is, compatible with its own objectives – Spanish imperialist interests in the so-called deep south plank, from the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal to Mauritania and the Sahel. But it warns that as long as the Sanchez government continues, it will be stripped of that strategic perspective. The cold war with Morocco thus will last at least as long as the current government does.

Is Africa important for Spanish capital?

Spanish trade and investment in Africa
Spanish trade and Spanish trade and investment in Africainvestment in Africa

At the end of last year, Spain’s Minister of Industry, Ángeles Maroto, proudly presented Spain’s imperialist plans in Africa. It is a commercial and financial strategy aimed at helping our companies to develop in the African market, according to the minister, who assured Jeune Afrique, a French magazine well supported by the Moroccan government, that positioning ourselves well on the continent is one of our objectives in terms of commercial policy. It goes without saying that the beneficiaries have been named from the very first minute because certain Spanish companies were consulted in order to select the countries.

We have identified a number of country-specific sectors, such as energy, water and sanitation infrastructure in Côte d’Ivoire; waste management in Senegal; agribusiness in Algeria, rail transport or electricity production and distribution in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. In Morocco, we focus our attention on renewable energies and the water sector.

In the continental drive for Spanish capital, the Spanish government played a leading role in the EU’s 11 billion euro aid to the Sahel. It also opened a dozen new embassies, multiplied development aid and launched a new Africa Plan.

La Jeune Afrique spoke of the Spanish Reconquest although it also expressed some derision when it took notice of how the general director for Africa of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that he had barely been able to spend any of the million euros he had been allocated to win the support of African civil servants and politicians through trips and exchanges.

It did not matter. Minister Laya, while ignoring Morocco, claimed that her ministry presided over the Assembly for the Sahel and over the consequent flow of European millions which, as suggested, was going to be carried out by the large Spanish public works, electricity and water companies.

More than 800 projects worth more than 11 billion euros are already underway. They are aimed at improving sanitation and renewable energies as well as school and health infrastructure. Over the past six months, I have visited the five Sahel countries and have seen significant achievements in roads, water treatment and hospitals. But we can go even faster.

Workers and the cold war with Morocco

Assembly of workers on wildcat strike in Jerada, Morocco, 2018.
Assembly of workers on wildcat strike in Jerada, Morocco, 2018.

The African promise was the latest rabbit in Sánchez’s hat, an attempt to compensate for the collapse of traditional Spanish imperialist interests with a new target closer to home with governments generally weaker than Ibero-American ones, with a possible impact on migratory flows… and with Germany and the EU paying cash to Spanish big business from day one.

But all of these dreams get crushed by the cold war with Morocco, just as the dreams of African influence of the late Francoism -and of the still clandestine and pro-Algerian PSOE of Gonzalez- were crushed by the Green March, or the Aznarist hopes in a capitalization of the Rif were suppressed by the Perejil incident.

If there is one thing in which the Makhzen has shown itself to be as efficient as in repressing and oppressing its workers, it is in detecting the moments of crisis of Spanish capital and its political apparatus and using it to advance its own imperialist project. If there is something that Spanish capital has demonstrated is that the degradation of the living conditions it imposes on us is only surpassed in speed by the deterioration of the capacity of its leaders… without reducing one iota the megalomania of its imperialist ambitions.

Under victimhood and torn shirts the states of both countries try to assert their imperialist interests. The cold war with Morocco will be nothing but a dogfight for market opportunities and territorial ambitions. Neither Moroccan nor Spanish workers have anything but misery to gain by supporting the patriotic and militaristic chatter of their governments. The cold war with Morocco has become from day one a hell for thousands of them: Moroccan seasonal workers in Spain and Spanish workers displaced in industry in Morocco.

The cold war with Morocco also represents a latent danger of a fierce war in which all workers, on both sides of the border, would be nothing more than cannon fodder, one more consumable to be sacrificed to keep business going. The ultimate goal of the dictatorship is to make both suffer.