Morocco is convinced that France has launched a large-scale campaign to discredit the Alawi kingdom. According to the Maghreb-Intelligence portal, the French General Directorate of External Security (DGSE) is behind a multi-pronged offensive to tarnish the country's image. The director of the French foreign intelligence service, Bernard Emié, is said to oversee the operation in the political, diplomatic and media fields, which has resulted in a resolution condemning Morocco in the European Parliament for not respecting freedom of expression.
Rabat was already upset with the Elysée's decisions. Moroccan diplomacy considers that Paris's repeated rudeness on the Western Sahara dispute, the recent diplomatic rapprochement with its regional nemesis, Algeria, and the successive condemnations by the European Parliament, in addition to the protracted visa issue, have further strained bilateral relations, which were already going through a delicate phase on the eve of a new visit to the country by French President Emmanuel Macron. The visit was scheduled for the first quarter of the year, but no date has yet been set.
Morocco has taken matters into its own hands, particularly because of France's ambiguity on the Sahara dossier. While recognising the proposal for autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty as a basis for negotiations in the UN framework, French diplomacy has not shown the explicit support for Morocco that has been expressed by other Western countries such as the US, Germany and Spain. This is the reason that irritates the Moroccan government, which failed to secure France's backing during the December visit of the French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna.
The Alaouite kingdom sees Émié as the architect of the spiral of criticism that has been directed at Morocco in recent weeks. Maghreb-Intelligence quotes a retired former French ambassador to Rabat as saying that "the smear machine is at work and all the media are at its service" with the aim of discrediting the country. Morocco's officialist press unanimously singles out this career diplomat who has held the post since June 2017 on the grounds that Rabat's growing external influence clashes head-on with France's interests in North Africa.
"France will do everything it can to prevent Morocco from imposing itself at the head of the Maghreb," the quoted media outlet quotes the former French ambassador as saying. "Many French leaders know that Algeria is in decline and that its medium-term future is in jeopardy. That is why they will try to slow down the Kingdom, or at least slow down its advance". The portal argues that the DGSE's animosity towards Morocco is not new, but dates to the beginning of the decade, following the accession to the throne of Mohammed VI, who, unlike his father Hassan II, has been unfathomable to the French intelligence agency.
France has remained silent on the latest developments that have strained diplomatic relations. But several Parisian media outlets have echoed in recent weeks the Elysée's displeasure with Rabat's actions over issues related to the alleged spying on Macron with the Pegasus spyware, the visa controversy and the presence of Moroccan lobbies in Brussels.