Senator Mark Kelly has proposed that the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces cooperate with the US Central Command (CENTCOM)

Proposal in the US Senate to integrate Morocco into military exercises in the face of Iranian threat

Ejercicios militares African Lion - PHOTO/FILE
PHOTO/FILE - African Lion Military Exercises

As part of the US Senate debate on the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2024, a law that supports the Armed Forces, modernises the Air Force and strengthens US national security, Arizona Democrat Senator Mark Kelly proposed integrating the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR) into military exercises led by the US Central Command (CENTCOM).

Part of this law states the need to assess threats in order to reduce those related to Iran's nuclear capabilities: 'It seeks to improve coordination between the United States and regional partners to counter the shared threat from Iran by supporting Morocco's integration into military exercises led by CENTCOM', as reported by media outlets such as Yabiladi and Morocco Latest News. 

The operations carried out by this body seek to "improve coordination" between the US giant and "regional partners" in order to counter the threat posed by Iran to the whole. The US Central Command is one of nine unified security commands within the US Department of Defense and is responsible for US interests in 27 nations, operating in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. 

PHOTO/FILE – Ejército Marruecos
PHOTO/FILE - Moroccan Army

Iranian threat

The Islamic Republic of Iran is internationally recognised as a destabilising element in the region due to its hostile policy and its interference in the internal affairs of other countries, through related Shiite groups such as Hamas in Palestine, the Popular Mobilisation Forces in Iraq, Liwa Fatemiyoun in Afghanistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran considers the United States an irreconcilable enemy and there is also a confrontation with Morocco after the Moroccan government broke off relations with the Persian nation in May 2018 over the delivery of Iranian arms to the Polisario Front, a separatist entity that threatens Moroccan territorial integrity by intending to hold a referendum on independence in Western Sahara, The Kingdom is proposing a formula of broad autonomy for the Sahrawi territory under Moroccan sovereignty as the most appropriate way to put an end to more than 40 years of conflict in the area, while respecting the resolutions of the United Nations (UN).

Although Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian recently noted, on the occasion of the Eid Al-Adha holiday, that Iran is ready to resume its democratic ties with the Moroccan kingdom, in addition to Egypt. "Among the foreign policy priorities of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's administration is the special attention paid to the country's relations with the Muslim world and regional states (...) We welcome the expansion and normalisation of relations with other regional countries and Muslim countries, particularly Egypt and Morocco," Amir-Abdollahian said.

AFP/IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY - El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Irán, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian
AFP/IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY - Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian

The importance of the Abraham Accords

Senator Mark Kelly was part of a seven-senator US parliamentary delegation to the Alawite kingdom in January, which included seven senators involved in the Abrahamic Accords. They were received by the head of the Moroccan government, Aziz Akhannouch, and Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita. After visiting Morocco, the delegation travelled to the UAE, Bahrain and Israel to further strengthen relations.

The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces are present in part of the area where CENTCOM operates. Thus, FAR fighter jets took part in air strikes launched against positions occupied by Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Iraq, which suffers from Iranian meddling in its internal affairs, asked Rabat to establish "constructive cooperation between the two countries in the fields of security, intelligence and information exchange, in order to eliminate terrorism and achieve stability in the region and in the world". This request was expressed by Iraq's National Security Advisor Kassem al-Araji during a meeting in Baghdad in January with Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

The Abraham Accords marked a diplomatic milestone since, under the auspices of Donald Trump's former US administration, several Arab countries such as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco established diplomatic relations with Israel with the aim of pacifying the Middle East and developing the region socially and economically. All of this in the face of common enemies such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although, for its part, the Persian country has recently made moves towards rapprochement with historic rivals such as Saudi Arabia, which is the main standard-bearer of the Sunni branch of Islam, as opposed to the Shiite branch represented by Iran, with which it agreed to reopen the respective embassies, or even in part with Israel, as improving ties with these nations could help the ayatollahs' regime to emerge from its international isolation and bring political benefits such as a return to the Nuclear Deal, which was broken in 2018 with the US exit from it after Donald Trump's administration denounced Iranian non-compliance with the agreed clauses regarding the development of the Persian nuclear programme. 

PHOTO/FILE - Ejercicios militares African Lion
PHOTO/FILE - African Lion Military Exercises

Morocco is a permanent partner of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) and an important player in the annual 'African Lion' exercises, in which a large number of African nations cooperate with the United States to promote defence and security against threats such as jihadist terrorism and organised crime. Now, it appears that Morocco may be close to joining the US military command in the Middle East (CENTCOM), and in addition to the scheduled AFRICOM exercises, Morocco may be called upon to participate in exercises organised by the US military in the Middle East region, thanks in part to a proposal by Senator Mark Kelly. 

Senator Kelly is a former astronaut who spent more than 50 days in space, travelling more than 20 million miles. He retired from NASA in 2011 after commanding the space shuttle Endeavour on its last flight and moved into politics to serve on Senate committees related to various areas such as Defence, Environment and Energy.

With this possible entry into CENTCOM as the second African country after Egypt, Morocco, a great ally of the United States on the African continent, would thus strengthen its military and security cooperation with the US and, by extension, with other allied partners such as Israel. This privileged position gives Morocco the option of having access to an important market for weapons and technology produced by the US and Israel, which further strengthens the Moroccan military.