Morocco cuts ties with Iran over Bahrain
Friday, March 6, 2009
by Lamine Ghanmi
Morocco has cut diplomatic links with Iran, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said
on Friday, in the wake of an outcry in the Sunni Muslim world over a statement
by an Iranian official questioning Sunni Bahrain's sovereignty.
Rabat also criticised Iran for its efforts to spread its Shi'ite brand of Islam
in Morocco, a move the ministry said it saw as threat to the North African
country's moderate Sunni religious identity.
"The Kingdom of Morocco has decided to break its diplomatic relations with the
Islamic Republic of Iran beginning this Friday," the ministry said.
Sunni scholars in Morocco and elsewhere have denounced what they see as Iran's
efforts to convert Sunni Muslims to Shi'ism, arguing the drive would create
strife similar to the often bloody Shi'ite-Sunni divides in Iraq and Pakistan.
According to media reports, Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, an adviser to Iranian
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said last month Shi'ite-ruled Iran had
sovereignty over Bahrain.
In response Morocco's King Mohammed sent the Bahraini monarch, King Hamad Bin
Isa al-Khalifa, a message of support, calling the Iranian remarks "absurd" and
a contradiction of international law.
On February 25, Rabat recalled its envoy to Iran to protest what Foreign
Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri said was "inappropriate language" directed against
Morocco in a communique reported by the Iranian news agency IRNA.
Morocco had asked Teheran for an explanation as to why it had singled out Rabat
in the statement but Iran ignored the request made one week ago, the ministry
added in a statement.
The foreign ministry said this was "unacceptable" and accused Iranian
representatives in Morocco of seeking to alter "the kingdom's religious
fundamentals," it said in reference to Iran's alleged state-backed drive to
expand Shi'ism in Morocco.
SUNNI MOROCCO FELT UNDER THREAT
Religion a highly sensitive issue in Morocco because King Mohamed is the only
Islamic leader who jointly holds the title of Amir al Mouminine (Commander of
the Faithful) and head of the state.
The ministry said efforts by Iran to spread the Shi'ite version of Islam
threatened Morocco's Islamic unity and its identity built from the foundations
of the moderate Sunni Malekite faith. It said:
"This kind of organised and sustained actions constitute an intolerable
interference in the kingdom's domestic affairs and are contrary to the rules
and ethics of diplomatic action."
Morocco, which enjoyed warm ties with Iran under the Shah until he was deposed
in 1979, only normalised its relations with Iran by exchanging envoys in the
The government has always been concerned of Iran's role in the Sunni world
since its Shi'ite Islamic revolution toppled the monarchy in Tehran.
Religious figures have warned of what they call the menace against the
country's spiritual security by the Shi'ite conversion among Morocco's 30
Political sources in Morocco say Shi'ite activists numbered several hundreds
but they were making steady progress because of the popularity of radical
Islamic groups backed by Iran like Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
(Editing by Matthew Jones)