Right Turn has learned that on Thursday representatives from Morocco, including the foreign minister ,and the United States will take part in a “strategic dialogue” that will be opened and hosted in Washington, D.C., by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Morocco and the United States already enjoy strong bilateral ties, which include military cooperation and a free-trade agreement. The “strategic dialogue” is seen as the culmination of a relationship slowly built over 13 years under three presidents.
In a region in which the United States has stumbled about, often reacting to events rather than guiding them, this is a rare instance of some farsighted policy planning. Those involved in planning the conclave tell me this is not simply a reaction to the Arab Spring, although the utility of a more robust relationship with a pro-Western government has increased as other Arab countries have fallen into extremism and violence.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI paved the road to a strategic partnership with the United States through a series of reforms, including a revised family law code (increasing rights of women), a constitutional referendum and revision (embracing judicial reform and devolution of power to localities) and efforts to modernize Moroccan education and enhance civil society.
In essence, the strategic dialogue is a message to other Arab countries: If other countries want close relations with the United States, including the economic benefits and diplomatic prestige that go with it, then they should be (and should have been for years) taking steps to modernize their economy, enhance the rule of law, expand the rights of women and increase civil liberties.
The strategic dialogue will include four working groups, two of which will meet Thursday morning and two in the afternoon. These will tackle political (both bilateral and regional), security (especially the rise of Al Qaeda and affiliated terror groups in the Maghreb), economic and cultural/educational (including empowerment of women, and religious tolerance) issues. Some of these topics, such as economic cooperation, may portend greater integration with other countries in Northern Africa. The meetings are expected to end with a joint communique and plans for future meetings.
It is as critical for the United States as it is for Morocco to deepen what has already been a warm relationship. It is very much in the U.S. interest to see evolutionary political change succeed in the region, and to promote secular, democratic institutions that will reject Islamic extremism and embrace the West. This was the path that Anwar Sadat took in the 1970s and which Morocco has cultivated in the last decade or so. Egypt is presently is disarray, and the United States should be gravely concerned that the ouster of Hosni Mubarak has opened the door to an anti-Western, Islamist regime.
The United States, to be blunt, could use a stable ally in the Middle East these days, an anchor in the region to promote our interests and values. In a presidency replete with failures, missteps and paralysis in foreign policy, the U.S.-Morocco partnership may be the single, unalloyed success.