The military leadership observes Morocco's arms race with suspicion

Spain watches with suspicion the military rearmament in which Morocco is immersed with very advanced technology thanks to the support of the United States and Israel.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
02 December 2023 Saturday 22:15
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The military leadership observes Morocco's arms race with suspicion

Spain watches with suspicion the military rearmament in which Morocco is immersed with very advanced technology thanks to the support of the United States and Israel. The Alawite kingdom, which next year will allocate 9% of its GDP to defense spending, is in the middle of an arms race with Algeria, which has also increased its military investment. And this among the Spanish military leadership is generating some concern. On the one hand, there is uncertainty about the levels of hostility that the conflict between Rabat and Algiers can reach. But on the other hand, as sources in the military orbit warn, Moroccan rearmament can mean - not in the short or medium term - "a challenge to the territorial integrity of Spain".

In a context marked by the escalation of tension with Algeria, Morocco has increased by 4.1% the item of the 2024 budget that is intended "to acquire and maintain equipment of the armed forces and to support the development of the industry of Defense", which will reach 124,776 million dirhams (11,300 million euros), almost 10% of its GDP. Spain allocated 1.09% of its GDP to military expenditure in 2022. The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánhez, committed to NATO to raise it to 2% before 2029.

Despite these data, today Spain's military muscle continues to be far superior to that of its southern neighbor. But the margin will narrow in the coming years, as Morocco sets 2030 as the date to become a military power. Experts are clear that the Alawite regime is doing its homework. It has committed to updating its fleet of F-16 fighter jets, as well as acquiring AGM154C guided missiles, with a target range of 130 kilometers. It has also bought Himars missile launcher systems and more than a hundred surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 305 kilometers. All this by diversifying purchases: the United States, China, the United Kingdom or Turkey.

But also Israel, a strategic partner of the kingdom of Mohamed VI, through the Abraham agreements. A combination that also keeps the diplomatic sphere in Spain on alert. The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces (FAR) will soon receive a consignment of SPY-X drones, manufactured by the Israeli company Bluebird Aero Systems. They are the so-called kamikaze drones, which sources in the armaments sector describe as "one of the last jewels of the industry". In addition, the company Elbit Systems, the largest Israeli manufacturer of defense systems, will open two factories in Morocco, as it announced in June. A month later Israel recognized Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara.

The Department of National Security does not miss details of each step that Morocco takes in its arms race, at a time when it foresees the succession - more or less imminent - of Mohamed VI in favor of his firstborn, Prince Hassan. The heir is gradually receiving military command and the machinery is moving at full speed to strengthen his image in front of the Moroccan army.

Morocco's great military challenge is delivered in the Western Sahara. The subsequent scenario is what generates great concern among the Spanish military commands. As recalled by the Institute of Security and Culture - a think tank specialized in defense - "we must not forget that part of the Moroccan strategic mentality and culture dreams of continuing an agenda of territorial expansion in accordance with the old concept of "Great Morocco": among other derivations, this involves controlling the squares of Ceuta and Melilla".

After the turn that the Spanish Government made in March 2022 regarding the position of the Sahara, diplomatic relations with Rabat have not been embroiled in major controversies. Rabat continues to be, according to ministerial sources, "a reliable partner", with which "Spain needs to have good relations".