Morocco’s Normalization with Israel Is Good News for Africa

Yesterday, American and Israeli delegations arrived in Rabat to formalize the deal that establishes diplomatic ties between Morocco and Israel. The agreement brings economic and security benefits to both countries, but, Ilan Berman explains, it also has wider implications:

[Yesterday’s deal] positions the longtime U.S. ally Morocco to take on a more sizable role in North African security. Morocco’s strategic location on the continent, situated near geopolitical hotspots like Mali and Nigeria, makes it a natural candidate for such a function. Yet, for years, the uncertain legal status of the former Spanish territory of the Western Sahara, which the kingdom has administered since the 1970s, has prevented Morocco from playing a larger role in the security of its neighborhood. Now, however, the U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara that accompanied normalization with Israel has paved the way for the kingdom to take on a more meaningful role in regional policing.

It’s a job for which Morocco is well-suited. The country’s tolerant, inclusive interpretation of Islam has long stood in contrast to more extreme strains of the religion found elsewhere in the region. And over the past decade, Morocco has become more outspoken and assertive in promoting this worldview, establishing clerical institutions and international partnerships designed to promote the Moroccan “model” throughout Africa—and beyond.

Since its announcement earlier this month, the Moroccan-Israeli agreement has garnered its fair share of criticism from detractors who have lamented a shift in the political status quo in the Western Sahara, a sidelining of the Palestinians, and assorted other alleged shortcomings. These critics, however, miss a crucial point. At the end of the day, the new normalization deal better aligns Rabat with emerging regional trends in the Middle East, and makes it far more useful to Washington.

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Read more at Newsweek

More about: Africa, Israel diplomacy, Morocco, U.S. Foreign policy

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy