Morocco argues over role in Yemen war

Morocco argues over role in Yemen war
Comment: The kingdom's participation in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen is hotly contested by civil society and youth activists.
3 min read
11 April, 2015
Saudi-led air raids in Yemen have caused extensive damage [Anadolu]
Morocco's ministry of foreign affairs has released an official statement justifying the government's decision to join the Saudi-led coalition's Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen. 

Officials gave three reasons for supporting the operation against the Houthis. First, it was responding to calls by Yemen's legitimate President Abd Rabbo Manour Hadi.

Second, it was acting in solidarity with those supporting the legitimate rule in Yemen. Third, it was fulfilling its commitment to defend the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mecca and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries with which Morocco has strategic ties.

Despite playing a minimal role Morocco's participation is controversial.

The Moroccan Committee for Human Rights said it opposed military intervention in the region and attempts by repressive dictators or imperialist powers to exploit the situation. 
     Legal experts have argued this is an unconstitional 'declaration of war'.

Most political parties have stayed quiet, except the United Socialist Party that condemned Morocco's support and described the coalition as "regressive and imperialist".

Moroccan newspapers and magazines published op-eds opposing participation. They described the war as "coming from the age of pre-Islamic ignorance" and of not being "a principled war but one of greed". One writer argued "this stupid and unjust war will only fan the flames of sectarian extremism".

Legal experts have also argued this is an unconstitional "declaration of war". Article 49 of the 2011 constitution says that only the ministerial council headed by the king has the authority to "declare war". Article 99 says the ministerial council can only decide to go to war after parliament has been notified by the king.

Some observers have argued this is not a declaration of war. Instead, they say, Morocco is fulfilling its international and regional commitments by "participating and supporting in a regional coalition" that is responding to a call for help made by a legitimate authority. However, they argue Morocco should not take part in direct military intervention and should restrict its role to supporting and assisting its allies in the Gulf.

Public discourse has highlighted the limitations of national discourse on foreign policy issues. Political parties have ignored the subject and focused on political wrangling instead by, for example, dragging ministers' personal lives into the media spotlight to score political points.

Moroccan participation in Operation Decisive Storm has not been discussed in parliament, and parliamentary committees on foreign affairs have not even met to discuss the subject.

Political elites may have avoided the subject because foreign policy issues are reserved for the king. However, civil society and youth activitists have turned involvement in the war into a hot topic of discussion on social media.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.