Policy Statement Prepared in the Department of State 1
Morocco is important to the security of the United States because of its strategic geographical position. Our primary objective is the maintenance of peaceful and stable conditions under a regime which is friendly to the United States. We wish to see Morocco developed both politically and economically, and we wish to maintain the interests and rights of the United States in Morocco.
Since 1912 Morocco has been divided into three zones, the French Protectorate, the Spanish Protectorate, and the International Zone of Tangier, all nominally under the sovereignty of the Sultan, but actually largely governed by separate regimes with very little coordination. Our policies toward them are therefore distinct.
French Morocco. There is considerable tension and lack of understanding between the French and the Moroccans, which may lead to serious unrest. The French are trying by every means to make their zone a part of the French Union. The Sultan and the nationalists have asked for an autonomous Moroccan state, independent of the French Union, preserving its traditional Moslem culture and enjoying a greater share of its wealth than it now does.[Page 1738]
The Moroccan Communist Party has been courting the Moroccan nationalists for a number of years, with little success, although the latter have on occasion stated that they would accept Communist assistance if their efforts to obtain help elsewhere were unavailing. This tendency has been emphasized recently, probably because of the slowness of the French political reforms, the diminished prestige of the Arab League and its failure to act on behalf of North African Moslems, and the action of the United States in temporarily waiving certain of our treaty rights in June 1949, an action which the nationalists consider to further weaken their claims to being an international entity. There have been a few indications that the Moroccans were becoming more favorably disposed toward Communist overtures.
Our policy has been to encourage the French on all appropriate occasions to put forward a program of political, economic and social reforms which would lessen the resentment of the natives toward France and would assure their gradual evolution toward self-government. We believe, however that the strength of France depends in no small measure on the peaceful integration of Morocco into the French Union, and that France is the country best suited to have international responsibility for Morocco. We have therefore avoided putting pressure on France by giving aid and comfort to the natives directly, although we maintain open contact with them, and consider their friendship and good will very important.
It is also our policy to assist directly in the economic development of French Morocco, and aid has been granted the French for this purpose by the ECA. This aid has consisted of dollar credits for the importation of capital goods and industrial material, and of counterpart funds which are loaned to French Morocco; both types of aid are expended almost entirely on large-scale industrial and agricultural development projects. The purpose of these grants is to raise French Morocco’s level of economic activity, including production both for local consumption and for export.
Our treaty rights in Morocco are extensive, and include rights of extraterritorial jurisdiction and broad economic rights, which give us considerable influence in Morocco, especially in the economic sphere. The French have for many years been trying to diminish this US influence by altering our treaty rights. Immediately prior to World War II negotiations were undertaken for the relinquishment by the United States of our capitulatory and economic rights in return for a modern commercial treaty. These negotiations were halted by the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 and have not been resumed. Our rights in Morocco have been the subject of discussion between the United States and France during the past year. These discussions were precipitated by a group of Americans who established themselves [Page 1739] in business in Morocco after the war and who enjoyed a privileged trading position for a time prior to the inception of the European Recovery Program. The French have suggested, in connection with pressure put on them by the Department at the behest of these American businessmen, that the whole question of treaty rights in Morocco be reviewed by the International Court of Justice.
The specific issue which has arisen is the trade and exchange controls exercised by the French Protectorate Government. We have assented to the temporary application of these controls to Americans, in the belief that a denial of such assent would have been prejudicial to the attainment of the objectives of the European Recovery Program. Unfortunately, however, the administration of the controls vis-à-vis Americans was being conducted in such a manner as to render the position of certain American interests difficult. We have reached agreement with the French on a modus vivendi designed to correct this situation, but it is not clear whether this arrangement will work out successfully. Our assent to the trade and exchange controls should be withdrawn as soon as it is possible to do so without serious harm to the economic and financial stability of the franc zone.
The legislation authorizing the European Recovery Program passed by the Congress in May 1950 provides that the ECA shall take remedial action when the Department determines that any recipient country is discriminating against citizens of the United States except to the extent such discrimination may be reasonably required to meet balance of payments or national security requirements or as authorized by international agreements to which the United States and the country in question are parties. This provision may assist this Government in protecting the interests of American businessmen in Morocco.
More recently Congress passed the following amendment to the ECA Appropriations Act:
“… Provided further, that after November 1, 1950, no funds herein appropriated shall be made available to any nation of which a dependent area fails, in the opinion of the President, to comply with any treaty to which the United States and such dependent area are parties.”
This amendment is directed at French Morocco, and as yet there is no indication of what its effect will be on our position in the French Protectorate.
Spanish Morocco. Our policy toward the Spanish zone has necessarily been a negative one, since we have never recognized the Spanish zone of influence. We do not maintain any official representation there, and information received is therefore extremely meager. We have refused to recognize the Spanish zone chiefly because Spain, in discussions [Page 1740] with us on this subject, has always demanded that our recognition be accompanied by abolition of our capitulatory rights.
The International Zone of Tangier. Although the United States has not become a party to the Tangier Statute of 1923, we have since 1945 been taking an active part in the provisional international regime established by the Anglo-French Agreement of August 31, 1945. The special position of the United States in the International Zone and our participation in its administration are of political and strategic importance to the United States and should, for the foreseeable future, be maintained. Tangier will probably continue to serve purposes considered in the national interest. Tangier was the headquarters for the strategic preparatory work for the North African landings; there are now located in the International Zone the telecommunications relay stations on which our radiotelegraphic communications with the greater part of the Eastern Hemisphere (except the Far East) are dependent; Tangier is one of the important relay bases for the Voice of America broadcasts.
The International Administration at Tangier is the only one of its kind in the world today which functions in an orderly and peaceful manner. We desire that it continue to do so. Continued participation in the international regime will also guarantee us additional control over our position in the area. When conditions permit the convocation of a conference of the parties to the Act of Algeciras to agree on a definitive Tangier Statute, it will be our policy to do everything possible to assure to the Zone and its inhabitants a more efficient and more truly international administration, and to protect the rights of the United States in the Zone.
c. relations with other states
France. French policy toward North Africa has fluctuated with the changes in the French Government. Traditionally, the right and center political groups within France have generally supported continuation of imperial domination and have opposed genuine concessions to the inhabitants of the territories, whereas the left has advocated many of the aims of the nationalists, short of independence. The French Government has been attempting to achieve a long-term political and economic policy for all North Africa, but the internal difficulties of the Republic together with the opposition of the French colons in Morocco, have served to sidetrack such plans. It has been maintained in some French circles that under the constitution of 1946 Morocco is an associated state within the framework of the French Union. The Sultan of Morocco has never accepted this view.
The reforms actually instituted to date in French Morocco are either inadequate or controversial in nature. Some of the reforms proposed [Page 1741] by Franco have been rejected by the Sultan because they have been designed to diminish his influence while failing to replace it with genuinely democratic power in the hands of the Moroccan people. Increased civil rights for Moroccans are promised for some time in the future, but so far the state of seige, which greatly restricts these rights is still being maintained. Censorship is heavy; freedom of speech and assembly are not granted to Moroccans; indigenous political parties and labor unions are proscribed. Adequate educational facilities for Moroccans have not been provided by the French, and attempts of the Moroccans to provide such facilities have been discouraged. The nationalists have charged that economic measures are unduly oppressive. France appears to be completely opposed to independence even as a distant goal and seems determined to integrate French Morocco into the French Union, with or without the consent of the Moroccans. The French believe that Morocco is absolutely vital to France’s political, military and economic objectives, and that the magnitude of the French investment and the substantial French population entitle France to permanent control of the area. French policy toward the nationalists seems to be growing more repressive, and apparently is following the rather dangerous line of attempting to identify the nationalists as being sympathetic to Communism.
France acknowledged almost complete control of Spain over the Spanish zone by a treaty of 1912. French policy with regard to the Spanish zone appears to be primarily to prevent Spain from extending the zone to the Sebou River, where Spain has long maintained it should be. There have been recent reports that the French Resident General and the Spanish High Commissioner may have agreed to cooperate in security and military matters, and in controlling nationalism in both zones.
French dominance and prestige in the International Zone of Tangier were almost completely eclipsed during the four war years when Spain was in illegal occupation. France’s policy now is to reassert its predominance and to reestablish its prestige. The French hope to accomplish this mainly by means of control over the Sultan’s representative at Tangier, and by maintaining permanent tenure of the two influential posts in the administration: the Assistant Administrator for Moroccan Affairs, and the Deputy Commandant of the Tangier International Police Force.
United Kingdom. The British Government, while realizing the dangers inherent in France’s rigid policies in North Africa, has been reluctant to inject itself into the delicate North African situation. British representatives in North Africa now have instructions to play, [Page 1742] as far as possible, a passive role. It is believed that the United Kingdom Government is genuinely anxious to support the French Government and to contribute toward the restoration of quiet, peaceful and harmonious relations between the French and Moslems in North Africa. However, even if the United Kingdom could be persuaded to follow a policy toward Morocco closely approximating US policy, it is believed that a joint approach or simultaneous conversations with the French, even on a high confidential level, would be interpreted by the French as a power play to impose a program rather than as a friendly suggestion.
The United Kingdom’s policy toward the International Zone of Tangier is primarily the negative one of neutralizing the position of other powers so that the International Zone will not be dominated by any one nation. This has been British policy since the British fortress in Tangier, across the straits from Gibraltar, was given up over 250 years ago.
Spain. Spain regards the Moroccan Empire as a myth, and in the administration of the Spanish zone pays only nominal respect to the sovereignty of the Sultan. Spain consistently has worked toward turning its zone into an outright colony. The Spanish Government pays little attention to US and UK capitulatory rights in Spanish Morocco, or to the principle of “economic liberty without any inequality” established by the Act of Algeciras. Spain exhibits interest in the French zone by perennial reminders of its desire to extend the boundaries of Spanish Morocco southward to the Sebou River, and by maintaining a considerable number of consulates throughout the French zone.
Spain has been carrying on a campaign to bring about a revision of the provisional international administration in Tangier. The Spanish Consul General at meetings of the Committee of Control has urged amendments to the Anglo-French Agreement and changes in the international administration designed to strengthen Spain’s position. The Spanish are anxious to enhance their position to the point where it will be at least equal to that of France.
USSR. Soviet policy and interests in Morocco are primarily reflected in the activities of the local Communist Party. Taking advantage of the present situation in French Morocco, they are using their propaganda and other tactics in an attempt to embarrass the French administration and strengthen their own movement among the Moroccans, while occasionally attacking the Sultan and wealthy nationalist leaders. The possibility of a working agreement between the nationalists and the Moroccan Communist Party, though still remote, seems more likely than it did a year or so ago.[Page 1743]
The Moroccan Communist Party is recognized by the Protectorate Government, although since the decline of Communist strength in France pressure on the Party by the Protectorate Government appears to be increasing. The membership is drawn largely from laboring-class Europeans and the lower echelons of government workers, although it is reported that it has gained increasing interest among rural Moroccans. Labor unions in Morocco are heavily infiltrated with Communists, and these are often instrumental in spreading propaganda among Moroccans, since the latter are not permitted to organize unions of their own but are permitted to join French unions. The Party has not committed itself openly and consistently to any political objective, but follows closely the line of French Communists. During periods of weakness in France, it seeks to foment separatist tendencies in the Protectorate.
The USSR was invited to take part in the Conference of Experts on Tangier which met in Paris during August 1945 for the purpose of putting an end to the illegal Spanish occupation of Tangier and of reestablishing the international administration on a provisional basis. Although the USSR signed the final act of the Conference, it has not as yet accepted the invitation extended to it to adhere to the Anglo-French Agreement, or shown any interest in participating in the present Tangier regime. Presumably the Soviet Government considers the invitation outstanding, however, and could accept at any time and send a representative to Tangier. We have avoided any move which might encourage the Soviets to do this.
Other European Countries. The interests of Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden in Morocco are centered in the International Zone of Tangier. All of them are parties to the Act of Algeciras and are entitled to representation on the Tangier Committee of Control and in the International Legislative Assembly. Italy has only recently been re-admitted to the International Administration and is expected to attempt to regain some of its former position. Italy may ultimately play an important role in the administration, not only because of its strategic interests, but also because of the sizable Italian colony there and its churches, schools, and other investments. Portugal, on appropriate occasions, issues a mild statement regarding its traditional interest in the Zone, which dates back to 1661 when Portugal gave Tangier to the British. Sweden has shown no interest in Tangier, and has not sent the requisite career consul to assume membership on the Tangier Committee of Control.
The Arab League. The Arab League has given some encouragement to North African nationalists in their aspirations for independence. Early in 1947 the League adopted a resolution calling for complete [Page 1744] autonomy for Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Since that time individual Arab leaders have periodically reaffirmed their support of the North African cause. Although member countries do not all agree on certain Near Eastern questions, they can agree unreservedly on the North African question, and thus foster League unity. The Council of the League and prominent Near Eastern Arabs have so openly committed themselves to support the North African nationalists that they could not renounce their commitments without considerable loss of prestige throughout the Arab countries. It is believed that the League fully intends to implement those provisions of the Arab League Pact which oblige the Council of the League to adopt all possible political measures to advance the interest of dependent Arab peoples. It is not clear just when the League will take definite action, however. It has been involved for some time past in the Palestine question and is apparently not contemplating concrete action in the immediate future. The sharp divisions of opinion among the states who are members of the League on Near Eastern questions has diminished the strength of the League. This has had an apparent effect on the League’s attitude with regard to North Africa in that there has been no recent positive action taken regarding that area. The Committee for Freedom of North Africa, headed by Abd el Krim in Cairo, has been trying to persuade some member state of the League to present the case of Tunisia to the General Assembly of the United Nations, and it seems not impossible that it will succeed in this effort.
The United Nations decision on Libya seems to have heartened the Moroccans, and to have renewed their hopes in their ability to achieve their goal through appeal to the United Nations. It may be expected, therefore, that they will continue their efforts to gain a hearing in that organization.
d. policy evaluation
Our policy of encouraging the French to institute political and constitutional reforms has to date not produced tangible results which could be called impressive. We have refrained from pressing them too hard because of the difficulties in which Metropolitan France has been ever since the end of the war, and because any discussions of change have caused what the French call “effervescence” among the Moroccan population.
Nationalist pressure, which was at a low ebb in 1948 and 1949 is now beginning to increase. In light of this, the two forces which may lead to a change in the status quo are the policies of the French and the policies of the Communists. The present repressive policy of the French is a force which may lead to a disruption of the stability of Morocco or to discussion of the problem in the United Nations. The [Page 1745] Communist policy is probably directed solely toward the encouragement of unlawful activity, which would result in unrest or disorders in Morocco.
With respect to the first, the French have shown great reluctance to alter their policy. In response to an informal approach to the Foreign Office by the American Embassy at Paris in mid-1947, the French gave us the plans which they intended to follow in the development of Morocco. These indicated that their general approach followed our thinking on the subject. Certain political reforms were introduced in 1947, but these were extremely limited in scope and were accomplished only after difficult negotiations between the Resident General and the Sultan, which were accompanied by some unrest among the Moroccan population. The French have apparently not indicated to the Moroccans what their plans are, nor have they established a time-table according to which the plans would be carried out.
As for the second, the Communists have for years been attempting to form a coalition with the Istiqlal (Independence) Nationalist Party, but have met with little success. During the latter part of 1949 there were indications that some Moroccan leaders were lending a more sympathetic ear to Communist overtures, and Abd el Krim, who is held in veneration by the Moroccans, and indeed by most North African natives, has stated publicly that he would, if necessary, accept the aid of the USSR. It is believed, however, that this is simply an attempt to force the attention of France and other countries. There is some danger, however, that the Communists will, ostensibly to further the cause of the Moroccans, incite disorders in Morocco among the less responsible segments of the population, either for the simple purpose of causing disturbances, or in order to make necessary even harsher action by the French.
There is also a real danger that French efforts to tar the Moroccan nationalists with the Communist brush, combined with increasing pressure on both nationalists and Communists, may, in the long run, accomplish what the Communists have so far, without French assistance, failed to achieve, i.e., a working agreement between the two groups.
It seems fairly certain that concrete action of some sort will be attempted by the nationalists in the near future. Events in Indochina, the UN action on Libya, the activities of Abd el Krim since his escape in May 1947, and the failure of the French to give the Moroccans any definite hope have all served to increase the pressure for a change in French Morocco.
A widespread revolt in the near future is not considered probable, since the Moroccan nationalist leaders are aware that this could undoubtedly [Page 1746] be suppressed by France, and they have, moreover, often expressed their desire to exhaust all peaceable means in the effort to gain their ends. If the Communists should succeed in inspiring a revolt, the result would only be to heighten the ill will between France and Morocco and we would, of course, discourage any tendency on the part of the nationalists to participate in violent action.
The nationalists would like to have one of the member states of the Arab League introduce this question into the United Nations, and it is believed that the issue will be based on the claims of the Moroccan nationalists that the French administration in Morocco is oppressive and contrary to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. If this should happen, it seems likely that the USSR would support the Moroccan nationalists, in spite of the fact that Moroccans are generally strongly anti-Communist, because either internal disturbances or a divorcement of Morocco from France would further Soviet objectives.
Depending on how the matter were raised in the UN, the United States would be confronted with a serious question of policy determination. On the one hand, we believe that France is the nation best equipped to exercise international responsibility for the area. On the other hand, French policy in the Protectorate has not been entirely consistent with the policies of the United States or the principles of the United Nations Charter. We should point out at once to the French the difficult position in which the US would be placed, and continue to press them to institute political, economic and social reforms which would guarantee the evolution of Morocco toward self-government and which would concurrently safeguard the economic development of the area and the legitimate French interests by its peaceful and voluntary integration into the French Union. We should suggest again that the French Government give serious consideration to approaching leading nationalist elements in Morocco with constructive, concrete and long-range plans which will guarantee gradual but sure evolution toward something comparable to dominion status within the framework of the French Union. We believe that it would be most useful for the French to establish a time-table for any such plans.
We wish the French Government and French officials in overseas areas to understand and be assured of the fact that the United States has no intention of pursuing a policy designed to weaken the relationships between France and Morocco. On the contrary, we wish to see these relationships strengthened. Our economic assistance, the activities of the USIE and other aspects of our policy are not in any way designed to undermine French influence.[Page 1747]
Recent difficulties with the French over the question of US treaty rights in Morocco, particularly re the application of trade and exchange controls to American ressortissants, may well justify our giving further consideration to the possibility of giving up our present rights in exchange for a new FCN Treaty with the Sultan. In considering this question, however, careful account must be taken of the political repercussions which such a move might have on our relations with the Sultan and his Government and our prestige with the Arab world.
- Department of State Policy [Information] Statements were concise documents summarizing the current U.S. policy toward, the relations of the principal powers with, and the issues and trends in a particular country or region. The Statements were intended to provide information and guidance for officers in missions abroad. They were generally prepared by ad hoc working groups in the responsible geographic offices of the Department of State and were referred to appropriate diplomatic missions abroad, under cover of formal instructions from the Secretary of State, for comment and criticism. The Policy Statements were periodically revised.↩