The Consul at Rabat (McBride) to the Secretary of State 1

No. 169

Subject: First Impressions on Results of Sultan’s Trip to France

Although His Majesty will not return to Rabat until Wednesday, November 8, and more detailed information as to the results of the trip will of course be forthcoming following his arrival in his capital, it is thought that certain preliminary impressions might be conveyed at this time in view of the obvious importance of the conversations that took place in Paris, and their aftermath in Morocco. It is apparent from the press coverage of the affairs and the very guarded comments of the French officials that the failure of the Sultan to agree to a joint communiqué with the French Government on the harmony of aims existing between the two is considered a sharp rebuke to France. Furthermore the statement which he issued declaring that “a divergence of views existed” wrecked the carefully planned purpose of the voyage which was of course to re-create the facade of harmonious cooperation which has gradually deteriorated since the war, as the sovereign has adopted a decided, albeit concealed, anti-French and pro-independence policy. Should the French plan have succeeded and a joint statement made, a wedge would have been driven between the Sultan and the nationalists and the position of unquestioned leadership of the former with his people weakened.

The failure of the Moroccan Sultan to accept the French reply to his memorandum of October 11 and his despatching of another note via the Grand Vizier just before his departure from Paris, on the other hand, not only made up for the popularity which had been lost by his embarking for France in the first place, but gained him new respect for his refusal to knuckle under. His action was the more spectacular in that the nationalists had opposed the trip and claimed to be worried by the Sultan’s possible defection from the independence movement just now. His original note of October 11 was not strong enough either in the nationalist view, and the Sultan’s oral remarks which went much further, were not quoted until two weeks later. However, his communiqué issued separately before leaving Paris more than restored their faith in him, and his prestige has never been greater with the Moroccans even though he made the apparently appeasing gesture towards the French of accepting their invitation.

The preliminary conclusion that can be drawn from the visit is that the French were duped by the Sultan into believing that a soothing [Page 1761] conclusion to the conversations could be reached, when some crumbs of reform might be announced as a conciliatory gesture by the French. In return the Moroccans were to sign on the dotted line to observe the restrictions of the Treaty of Fez, which the French have long since by-passed in practice themselves.

It should be recalled that the Sultan’s unilateral announcement was made just after General Juin’s return from Indochina and a precipitate return by His Majesty himself from Switzerland. The meaning of this is not definitely known, but it is generally assumed that when the Resident returned from his special mission, he opposed even such slight reforms as had been offered. Accordingly when the Sultan was sent for to be informed the French position had retroceded from that of a few weeks earlier, the Moroccan sovereign drew back and refused to maintain the harmonious front any longer.

All of the reforms which have so far been discussed by the press and which have been reported in full appear to be fragmentary in nature, and to require further action before they can be made effective. For example, the news of the lifting of press censorship, reportedly to be granted by the French, was initially received with enthusiasm in the French Zone; however, this earlier feeling evaporated when it became clear that the present regime would be superseded by a law on press crimes which could be utilized to hamper anti-French pronouncements as effectively as actual censorship. Furthermore the more substantial measures which the Sultan requested such as the right of Moroccans to form their own labor unions seem to have been referred to a mixed commission to be established in Rabat. It should be borne in mind that any joint negotiations in Rabat are much less likely to succeed than those held in Paris because of General Juin’s rather intransigent policy, the fulminations of the French colony here on the spot against any reforms, and the less conciliatory attitude of the Protectorate officials than that of the corresponding French authorities. Thus, it must be concluded that the promised reforms will simmer down virtually to nothing. In any event they will be unilateral actions on the part of the French, it would seem in the light of the Sultan’s communiqué, and therefore could not be considered by him as even a partial solution to the Moroccan problem.

While clarification of the exact situation must, therefore, await the return of the Moroccan group from France, it is already evident that no change is forthcoming and the almost universal predictions before the trip took place that it would prove nothing are amply borne out. To France what does this mean? It could be maintained nothing beyond the loss of face incurred by the Sultan’s statement which highlighted the French failure to satisfy the Moroccans. However, there is an added factor in what appears to be an increased tension [Page 1762] in the French Zone of Morocco. The extent of this cannot be gauged yet. It is believed, though, that this renewed evidence of what the Moroccans consider French bad faith in discussing publicly reforms and then offering virtually nothing will solidify nationalism in this country. Furthermore such tricks as press stories virtually accusing the sovereign of duplicity in going beyond his written memorandum in his oral presentation of the Moroccan case have enraged some neutral and independent Moroccans. The Sultan’s last effort, despite opposition from his own people, to wring concessions for them from his masters has won him new admiration because of the interest shown for his people. Then also, of course his refusal to sign when the French reply to his proposals, delayed until the last possible moment before his departure, turned out to be a hollow affair was apparently in accord with the wishes of politically-conscious Moroccans.

Therefore, in summary it would seem that France had lost prestige and increased, if possible, hatred of her presence in Morocco. Since Morocco is an utterly defenseless state, this has no meaning in terms of forthcoming uprising and revolution, but it does augur for increased bitterness and tension and a new seeking for a way out that could lead to an all-out effort to arm clandestinely on the part of the nationalists.

Robert H. McBride
  1. Copies sent to Paris, Tangier, Algiers, Tunis, and Casablanca.