In the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire controlled many parts of North Africa and the interior remote areas were not affected by the relentless efforts of the Portuguese to control the Atlantic coast. However, following the Napoleonic Wars the Ottoman Empire lost control and it became practically impossible for the Emperor to govern North Africa from Istanbul (Pennell 74).
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France’s interest in Morocco and Maghreb (which was fabulously wealthy) started in early 1830. In 1844 Morocco suffered heavy defeat in the hands of French Amy in Algeria and the French continued to have influence over the country even after being declared independent state at the Conference of Madrid in 1880. The 1st Moroccan crisis of 1905-1906 was a result of provocative challenge by Germany over French influence in Morocco. The crisis (which is also known as the Tangier Crisis) is believed to be one of the major causes of World War I.
Eventually Morocco was forced to sign the Treaty of Fez in 1912 which made the country a French protectorate. During the same period, the Northern area of Morocco called Rif was coerced to sign a similar treaty with the Spaniards to become a Spanish protectorate. Although these treaties did not strip Morocco off its state sovereignty, they formalized France and Spain’s “special position” and assigned the two countries with the responsibility of jointly policing Morocco (Henri 97).
The Sultan only enjoyed ceremonial powers with no control over the administration of the country. The real policy and administrative control was vested in the aristocratic French colonial administration. Under this administration the French developed better infrastructure, schools and hospitals and local Moroccan people and French investors benefited a lot from the booming economy. The French government invested in modern agricultural sector, while it exploited the natural resources and mineral wealth to the benefit of French market (Jamil 65).
The Sultan successfully negotiated the independence of Morocco from France in the late 1955, through a series of signed agreements. Gradually, Morocco was transformed into a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected government. Eventually, France relinquished its protectorate in Morocco following further negotiations in Paris in the year 1956.
Western Sahara and European enclaves
The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla and Plaza de soberania were considered by the newly independent Morocco to be occupied territory. Ifni was the first Spanish enclave to become part of Morocco in 1969. In 1974, Spain acknowledged the UN resolution calls for a referendum and declared its intention to surrender political control of Western Sahara. In 1976, Spain handed over power of the Western Sahara to Mauritania and Morocco, with two-thirds of the territory going under the control of Morocco. The most recent conflict over the Spanish enclaves was the 2002 crisis over a small uninhabited island called Toura. Both countries claimed ownership of the island lying less than 200 meters from the Moroccan coast. However, both countries made a peaceful agreement to desert the island after mediation efforts led by the United States (Bernard 40).
Historically, Morocco has maintained strong ties with the United States. When America attained independence from the British in 1977, Morocco was the first state in the world to recognize the sovereignty of a newly independent United States. Indeed, the two countries continue to be strong allies to this day. Morocco was actually one of the first Islamic states to declare war on terror and the first to condemn the September 9/11 terrorist attacks. As a sign of appreciation the US designated Morocco as a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally in 2004. Two years later, in 2006, the two countries tightened their relationship by entering into a comprehensive free trade agreement.
Bernard, Lugan. French Military Rule in Morocco. New York: Foundation Press Publishers, 2014. Print.
Henri, Terrase. Morocco: From the Ottoman Conquests to Present Time. New York: University Press Publishers, 2013. Print.
Jamil, Abdi. The History of Maghrib in the Islamic Period. Cambridge: University Publishers, 2014. Print.
Pennell, Chris. Morocco: From Empire to Independence. London: OneWorld Publishers, 2013. Print.