Royal arbitration in Morocco is not easy to understand, let alone interpret, but it is essential to know where Mohammed VI's most important decisions are taken. Impulses are not good advisors and their consequences are not usually positive.
The essential issue for all Moroccans without distinction is the Sahara. For this reason, those who know or try to get close to the core of decision-making in the royal environment point out that the usual signals used are those of personalities close to the monarch because they share university studies, such as Fouad Ali El Himma, known as an orchestral adviser for his mastery of the issues in general, and Yassin Mansouri, head of the Intelligence Services with an international reputation and efficiency. Abdellatif Hammouchi, who is consolidating his role as adviser on security and terrorism and director general of security, is one of the key players in the Moroccan monarch's entourage. Over the last few days, the few leaks that have been made, and which are always pending definitive confirmation, have indicated that Mohammed VI has brought together these three advisers as key players in relations with Spain, at the most direct level for his decisions.
The influence they can exert on the positions taken is determined by their backgrounds. Fouad Ali El Himma, conditioned in part by his delicate state of health, is always in favour of maintaining a firmer position with Spain, following his background in the United States with a broad vision for Morocco's interests that culminated in Donald Trump's announcement of recognising Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara on 10 December, and one of the architects of having extended Moroccan influence in various American and Israeli power circles. Mansouri and Hammouchi are reportedly keen not to reach a situation of rupture and to maintain bridges on strategic issues such as anti-terrorist and intelligence cooperation.
In this crisis with Spain, the foreign minister, Nasser Bourita, has played a leading role. He has been gaining ground in recent months due to the success of his diplomatic efforts with various countries, such as the now well-known milestone with the United States for Moroccan interests in the Sahara, But also with influential countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, a dozen African countries and, in the European sphere, the recovery of excellent relations with France and a very good relationship with the United Kingdom, boosted by Brexit and the Anglo-Saxon environment, stand out. The communiqués issued by Bourita's ministry have set a tough tone with Spain, with novel forms and direct language, firmly defending Moroccan positions and criticising the Spanish government's actions with schematic, broad and direct arguments. Bourita has grown up in foreign affairs under the guidance of royal adviser and former minister Taieb Fassi-Fihri, who prefers to be a cautious character and is not given to public statements or appearances. A profile that follows the usual discretion of Fouad Ali El Himma, a reserved person even when he founded the PAM, the Authenticity and Modernity party with intermittent relations with the moderate Islamist leaders of the Justice and Development party, in government for the last two legislatures.
In the role of going out to the media, in addition to Minister Bourita, the role of the ambassador in Madrid, called in for consultations by Rabat, Karima Benyaich, sister of the previous ambassador, Fadel Benyaich, whose mother is Grenadian, should be valued, She was very close to the royal family and had a certain weight during the evolution of the crisis, representing the most direct diplomatic channel and the one who most publicly reproached the Spanish government for not having provided information or explanations, beyond public interventions in which the humanitarian reasons were clearly insufficient, regarding the reception of Polisario leader Brahim Ghali.
In Mohammed VI's entourage, when it comes to making decisions, the education minister and former ambassador to Spain, Omar Azziman, head of Morocco's new regional structure; the businessman and personal secretary to the king, Mounir Majidi, who is president of the company Siger; and André Azoulay, with special influence in the Jewish environment and with a special sensitivity towards Spain since the time of Hassan II with his co-presidency of the Three Cultures Foundation of the Mediterranean, have their place. And outside of the circle of advisors, Aziz Ajanuch, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, president of the National Rally of Independents party, a personal friend of the king's, has a notable influence.
Since his accession to the throne, Mohammed VI has changed a number of important rules of his father Hassan II's style of government. Undoubtedly, one of the main points of reference was the reform of the 2011 Constitution, followed by the new family code and women's rights, the modernisation of infrastructures, renewable energies and, something fundamental in the last two years, the change in the production model to tackle the great challenge of inequality.
In his own way of doing things, Mohammed VI changed the form and methods of his advisors and promoted the creation of specialised committees to deal with the kingdom's relevant issues. In terms of what can be considered a shadow cabinet with his advisers, Mohammed VI pushed it in two directions: modernisation and standardisation. Within strict discretion, but with greater visibility and transparency, a novelty in its functioning is the specialisation of each adviser in order to gain efficiency and consistency in their advisers, who have held their positions in the administration and know the inner workings. These are the cases of Fassi-Fihri for foreign affairs, Yassir Zenagui for tourism, Abdeltif Menouni for the Constitution, and Omar Azziman for education.
Their functions are consultative, the King is the one who decides, but the royal decisions often cite high royal orientations, directives or instructions.
Article previously published in ABC