US pushes $1 billion arms sale to Morocco, reportedly part of normalization deal

Morocco to get drones and advanced munitions, joining Israeli drones already in its air force.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The Trump administration is pushing a $1 billion arms sale to Morocco as part of the deal under which Morocco will establish full diplomatic ties with Israel and the U.S. will recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the contested Western Sahara region, Reuters reported on the weekend.

As part of the deal, the U.S. will sell at least four MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones to Morocco along with advanced munitions, apparently to be used by the Moroccan military in its ongoing fight against Islamic rebels in the Western Saharan region – an area of mostly desert about the size of Colorado on the southern border of the country.

Although there have apparently been talks over the weapons sale for the past several months, sources said the sale was authorized by the State Department and it has to be confirmed by Congress, but would not confirm if the weapons deal was directly related to Morocco’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel, although the timing strongly suggests it.

In a surprise move last week, President Donald Trump announced that Israel and Morocco would normalize relations, and that the U.S. was departing from its previous policy and now recognizes the Western Sahara region as part of Moroccan territory.

Israel has had ongoing behind-the-scenes ties with Morocco and the two countries maintained official liaison offices in each country until Morocco closed them in 2000 at the start of the second Intifada. More than one million Israelis are of Moroccan descent and until the pandemic there had been healthy tourism with thousands of Israelis visiting Morocco annually.

In Morocco, the main Islamist groups harshly criticized the normalization of ties with Israel, with the religious branch of the co-ruling PJD party issuing a statement calling the ties “deplorable” and denouncing “all attempts at normalization and the Zionist infiltration.”

Algeria, which backs the Polisario Front rebels in the Western Sahara against Morocco, condemned the peace move, with Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad saying the move came from “a desire to bring the Israeli and Zionist entity to our borders.”

Morocco’s air force already has advanced drones in its inventory – from Israel. Earlier this year the French website “Intelligence Online” reported that Israel sold Morocco three Heron drones in a $50 million deal, apparently for use against the Islamist rebels in the Western Sahara.