Familiar to classic film buffs from the Hollywood movie Casablanca, Morocco is the United States’ oldest ally. Although always nominally independent, in fact Morocco was run by France from 1912 to 1956. Strategically situated at the Strait of Gibraltar at the Western end of the Mediterranean, Morocco plays an important role in world diplomacy as a moderate Arab nation. It is a long-time ally of the United States. Today, the country controls most of Western Sahara, which the UN declares a “non-self-governing territory.”
Location: Located in Northwestern Africa, Morocco is bordered by Spain (across the Strait of Gibraltar) and the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Algeria to the east, Western Sahara to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. With a total land area of 172,414 square miles, Morocco is slightly larger than California. Two mountain ranges, the Rif and the Atlas, occupy more than a third of its total area. The vast majority of the population resides between the Atlantic Ocean and those mountains, south and east of which lays the sparsely populated Sahara Desert. The largest city in Morocco is Casablanca, where more than 3.2 million Moroccans live, while Rabat, home to only 627,000, is the capital. Although Morocco has annexed the adjacent territory of Western Sahara, an independence movement is active there, and very few countries have officially recognized Moroccan sovereignty.
The Berbers, a people who now inhabit the lands lying between the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea, from Egypt to Morocco, were present in Morocco by the end of the second millennium BCE. They were primarily settled farmers, though some were nomadic. Phoenician traders established trading ports along Morocco’s Mediterranean coast in the twelfth century BCE. The northern coast of Morocco was part of the ethnically Phoenician Carthaginian Empire between the 5th century BCE and 146 BCE, when Rome defeated Carthage and extended Roman rule over the coast. In the 5th century, as Rome fell into decline, Morocco fell to the Vandals, Visigoths, and then Byzantine Greeks in rapid succession. During this time, however, the high mountains of Morocco remained in the hands of their Berber inhabitants.
Al Alam (Arabic)
Morocco was the first country to recognize the independence of the United States, which Sultan Sidi Muhammad Ben Abdullah did on December 20, 1777. In 1787, the two countries concluded a Treaty of Peace and Friendship, signed by Thomas Jefferson,John Adams, and Muhammad III, which became the first treaty ratified by the Congress under the Constitution. The treaty was renegotiated in 1836 and is still applicable today, representing the longest unbroken treaty relationship in U.S. history.
Famous Moroccan Americans:
In 2009, US imports from Morocco totaled $468 million and US exports to Morocco were worth $1.6 billion.
Morocco Expels U.S. Christians for Proselytizing
The 2009 US State Department’s Human Rights Report stated that, “According to the constitution, ultimate authority rests with King Mohammed VI.…Citizens did not have the right to change the constitutional provisions establishing their monarchical form of government or the establishment of Islam as the state religion….Corruption was a serious problem in all branches of government.
Should the International Community Allow Morocco to Retain Control of Western Sahara?
Samuel R. Gummere
President Barack Obama has welcomed a new ambassador from Morocco, which was the first nation to recognize the newly-independent United States in 1777. Mohamed Rachad Bouhlal was appointed ambassador by King Mohammed VI on December 6, 2011, and presented his credentials to President Obama on January 17, 2012.
Samuel L. Kaplan was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Morocco on September 18, 2009. He earned his B.B.A. degree from the University of Minnesota in 1957 and his J.D. degree from the University of Minnesota in 1960. He worked as an adjunct professor of law during the early years following law school graduation, and is often a visiting lecturer at law schools and a speaker at continuing legal education programs. Kaplan is a founding member and president of the law firm of Kaplan, Strangis and Kaplan, P.A., established in Minneapolis in 1978. Kaplan has served on the boards of directors of several publicly held companies, and at present sits on the board of investment bank PiperJaffray. With his business partner Ralph Strangis, Kaplan owns numerous nursing homes and senior housing facilities in the Upper Midwest, apartment facilities in the St. Cloud, Minnesota area. In 1988, Kaplan and Strangis organized Windsor Bancshares, Inc. which owned Bank Windsor, operating at several locations in the State of Minnesota. That company was later acquired by Associated Banc-Corp. Kaplan was also an organizer and former president and director of Banking Corporation of Florida, which owned First Florida Bank in Naples, Florida. That company was later acquired by Synovus Financial Corp.