Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s Minister Delegate of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, was in Washington yesterday for a meeting of the Ministers of the anti-ISIS Global Coalition, convened by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “review and accelerate the campaign for the lasting defeat of ISIS.” Morocco was the first Maghreb country to join the coalition, and was designated a non-NATO ally by President George W. Bush in 2004.
“Together, we share a resolve to deal ISIS or Daesh a lasting defeat,” said Secretary Tillerson in his remarks. “Our coalition is united in stopping an ISIS resurgence, halting its global ambitions and discrediting its ideological narrative. And we’re ready to grow stronger and stay aggressive in this battle.”
Secretary Tillerson outlined four countermeasures to “stay ahead of” ISIS: persisting “with in-country counterterrorism and law enforcement operations”; “greater intelligence and information sharing within our own domestic intelligence agencies and among our nations”; combating “a warped interpretation of Islam”; and breaking “ISIS’s ability to spread its messages and recruit new followers online.”
The countermeasures shared by Secretary Tillerson reflect the many ways Morocco has sought to tackle extremism and the threat of terrorism over the past few years. In May 2015, the country strengthened its counterterrorism operations by creating the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation to bring different elements of the security sector under a central institution. That same year, Morocco’s Parliament enacted laws to criminalize “joining, or attempting to join a terrorist group; receiving terrorist training; and terrorist recruiting.” In addition to the anti-terrorist activities of its security forces, Morocco is taking steps to block terrorists’ access to financial resources and monitor religious organizations to ensure that donations are not used to finance terrorist activities.
Morocco has been a strong proponent of greater intelligence sharing and maintains close intelligence relations with the US and countries throughout Europe and the Middle East. Following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Morocco provided the intelligence that enabled French police to locate the mastermind of the attacks and arrest a Belgian national with direct links to the Islamist gunmen and bombers.
Morocco has also been at the front lines of the ideological battle against religious extremism. Since the early 2000s, the country has reorganized its religious structures—upgrading mosques, publishing an official bulletin of imams, creating a Directorate of Religious Education within the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, training both men and women as religious preachers, among other steps—to protect against radicalization. In a scathing rebuke of Islamic extremism, King Mohammed VI said in a speech delivered to the nation in August 2016, “Those who engage in terrorism, in the name of Islam, are not Muslims… They have strayed from the right path, and their fate is to dwell forever in hell.”
"The meeting was an opportunity to highlight the vision of His Majesty the King to fight the terrorist threat,” said Minister Bourita. “It is a multidimensional approach that includes preventive and repressive aspects.”
Representatives from all 68 member countries and organizations attended the meeting; from North Africa, Minister Bourita was joined by representatives from Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.
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