The Spanish Protectorate of Morocco was the strip of land in Northern Morocco under colonial rule by Spain from 1912 to 1956, when both France and Spain recognized Moroccan independence.
The small Spanish protectorate, covering little more than the Rif Mountains, was the result of an agreement between Britain, who felt uneasy with the idea of having another great power so close to Gibraltar, and France, who had ambitioned for long to establish a colony in Morocco (and eventually established a protectorate over most of the rest of the country). It did not include the city of Tangiers, which was placed under international rule (except for a brief period during World War II where it was occupied by Spain) nor the cities of Ceuta, Melilla and the Plazas de Soberanía which still belong to Spain today.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the place was inhabited by different tribes over which the Sultan of Morocco had little actual control. These waged a long guerrilla war against the Spanish during the 1920s, which was only crushed after France intervened in favor of Spain and Spain underwent reforms similar to those carried by other nations during World War I, where this country had been neutral. Many of the commanders of the Nationalist faction during the Spanish Civil War such as José Sanjurjo, Francisco Franco and José Millán Astray made a name for themselves in Spanish Morocco.
Spanish Morocco was gripped by violence and unrest following the Great War. The United States did nothing to resolve the conflict, as the nation was well outside its sphere of influence. In 1919, William Howard Taft mocked his colleague, Flora Hamburger, by saying that if she wanted to condemn Freedom Party violence against ConfederateNegroes, she might as well advocate intervention in Spanish Morocco and a number of other places around the globe as well.
Many of the Nationalists who rose against the Second Spanish Republic in 1936 were veterans of the war in Spanish Morocco, including Marshal José Sanjurjo who had earned the nickname "The Lion of the Rif" for his victories in the region. While some of the younger soldiers such as Joaquin Delgadillo had a romantic idea about the place, those who had actually spent time there like Miguel Carrasquel held it as an example of how ugly a war could get.