|Part of Interwar period|
Spanish troops landing at Al Hoceima Bay on 8 September 1925
|Republic of the Rif|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Manuel Silvestre
José Millán Astray
Miguel Primo de Rivera
|Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi|
|: 140,000 soldiers
: 325,000 soldiers
Total: 465,000 soldiers
autumn 1925: 35,000-50,000
March 1926: less than 20,000
|Casualties and losses|
|: 63,000 casualties (of which 50,000 killed in battle or died of disease)
: 10,000 dead (2,500 killed in battle)
|30,000 dead and wounded (of which 10,000 dead)|
Forces involved 
Rifian forces 
The Berber tribesmen had a long tradition of fierce fighting skills, combined with high standards of fieldcraft and marksmanship. They were capably led by Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi, commonly called Abd al-Karim, who showed both military and political expertise. However, the Rifian regular army was never a very large force. The elite of the Rifian forces formed regular units which according to Abd el-Krim, quoted by the Spanish General Manuel Goded, numbered 6,000 to 7,000. Other sources put it much lower, at around 2,000 to 3,000.
The remaining Rifians were tribal militia selected by their Caids and not liable to serve away from their homes and farms for more than fifteen consecutive days. General Goded estimated that at their peak, in June 1924, the Rifian forces numbered about 80,000 men, although Abd el-Krim was never able to arm more than 20,000 men at a time. In the final days of the war Rifian forces numbered about 12,000 men. In addition Rifian forces were not well armed, with weapons badly maintained and in poor condition.
Spanish forces 
Initially, the Spanish forces in Morocco were largely composed of Spanish conscripts. These "Peninsular" troops were poorly supplied and prepared, few had marksmanship skills and proper battle training, and widespread corruption was reported amongst the officer corps, reducing supplies and morale. Even with their numerical superiority, they proved no match for the highly skilled and motivated Rifian forces. Accordingly, much reliance came to be placed on the few professional units comprising Spain's Army of Africa. Since 1911, these had included regiments of Moroccan Regulares, who proved to be excellent soldiers.
With the difficulties and setbacks it experienced, the Spanish army began to adopt much in organization and tactics from the French Foreign Legion and a Spanish equivalent, the Tercio de Extranjeros ("Regiment of Foreigners"), known in English as the "Spanish Legion", was formed in 1920. The regiment's second commander was General Francisco Franco, having risen rapidly through the ranks.
Less than 25% of this "Foreign Legion" were, in fact, non-Spanish. Harshly disciplined and driven, they quickly acquired a reputation for ruthlessness. As their number grew, they increasingly led offensive operations after the disasters that had been suffered by the conscript forces.
Course of war 
Early stages 
As an outcome of the Treaty of Fez (1912) Spain gained possession of the lands around Melilla and Ceuta. In 1920, the Spanish commissioner, General Dámaso Berenguer, decided to conquer the eastern territory from the Jibala tribes, but had little success. On 1 July 1921, the Spanish army in north-eastern Morocco collapsed when defeated by the forces of Abd el-Krim, in what became known in Spain as the disaster of Annual, some 8,000 soldiers and officers reported killed or disappeared out of some 20,000. The Spanish were pushed back and during the following five years, occasional battles were fought between the two. The Rifian forces advanced to the east and captured over 130 Spanish military posts.
By late August 1921, Spain lost all the territories it had gained since 1909. Spanish troops were pushed back to Melilla, which was their biggest base in the eastern Rif. Spain still had 14,000 soldiers in Melilla. However Abd el-Krim ordered his troops not to attack Melilla. Since citizens of other European nations were residing in Melilla, Abd el-Krim feared they would intervene in the war should their citizens come to harm.
Thus the Spanish could keep their biggest base in the eastern Rif. Later Abd el-Krim would admit: "I bitterly regret this order. It was my biggest mistake. All the following tenor of events happened because of this mistake." In 1924, during fighting at Dar Aquba, Abd el-Krim's men inflicted a staggering loss on the Spanish colonial forces, killing over 10,000 men. In a bid to break the stalemate, the Spanish military turned to the use of chemical weapons against the Riffians.
French intervention 
In May 1924, the French Army had established a line of posts north of the Oureghla River in disputed tribal territory. On 12 April 1925, an estimated 8,000 Rifians attacked this line and in two weeks over 40 of 66 French posts had been stormed or abandoned. French casualties exceeded 1,000 killed, 3,700 wounded and 1,000 missing - representing losses of over twenty percent of the French forces deployed in the Rif. The French accordingly intervened on the side of Spain, employing up to 160,000 well trained and equipped troops from Metropolitan, North African, Senegalese and Foreign Legion units, and 90,000 Spanish forces for a total of around 250,000. French deaths in what had now become a major war are estimated at about 12,000.
For the final attack commencing on 8 May 1926, the French and Spanish had ranged 123,000 men, supported by 150 aircraft, against 12,000 Rifians. Superior manpower and technology soon resolved the course of the war in favour of France and Spain. The French troops pushed through from the south while the Spanish fleet and army secured Alhucemas Bay by an amphibious landing, and began attacking from the north. After one year of bitter resistance, Abd el-Krim, the leader of both the tribes, surrendered to French authorities, and in 1926 Spanish Morocco was finally retaken.
However, the unpopularity of the war in Spain and the earlier humiliations of the Spanish military contributed to the instability of the Spanish government and the military coup of 1923.
See also 
- Zaian War, the 1914–21 conflict between the French and Berber tribesmen in Morocco.
- Timeline for the Third Rif War (1920–25) Steven Thomas
- David H. Slavin, The French Left and the Rif War, 1924–25: Racism and the Limits of Internationalism, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 26, No. 1, January 1991, pg 5–32
- Pennell, C. R.; page 214
- "Rebels in the Rif" pages 149–152 David S. Woolman, Stanford University Press 1968
- David E. Omissi: Air Power and Colonial Control: The Royal Air Force, 1919–1939, Manchester University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-7190-2960-0, page 188.
- Micheal Clodfelter: Warfare and armed conflicts: a statistical reference to casualty and other figures, 1500–2000, McFarland, 2002, ISBN 0-7864-1204-6, page 398.
- Meredith Reid Sarkees, Frank Whelon Wayman: Resort to war: a data guide to inter-state, extra-state, intra-state, and non-state wars, 1816–2007, CQ Press, 2010, ISBN 0-87289-434-7, page 303.
- C. R. Pennell - A country with a government and a flag: the Rif War in Morocco, 1921–1926, Outwell, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, England: Middle East & North African Studies Press Ltd, 1986, ISBN 0-906559-23-5, page 132; (University of Melbourne - University Library Digital Repository)
- Woolman, page 149
- Dirk Sasse, Franzosen, Briten und Deutsche im Rifkrieg 1921–1926, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2006, ISBN 3-486-57983-5, pg 40–41 (in German)
- Strike from the Sky: The History of Battlefield Air Attack, 1910–1945, Richard P. Hallion, University of Alabama Press, 2010, ISBN 0-8173-5657-6, page 67
- Martin Windrow, p15 "French Foreign Legion 1914–1945, ISBN 1-85532-761-9
- The French empire between the wars: imperialism, politics and society, Martin Thomas, Manchester University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-7190-6518-6, page 212
- "Abd el-Krim". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-Ak - Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2010. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.
- "French Foreign Legion 1914–1945, Martin Windrow, ISBN 1-85532-761-9
SACANELL, Enrique. "El general Sanjurjo". Editorial La Esfera de Los Libros, Madrid (2004) ISBN 978-84-9734-205-6
- Steven Thomas, 1911–1927 Rif War / Second Moroccan War
- The Rif War 1893 (sic) on OnWar.com.
- Chemical Weapons: Tenth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the CWC 7-11 November 2005, The Hague, The Netherlands
- Rif war
- David Montgomery Hart, The Aith Waryaghar of the Moroccan Rif : an ethnography and history. Published for the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research [by] University of Arizona Press, c1976. xxiii, 556 p. : ill. ; 28 cm. ISBN 0-8165-0452-0 :
Series Viking Fund publications in anthropology ; no. 55, Notes. Bibliography: pages 533-546. Tucson, Arizona, (1976)