The Washington Institute for Near East Policy published an analytical report by the writer “David Bullock”, in which he sheds light on the recent diplomatic crisis between Algeria and Morocco, which reached to sever relations.
Under the title “The Crack in Relations between Algeria and Morocco: A Non-Comic Play of Mistakes,” Bullock says that the recent diplomatic split between Algeria and Morocco is likely due to Algeria’s desire to divert attention from the challenges it faces at home, but the slips of the actors Others may have turned the tide.
He continued, “Amid all the bad headlines recently issued about Afghanistan, most readers have undoubtedly missed another, less fateful, but sad and also important event, which the other side of the Middle East is witnessing: Algeria’s severance of diplomatic relations with its neighbor Morocco.”
Tensions between Morocco and Algeria
Tensions between the two countries had increased in recent months, but recent developments – according to the author – led to an escalation of the estrangement between the two countries to a level not seen for a long time. The reasons appear, at least to an outside observer, to be a mixture of deliberate political disagreements and tactical missteps, exacerbated by mistakes or sins of omission by various outside actors.
David Pollock added, “In my opinion, Algeria plays the leading role in this tragic comedy. It is currently accusing Morocco of “hostile acts”.
Official statements and unofficial leaks from Algiers interpret this accusation to include new Moroccan support, at least verbally, for supporters of the ethnic rights of Berbers (Kabyles/Kabyles) inside Algeria; allegations of Moroccan spying on Algerian politicians, officials and ordinary citizens; Rabat’s recent hosting of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who used that platform to publicly criticize Algeria for its alleged tilt toward Iran and the “radical” axis in the region.
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The writer also finds that, of course, behind all this, there is a period of nearly half a century of the Moroccan-Algerian conflict that continues over Western Sahara. This vast area, mostly desert lands, extends along the southwestern borders of Algeria and Morocco to the Atlantic coast, which Morocco received from Spain in 1975, at a time when Muammar Gaddafi and Algeria supported the “Polisario” movement. [التي تطالب] local independence.
Above all, recent rumors in Algeria, possibly provoked by the regime, promote extremist conspiracy theories about Morocco’s complicity in massive new forest fires on Algerian soil, and in material support for “terrorist” or separatist organizations inside Algeria.
Behind this entire campaign lies probably the internal predicament of the Algerian government. According to Bullock, who pointed out that this authoritarian government, as he described it, is popular despite the elections, and has been facing mass protests by the opposition (the “Hirak”) and other social movements over the past two years.
This government is currently ruling amid a sharp downturn in the economy with little prospect of recovery in the near term. Ironically, according to one Algerian expert I spoke with recently, keeping Algeria’s border with Morocco closed might protect Algeria’s most vulnerable and centralized economy from competition—even while the local population is denied opportunities for trade, low-cost consumer imports, or employment. Attempting to deflect popular resentment by diverting attention to foreign scapegoats is a desperate and even proven tactic that has been tested over the years by similar regimes.
However, this technique is fading in the face of reliable survey results from various Arab countries that show that an overwhelming majority (usually 75-85%) of citizens in each society agree with suggestions as follows: “Currently, domestic political and economic reforms are the most important Too much for our country than any foreign policy issue – so we should stay out of any wars outside our borders.”
Precisely for this reason, at least in part, it is unlikely that the Algerian government, though heavily infiltrated by the “authority” of the army and security services, would allow this diplomatic row to turn into a de facto armed conflict with Morocco. One indication of its keenness is that consular offices appear to remain open, at least for the time being.
As for Morocco’s secondary role in these dramatic events, it revolves more around mixed messages than a deliberate provocation. On the occasion of the “Throne Day”, the last speech of King Mohammed VI was marked by a striking conciliatory attitude towards Algeria.
However, a subsequent letter from Morocco’s ambassador to the United Nations, who abruptly endorsed the “right of self-determination” for the Kabyle Prime Time Zone across the Algerian border, undermined the king’s message. This appears to have been the last straw that broke the camel’s back in Algeria’s latest and unfriendly response, although it had been publicly considering similar moves even before that.
The unintended attack itself must be attributed to Israel, which plays only a limited role in this regard. Late last year, as a follow-up to the “Ibrahim Accords,” Morocco “normalized” diplomatic relations with Israel, to be rewarded by the Trump administration by recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. Many analysts, including this writer, predicted that the move, which was welcomed in many ways, would inflame tensions with Algeria, although it likely would not amount to war.
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Unfortunately, this narrative was reinforced, I think inadvertently, by the Israeli foreign minister during his last official visit to Morocco – the first such public visit in decades, or since the Madrid/Oslo-era “Multilateral Track” economic conference that took place at the House. Al-Bayda in 1994. This time, his unwary statements did not serve any apparent Israeli, Moroccan or other ally’s interest. Thus, it was a tactical mistake that should never be repeated.
America is trying to maintain its alliance with Morocco and improve its relations with Algeria
Finally, we get to the small American role in this entire episode. Washington, which wants to maintain its long-standing alliance with Morocco and improve its relations with Algeria at the same time, can do more than just view with concern the further estrangement between the two countries. In addition, these days US officials are preoccupied with many other, more serious crises and dilemmas – from Afghanistan to Iran and beyond, not to mention serious domestic social, economic, and health problems.
As a result, the author concludes, we should not expect an effective American attempt to manage the conflict or mediate in North Africa. The good side for all involved is simply that no side really wants to indulge in unexpected risks in the event of a full-fledged confrontation as well.
He concluded: In short, the diplomatic estrangement between Algeria and Morocco is a cause for concern, but it is not a source of great concern. This likely means that it will not be healed easily or quickly, even if it will undoubtedly remain confined to sad diplomatic and political symbolism.
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