Hassan Hami
15 March 2024

In Geopolitics: The Use of Pretexts as State Doctrine Destroys the State (Part I)

Photo shows King Mohammed VI, France President Emmanuel Macron, Spain PM Pedro Sanchez and Algeria President Abdelmadjid Tebboune
Photo shows King Mohammed VI, France President Emmanuel Macron, Spain PM Pedro Sanchez and Algeria President Abdelmadjid Tebboune

Algeria is stuck in an ahistorical past as it continues to use the pretexts of decolonization and self-determination to challenge Morocco’s sovereignty over its southern provinces.

Comments about the French Foreign Minister’s visit to Rabat last week have sparkled like ever before. Expectations, as witnessed in the aftermath of the visit of the Spanish head of government, Pedro Sanchez, a week earlier, among other reasons for these exaggerated expectations, people were anxious to hear what the French Foreign Minister, Stéphane Séjourné, would have to say about the Western Sahara question. Indeed, since King Mohammed VI’s speech of August 20, 2022, Morocco’s perception of its relations with other countries is dictated by the nature of their respective positions on the Sahara dispute.   And so, most of the comments that emerged in the aftermath of Sejourne’s visit to Rabat reflect an attitude of impatience that sometimes misses the point.

For one thing, the questions asked and the answers given do not take enough distance from the evolution of geopolitics since the 1960s. Indeed, in the perception of the question of Morocco’s territorial integrity, the parameters chosen have always favored the geopolitical reading while making sure to drown it in the legal-political findings. The actors directly involved in the Sahara issue were Morocco, Spain, Algeria, and Mauritania. However, behind the scenes, France played an important role. From afar, the United States, or the former USSR were watching while not refraining from intervening if need be.

In his memoirs published in Arabic in 2012, as told to Robert Merle, former Algerian president Ahmed Ben Bella looks back at relations between Algeria and Morocco in the aftermath of his country’s independence. Ben Bella uses the term “interdependence” when he talks about Morocco’s independence. He insinuates that the interception of the plane carrying him and other figures of the Algerian revolution leaving Morocco for Egypt back then could not have happened without Moroccan complicity.

Moreover, President Ben Bella became famous with the phrase “Hagrounra Lamrarka, the Moroccans have humiliated us” following the outbreak of the 1963 War of the Sands. Thanks to witnesses and actors involved who have accepted to testify later, people know that the Algerians provoked the war to free themselves from the commitments made in Tangier in 1958 regarding the territorial integrity of Morocco and Tunisia. Promises were made then that as soon as Algeria would become independent, the issue of borders would be settled.

In his memoirs published in 2003, the former Mauritanian president, Mokhtar Ould Daddah, recounts the twists and turns of Mauritania’s involvement in the Sahara affair. He refers to the threats he received from Algerian President Houari Boumediene at a time when Mauritania, Morocco, and Spain were engaged in negotiations on the future of the so-called Spanish Sahara, which led to the signing of the 1975 Madrid tripartite agreement.

Similarly, El Ouali Moustapha Sayed, one of the founders of the Polisario, was killed in June 1976 in Inchiri while supervising an attack on Nouakchott. Testimonies of Polisario leaders who had returned to Morocco claimed that elements subservient to the Algerian intelligence services terminated him. They suspected him of seeking to be more independent from their policy of subversion towards Morocco. He was even suspected of eventually seeking to deal directly with Rabat without the Algerian diktat. Other Polisario leaders have suffered the same fate ever since.

In addition, King Hassan II, in a memorable speech, used an iconic phrase that comes up nowadays as a leitmotif every time people seek to assess the relations between Morocco and Algeria. He said, “Let people know what kind of neighbor we are obliged to deal with.” يعرفWhat would be the correlation between the abovementioned statements?

Mauritania’s behavior was subordinate to that of Algeria and Morocco. It was also influenced by what the Spanish and French governments think about the Sahara issue. Algeria’s behavior was manifested in the all-out obstruction of Moroccan and Mauritanian approaches, whether they were moderate or aggressive in their efforts to make their case. Morocco’s behavior was inspired by the adage “Let time take its course,” the same one cherished by former French President François Mitterrand.

Revengeful attitude and childish bullying

A quick hindsight would be sufficient to inform observers that the proposal to partition the Sahara was a French idea contained in a stillborn plan called “Sahara Demain-SAD” drawn up in 1979. This was an important date, as it coincided with the withdrawal of Mauritania from Teris al Gharbiyya (now Oued Eddahab), which Morocco immediately reintegrated in order to avoid the remake of the 1976 Amgala War. Morocco fought a joint force dispatched by Algeria to assist Polisario, and it defeated them. Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla, who overthrew Mostapha Ould Salek in 1979, recognized Polisario’s self-proclaimed state in 1984.

Moreover, the idea of partition wouldn’t please Spain either. Spain, which had been and remains threatened by the danger of separatism in Catalonia and the Basque Country. But it indirectly used Algeria’s obstruction-obsession to harm Morocco’s territorial integrity to its benefit.

Algeria regularly serenaded the idea of dividing the Sahara, especially when it realized that the creation of an “independent entity” on the territory was chimerical. It was so convinced of such evidence that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika suggested it again in 2002 on the occasion of his working visit to the United States. He seized the opportunity to go to Huston in order to convince James Baker, then the UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, to put it on the table of potential future negotiations between parties to the conflict.

This was not the first time Algeria had become disillusioned, as since then the idea of a referendum on self-determination has been abandoned. It was definitely erased from the UNSC in 2007, when Morocco proposed the Autonomy Plan as a fair solution to resolve the conflict while respecting its territorial integrity.

Yet Algeria, Mauritania, Spain, and France have kept a grudge against Morocco. The latter did the same, with one major difference: it got its territory back.

What about the Polisario? From the beginning, this movement has been the butt of the joke. And it is even more so today. Why? Algeria is beginning to whisper in the ears of all foreign officials (heads of state, foreign ministers, parliamentarians, human rights sympathizers, etc.) that the issue of Western Sahara is a matter of national security for Algeria. Buteverybody seriously informed about the Sahara dispute already knew that. What Algeria’s visitors couldn’t accept was that their interlocutors underestimated their expertise about the Sahara issue.

Algeria is obviously forced to get out of its comfort zone and give up the double standard it has showcased since the 1970s. That is why Morocco vehemently insists that Algeria participate in the UN-led round tables, as stipulated in the latest relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Algeria is coming out of the shadows to expose its schizophrenic behavior, to use Abdellah Laroui’s accurate description. The episodes recounted at the beginning of this article are an illustration of what Algeria has been doing since the early 1960s. The Algerian decision-makers’ behavior, since Houari Boumediene, has been revanchist in nature. In this respect, there has been a perfect combination of retaliation and revenge.

The first retaliation was expelling 350,000 Moroccans in reaction to the Green March King Hassan II organized, which led to the signing of the trilateral Madrid agreement on the Sahara in 1975.

The second retaliation materialized in attempts to destabilize the Moroccan monarchy. First, by sheltering opponents, and second, by providing logistics to the group trained in Algeria with the intention of carrying out terrorist attacks within Morocco. The group was apprehended in Khenifra in 1973.

Moreover, when Morocco made a proposal to hold a referendum on self-determination “called a confirmatory referendum” in 1981 on the occasion of the Organization of African Unity Summit in Nairobi, Algeria opposed it a few weeks later. Fearing what would happen next, it retaliated in 1983 by signing border agreements with Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia.

Similarly, when the military institution called President Ahmed Ben Bella to the rescue to bring the country out of the chaos created by the abortion of the democratic process in 1992, he was assassinated because he had publicly declared, among other things, that he would work with King Hassan II for a just solution to the Sahara issue. He suffered the same fate as that of Houari Boumediene, who died of an obscure illness in 1978, when a secret meeting with the King of Morocco was reportedly scheduled in Geneva.

In 1994, Algerian nationals with French nationality carried out deadly attacks on the Atlas-Asni Hotel in Marrakech. Moroccans quickly suspected the Algerian intelligence services of being behind it. Morocco has the obligation to obtain visas for Algerian nationals prior to their travel to Morocco. This led to Algeria closing its borders with Morocco. The decision is still in effect.

Algeria denied that the perpetrators of the attack were Algerians. However, Algerian decision-makers did not hesitate to assert the Algerian nationality of former French settlers of Algerian origin in order to claim compensation following the “Moroccanization’’ of the French settlers’ lands in 1973. They do so every time human rights associations demand reparation for the wrongs suffered by victims and their heirs who were expelled from Algeria in 1975. This spoke of a vengeful spirit, but also of a reactive attitude bathed in total incoherence. An illustration of this was recently witnessed.

Swimming against the tide

First, Ramtane Lamamra’s lengthy indictment in 2022 to justify the severance of diplomatic relations between his country and Morocco. A relapse into syllabism devoid of arguments. According to Lamamra, who read the text the real holders of power in Algeria handed to him, Morocco is the cause of all the ills that Algeria has suffered since its independence in 1962. Deliberately mixing historical facts with the diplomatic stances his country took, he ended up picking up the stakes of ridicule.

The former head of Algerian diplomacy, whose daughter, Amel NesrineLamamra, defended a PhD thesis on the Sahara issue in Cambridge in 2010 advocating the existence of an artificial entity, was most mind-boggling. He ended up mixing up his brushes, forgetting Houari Boumediene’s advice to Algerians not to venture into the terrain of history to dispute Morocco’s historical or diplomatic ascendancy.

Secondly, the cavalier reaction, confusing political decisions with a state of mind, in the aftermath of the recognition by the United States of Moroccan sovereignty over its southern provinces. Algeria launched a lobbying campaign in Washington, New York, and Houston to force Washington to reverse its decision. Two former personal envoys of the UN Secretary-General for the Sahara and a national security adviser and former Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations were coveted to help achieve the same objective. This ended up being a total failure.

Thirdly, following Spain’s notifiable position stressing that the Moroccan Autonomy Plan was the only appropriate solution to the regional conflict over the Sahara, Algeria denounced the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborliness, and Cooperation signed in 2002, precisely at a time when relations between Rabat and Madrid were in a bad state as a result of the crisis on the island of Leila. It recently used the same strategy by canceling the visit of the Spanish Foreign Minister. The latter would have refused to allow the question of the Sahara to be discussed or, at least, use a wording that would make Spain reconsider, even theoretically (and for domestic consumption in Algeria), its decision in favor of Morocco.

Fourth, reactions bordering on the ridiculous following Algeria’s attempt to include the Sahara issue on the agenda of the Arab Summit held in Algiers in November 2022. What Algeria got was a four-month Algerian presidency, a fact never recorded in diplomatic annals. It recorded crushing failure within the non-aligned movement. And it is suffering an increasingly uncomfortable situation within the African Union, despite South Africa’s unconditional support.

Fifthly, hallucinatory swings of humor occurred when the new authorities in Niger refused Algerian mediation in their internal crisis. Warlike maneuvers on the borders with Mali followed Bamako’s denunciation of Algeria’s interference in its internal affairs. And as Algiers has been stubbornly stubborn, the Malian government declares the Algiers Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, signed in 2015 with the Azawad coordination movements, null and void.

Sixthly, following the launch of Morocco’s Atlantic Partnership initiative and the initiative to allow locked-land African countries in the Sahel region to have access to the Atlantic Ocean, Algeria proposed a free trade area with those countries. It used the venue of the Summit of Gas Exporting Countries in Algiers to try to seduce Mauritania and Senegal, new producing countries, to join its effort to torpid Moroccan initiatives.

Algeria disseminated, through the media, that the trans-Saharan gas pipeline (Nigeria, Niger, Algeria) is being held against the Africa-Atlantic gas pipeline (Morocco-Nigeria) passing through twelve countries, including Senegal and Mauritania. Algeria pretended not to know that the Nigerian head of state did not travel to Algeria to attend the above-mentioned summit, probably to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Eighth, Algeria is multiplying military drills on the borders with Morocco, Libya, and, recently, Mali. By trying to frighten their neighbors, Algerian decision-makers scare nobody but themselves. It is worth mentioning that major actors in the international system keep warnings to cool down. A war against Morocco or the destabilization of other countries in the region is not an option that the latter needs for the time being.

Ninth, according to many observers, Algerian decision-makers are busy looking for a pretext to postpone the presidential elections scheduled for December 2024. They need to stay in power at a time when clan warfare has reached its peak. The military establishment, whose aging leaders have never trusted each other, is in desperate straits.

Tenth, the card of the existence of an eternal external enemy Algerian decision-makers have been using over the years is outdated. So, as it has happened in the past, Algerian decision-makers are using every means to smoke out scapegoats and bring them to the public scene. The latter were picked up among the adversaries of yesterday and today. Their families pay a high price. The aim of the Algerian authorities is to cause a sensation.

Eleventh, by hosting the Summit of Gas Exporting Countries on March 2, 2024, Algeria hoped to bring together the leaders of Mauritania, Libya, and Tunisia to revive the already outdated idea of a Maghreb Union without Morocco. According to some reports, Algeria has entertained the idea of inviting Brahim Ghali, the leader of the Polisario movement, to indiscreetly attend. The Mauritanian president, who decided to return to the country following the death of one of his relatives, is said to have thwarted such an unproductive project. 

Algeria is holding its other neighbors hostage. Mauritania’s neutrality in the Sahara conflict seems to convince Algerian decision-makers to return to the idea of a three-way Maghreb: Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia. A combination that testifies to their cynical design and geopolitical myopia.

Twelfth, the complicity (real or simulated), long-kept secret between Algeria and France over Morocco’s territorial integrity, is no longer productive. Algeria is resorting, once again, to blackmail. This time against France. And for good reason, Algeria, as well as some decision-making circles in France, are struck in the past. They are now struggling to take care of the goat and the cabbage.

Source : https://www.moroccoworldnews.com

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