- HASSAN MASIKY
- Written by Hassan Masiky
Washington/Morocco News Board-Morocco, a key US ally in the Arab and Muslim worlds, is reviewing “certain” aspects of its relationship with Washington. If the exchange of letters between King Mohamed VI and President Obama and their subsequent phone conversations have effectively put the recent Moroccan-American diplomatic misunderstanding over the Western Sahara behind, Moroccan officials are sober in their assessment of this incident.
While the two head of states exchanged invitations for State visits, diplomats from both nations must intensify their contacts to “contain” the on-going political and security crisis in North Africa and the Sahel. Neither the European Union nor Washington can afford an open conflict between Algeria and Morocco.
If observers did not know what to make of the US mission to the United Nations (UN) decision to adopt what Rabat considers as a pro-Algeria stand on the Western Sahara dossier, the Moroccan public views the American attitude as a diplomatic wake call and is demanding a more robust foreign policy posture toward Algeria.
Experts intimate with the lobbying world of Washington and familiar with the business opportunities in Algeria believe that a “new type “of pro-Algerian lobby was active and involved in pushing for this new American “proposal”. These experts assumptions are based on their knowledge of the financial attractiveness of the Algerian market.
In one hand, American businesses are envious of the Chinese monopoly over the lucrative infrastructure projects in Algeria. The Algerian Military establishment, which controls the contract awarding process within the “Algerian System”, uses its power to reward friendly government with billion dollar contracts. Some American companies want a piece of the Algerian pie and are ready to do what it takes to please their future partners in Algiers.
On the other hand, America’s long time friends in Morocco are outraged to see business interests take over mutual trust and solid intelligence and military cooperation as bases in shaping US policy in North Africa. For people familiar with the “no so public” history of American-Moroccan relations feel betrayed and saddened with this turn of events.
Most independent experts on North African affairs view the Western Sahara conflict is an Algerian- Moroccan border dispute rather than a case of “decolonisation”. As such Morocco, well aware of Algeria’s known role in arming and hosting the Polisario, an enemy militia, has discarded the notion of “war’’ as a way to settle the conflict and has endorsed the UN peaceful efforts to end this “human tragedy”. However, recent domestic political events in Morocco may force a change to this docile approach.
Controversial comments made by the populist leader of Al-Istiqlal conservative Party calling for the return of the Algeria controlled Eastern Sahara to Morocco was widely applauded by the Moroccan public. For its part, the pro-government pres in Algeria deemed Mr. Shabatt calls for the “liberation” of Tindouf as a declaration of war. Furthermore, recent news story on the capture of Algeria trained separatist saboteurs in the Moroccan Sahara is fueling nationalistic fevers on both sides.
It is time for the international community to face the consequences of Algeria’s role in prolonging the Sahara conflict and keeping the specter of war ever-present in North Africa. Morocco cannot afford to be the lone party playing by the rules in a region full of conspiracies. Algerian apologists in Washington, Paris and Madrid should bear the responsibility of the degradation of relations between Rabat and Algeria. One fact remains clear, however, no one can afford a new armed conflict in the region.