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Earlier this year, the Colombian government reveals evidence of locations of top left wing FARC commandos in hideout camps based in neighbouring country Venezuela. The Colombian reaction was quick and furious. Within days after Colombia’s accusations, Colombian Air Force started circulating over Venezuelan air space looking for the FARC elements. For Colombia, the existence of a hostile group on Venezuelan territory is a declaration of war by Caracas on Colombia. Bogota and Caracas broke diplomatic relations, almost went into open war but eventually reconcile with a promise to respect each other’s sovereignty. Such approach should be a lesson to the Moroccan diplomacy.
Since 1975, when Morocco liberated the Western Sahara from Spain, the Algerian government has been involved in a proxy war against Morocco over the liberated territory. While The Algerian military and political establishments claim to have no interest in the Western Sahara, they view the conflict as a way to keep Morocco too weak to challenge the Algerians in North Africa by bogging down the Moroccans in a Saharan quagmire. Although well aware of this obvious Algerian strategy, Morocco kept his counter-attack civil and general. The Algeria backed Polisario front has survived thus far solely on the Algerian support. In other words, all and every action ever taken by the Polisario against Morocco is an Algerian hostile engagement to destabilize Morocco.
Under such circumstances, it is very tricky to understand the logic of a normal diplomatic relations between two countries that have been in a quasi-state of war. In fact, this anomalous situation benefits the Algerians more than the Moroccans.
Algiers has not paid a political price for its support of an armed communist guerrilla, unlike several countries in Central and South America and Asia who suffered during and after the cold war because of similar engagements. Morocco’s understanding and its “good neighbour” diplomacy has not paid good dividend as it is becoming evident today. Morocco’s flexibility was viewed as sign of weakness. Instead of open dialogue, the Moroccan could have made a legal and permissible argument that Algeria has declared war in Morocco for allowing its territory to be used to attack its neighbour.
The Algerian intransigence continues. During a meeting held in the heart of Algeria last month, a Polisario leader stated that his group is ready and willing to resume war against Morocco. Such explosive comments against Morocco form Algeria is declaration of war by the Algerians. No country in the world would accept such irresponsible remarks against its national interest to go unnoticed. The international community must denounce Algeria’s reckless attitude toward the stability and security of North Africa.
Morocco has to expose the extent of the Algerian military involvement in keeping the Western Sahara as a dormant military conflict between the two main belligerents: Morocco and Algeria. Be it a political speech by a Polisario member in Algiers, a Polisario military parade in an Algerian city or a Polisario diplomatic offensive against Morocco, an Algerian backed Polisario action targeting Morocco is an Algerian hostile act against the Kingdom. As such, Morocco maintains the right to reciprocate and act in self-defence.
If the current political and military establishment in Algiers is a holdout from the 1960’s and 70’s, Morocco has a young and much different political team that looks at the Sahara conflict under a different light. Unlike past disagreements with Morocco, The Algerian government must adjust to a new Morocco that is more aggressive in defending the Kingdom’s interests, and willing to take the political fight to wherever it leads. The Algerian military establishment, used to the pace of past tensions, is underestimating the military dangers of an open-ended Western Sahara conflict. The world community may have to adjust its view of the scope of the threat of an impending open military conflict in North Africa and the hazards it will impose on the security of Europe and the Mediterranean basin.