- HASSAN MASIKY
Washington / Morocco Board News-- "Stop defending Syria; because when your turn comes you may need us!" roared The Qatari foreign minister addressing his Algeriancounterpart Mourad Medelci during the meeting of Foreign Ministers ofthe Arab League (AL) in Cairo on Saturday.
The animated “argument” between the two top diplomats, as reported by the Arab and Algerian press, came during the deliberation of the AL over how best to contain the dire situation in Syria . Following its failed attempt to save theregime of the late Libyan dictator Muamar Al-Gaddafi, the Algerian Government is challenging Arab efforts to press the regime of Bashar Al-Assad to implement the Arab League Plan to end the bloodshed in Syria.
The Qataris and other international observers view Algeria’s support of dying autocratic regimes as not rooted in an ideological belief or a strategic scheme but rather a desperate act of political self-preservation by the Algerian military in the face of fast changing political environment.
In fact, Algeria’s position on Syria is similar to the stand of Islamic Republic of Iran; when the reason for Algeirs clumsy approach is to stop the rise of Islamist governments in North Africa. With news reports of mounting civilian casualties in Homs, Daraa and Hamma as a backdrop, Mr. Mourad Medelci finds himself in the familiar position of playing the recurring role of defending a bloody regime that is on its way out. Unlike during the crisis in Libya, this time around the tiny sheikhdom of Qatar is not playing “the diplomatic game” with another case of “ an Algeria’s vague position”.
According to Algerian news reports, the Qatari Foreign Minister adjourned the Cairo meeting without giving Mr. Medelci a chance to express his views opposing the AL decision to temporary suspend Syria’s membership in the Pan-Arab organization. For the record, Mr. Medelci acknowledged that a heated exchange took place between him and the Qatari Minister but denied its literal content. Whether or not Qatar’s foreign Minister threatened- a term used by the Algerian press to describe the incident- his Algerian counterpart, the dormant Algerian-Qatari split over severalpolitical and religious issues in the Middle East and North Africa has surfaced again.
The Algerian government unconditional support of Guaddafi, the Algerian press ferocious camping against the Qatari backed newly installed government in Tripoli did not go unnoticed in Doha. While the Algerian government kept its position on the Libyan situation vague and elusive under the cover of fighting foreign intervention in the region, the Algerian press took on a vicious smear campaign against the Libyan rebels and their Qatari benefactors. Algerian websites and newspapers carried several articles sharply critical of the Libyan rebels describing them at times as “rats” a term used by Gaddafi to describe his opponents.
The Algerian media campaign continues to target the Qatari bankrolled Al-Jazeera News Network accusing it of being an agent of the West and a vehicle for the Qatari government to execute a French-British plot against the people of Libya and Syria. Once the darling of the Algerian public for its support of Algiers potions in the Western Sahara conflict, some in the Algerian press turn against Al-Jazeera calling it derogatory names. If the Algerian officials were expecting the Qataris to sallow this bitter pill without retaliating, they were unpleasantly wrong.
Qatari officials formulating a candid and well defined approach to foreign policy do not appreciate Algeria’s double game. Algeria’s tired trick of letting its press do the dirty work as the Algerian officials stay above the fray did not work with Qatar. The Qataris, familiar with Algerian political scene, are conscious that anti-Qatar press campaign in the Algerian media is well designed by certain corners of official Algeria.
The Algerian diplomats are using the cover of foreign military intervention as an excuse to let Assad and his army slaughters his people for the sake of staying in power. Algeria’s support of dying autocratic regimes is not rooted in an ideological belief or a strategic scheme but rather a desperate act of political self-preservation in the face of fast changing political environment. In fact, Algeria’s position on Syria is similar to the Islamic Republic of Iran; when the reason for this clumsy approach is to stop the rise of Islamist government in North Africa. Some Algerian journalists explain Qatar’s audacity in rebuking Algeria by the fact that the two major Algerian opposition leaders are based in Doha and frequent high-ranking Qatari officials.
Algerian officials are also well aware of the springing of two close allies of Qatar at its borders: Tunisia and Libya. As the Arab leaders ready to meet in Rabat, Morocco, to decide the fate of Syria within the AL, Algeria finds itself at odd with most of the Arab Governments, the European Union and the United States.