Between Morocco and Algeria, a new trench warfare in the Sahara

The diplomatic offensive

Morocco is strong in its diplomacy. The one who set fire to the gunpowder …

The diplomatic offensive

Morocco is strong in its diplomacy. The one who set fire to the gunpowder with Algiers in December 2020, when Rabat and Israel officially normalized their relationship under the leadership of a galvanized Donald Trump. In return, the first world power recognizes “Moroccanism in the Sahara” with a tweet. The cards are redistributed. In a few months, Morocco will receive unprecedented support.

By 2021, 22 countries will open a Consulate General in the strategic Moroccan cities of Laâyoune or Dakhla, as will so many diplomatic strongholds in the disputed area. This area classified as “non-autonomous” by the UN has electrified Morocco and Algeria for half a century. The first claims the paternity of the territory, the second politically, financially and militarily supports the Polisario Front, the armed wing of the Saharawi Democratic Autonomous Republic (SADR) in open conflict with Rabat. Who counts the points.

39 countries still recognize SADR, as many have already frozen or withdrawn their official support since its inception. Morocco’s new partners, on the contrary, are very involved and do not hesitate to attack Algiers head on. In August 2021, during his first official visit to Casablanca, the leader of Israeli diplomacy, Yaïr Lapid, revealed his “concerns about the role Algeria played in the region, its rapprochement with Iran and the campaign it has waged against Israel’s inclusion as an observer. of the African Union (AU). AU, “whose winds of barracks are still blowing very strong” (Jeune Afrique news site, February 2021) with “a year of jackpot for Morocco”: the current president of the AU is Congolese Félix Tshisekedi, pro- Moroccan Sahara, while the Algerian diplomat at the head of the Peace and Security Commission has been replaced by a Nigerian whose country, historically favorable to the Polisario Front, is now choosing “neutrality” in this conflict. with Morocco, and among the 22 countries that have opened their diplomatic branches in Laayoune and Dakhla, sixteen are African.

Finally, in the light of the holding of the next Arab summit, which was to take place in March in Algiers, but which has just been postponed, the Arab League has just adopted a map of Morocco integrating Western Sahara. The Algerian protest was not heard.

The drone war

Algerian power, however, speaks loud and clear. On January 18, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hammered out his “unwavering will for Algeria to regain the space it deserves regionally and internationally” in front of a crowd of senior military officers. While Morocco receives from Beijing its first long-range anti-aircraft system and Turkish armed drones, Algiers is acquiring an unprecedented electronic warfare system on the African continent to neutralize radars, communications and armed drones. The same people who allegedly shot three Algerian truck drivers at the Mauritanian border in November 2021. Rabat denies this, but Algiers has severed all diplomatic ties. These same drones caused several deaths within the Polisario in Mahbès on 15 January “in response to an attack on the position of the FAR (Royal Armed Forces)”, Rabat justifies. The leader of the Polisario himself had publicly called for more attacks “against the Moroccan enemy” two weeks earlier.

Both countries’ military budgets are rising. For the first time in its history, Morocco plans to spend more than 50 billion dirhams by 2022

Morocco has also signed with Israel, an expert on drones, an initial “security cooperation agreement” and intelligence. For the Algerian daily close to the power “l’Expression” it is “the mossad at our borders”. Both countries’ military budgets are rising. For the first time in its history, Morocco plans to spend more than 50 billion dirhams (almost 5 billion euros) by 2022.

The war “of poison boxes”

After months of awkward silence, the international community enters. Complicated. The United States and Spain announce today that they want to work together to resolve the “Sahara conflict through dialogue”. But Algiers is waiting for Joe Biden to reconsider his predecessor’s pro-Moroccan stance, and Rabat has no longer had an ambassador to Madrid since a diplomatic crisis across the Sahara last May.

France attaches great importance to not being directly involved, covered by a Europe that announces its support for the new UN envoy in charge of the cause. Staffan de Mitsura has just completed his visits to Morocco and Algeria. Rabat reaffirmed its “attachment to the resumption of the political process”, Algiers and the Polisario Front still defend a “fair and just solution”, but each after eternal conflicting conditions. And faced with the choice of words, shocked by the images: A snapshot of the UN envoy to the Sahrawi refugee camp Tindouf, published by Moroccan newspapers, has just revived the fuse in Algeria. It would show Staffan de Mitsura next to a child soldier.

Algiers criticizes “service-hucksters in Rabat and New York”, “their false claims”, “massively passed on by the kingdom’s many poison boxes”. The Moroccan daily “Morocco Diplomatique” responds to this “muddy hatred”, “panoply of canards”, by attacking the “paranoid delirium of a cabbage leaf called” Patriotic Algeria “”. The Moroccan power officially shows more restraint towards its neighbor, who is considered “occupied”, but through the press, the humiliation is very mutual and always more violent.

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