Blinken Plays With Fire With Morocco and Algeria

The more the West pours money into the Ukraine, the more the UN and its member states have to bang on this drum which is really the worst setback Morocco could imagine over the incendiary subject of Western Sahara.

Lavrov’s visit to Algiers to shore up support for Ukraine war has shown how ineffective and dangerous Blinken’s moves are in the region. Some might argue he is making an already dangerous situation between Morocco and Algeria worse.

Is the Biden administration looking to start a war between Algeria and Morocco? At first glance, this may seem a little far-fetched as a scenario but it’s a valid enough question when you study the movements and statements of its diplo supremo Anthony Blinken. Just recently, the secretary of state jetted into Morocco for a few hours to pay his respects to the kingdom’s dapper foreign minister, before swiftly leaving to visit Algeria, Morocco’s arch enemy based on the latter’s support for the Polisario movement in the disputed Western Sahara. Leading up to the final days of Trump’s period in the White House, the former president signed a decree officially acknowledging (by America) Morocco’s claim that the disputed territory is a legitimate sovereign part of the kingdom. Until that point, relations between Algeria and Morocco were icy, but cooperative.

Biden has always opposed this move by Trump but is limited in what he can do to turn it around. On the one hand, Morocco has always traditionally had good relations with Washington and he doesn’t want to be the first president to jeopardise that; on the other though, his own political views are at odds with the idea of a country colonising another one regardless of the circumstances and is aligned to what many in the United Nations would prefer: some sort of democratic diligence to decide the outcome, probably a referendum.

In the summer of 2021, eight months after Biden took office, the Algerians decided that the situation needed a radical rethink, confident that a dithering Biden wasn’t going to overturn the Trump decision, neither on paper nor in gesture. The Algerians cut off one of its two gas pipelines which crossed Morocco territory before it reaches Spain causing mayhem as this pipeline effectively allowed Madrid to sell on to Morocco natural gas.

Six months later, the worst possible thing for Rabat, which was hoping to exploit the Trump decision, happened. The Ukraine war began, which for Morocco, was not good news as, quite apart from wheat imports being affected, it shifted backwards a more modern idea beginning to emerge that the Rabat elite had about occupied countries around the world. The Moroccan upper classes were beginning to think that the world was getting used to them – East Timor, Taiwan, West Bank and Gaza, Kashmir, Transnistria, Northern Cyprus – and that with the help of the U.S., the Western Sahara would slowly but surely metamorphosise into Moroccan Sahara. Perhaps it would take a generation. But it was a wait worth waiting for, the mindset in Rabat believed. Occupations hadn’t become cool as such; more that people are becoming dumber, media sloppier and the UN sensationally ineffective – an organisation most associate with sex scandals and corruption rather than being an international arbiter of disputes which it once was during the reign of Morocco’s Hassan II (who made the decision to incorporate Western Sahara into Morocco proper in 1975 when it was abandoned by its former colonial power Spain).

But the Ukraine invasion by Russia has sparked a new impetus in the UN, breathing new life into the once somnolent ‘no colonisation’ mantra. And the more the West pours money into the Ukraine in a blatant attempt to topple Putin, the more the UN and its member states have to bang on this drum which is really the worst setback Morocco could imagine over the incendiary subject of Western Sahara, or Moroccan Sahara if you like.

Biden can’t save the situation, that’s clear. But to some, it may seem that he is actually making matters worse. He wants to keep good relations with Rabat (he may even think that the king can fund his next presidential bid in 2024) but he desperately needs to find both a solution to the Trump problem and to get Algerians on board with the delusional idea that America can crack the hegemony whip and Algeria will stand to attention and show some respect. The visit at the end of March to Algiers was a clear example of how deluded the Biden administration is in this part of world and how its own meddling threatens to take the crisis between Algeria and Morocco to a new level. The visit was hilariously mistimed and misjudged in that Blinken actually believed that with an endearing speech he could actually just win over the Algerians, who would presumably just throw their relationship with Russia in the bin, give Europe more natural gas and basically stop backing the Polisario militants in Western Sahara.

If none of this were to happen but just merely a silence would follow, perhaps Biden could have salvaged some political gravitas out of it. But in the event, it had the opposite effect. The Algerians merely cranked up their relations with Russia to the next level and within merely 48 hours, there were even reports circulating on social media that Moscow would help Algeria’s support for the Polisario. The preposterous suggestion by Blinken triggered a response by the Algerians who immediately contacted Moscow and – presumably – invited Sergei Lavrov to come to Algiers on 10th May, calling for more investment from Russian companies and talking up the 3bn dollars of trade between the two countries. They also reduced their gas sent to Spain in their second pipeline by 25% as an act of solidarity with Russia, presumably.

This reaction by Moscow and Algiers puts Morocco in a very difficult position as it realises that Biden’s people do not have the diplomatic skills to find a compromise which puts the Western Sahara dossier in a place where Rabat is happy, finds a solution to cooling tensions and getting a sensible energy deal from Algeria for both Europe and Morocco. None of the above, Anthony but thanks for trying. Whether Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita likes to admit it or not, he, like most of Rabat and the Palace are all standing in line with the Gulf Arab states, waiting for 2024 when Trump comes back for the great reset. Everything that the blithering Blinken touches seems to turn toxic blinding everyone near to him. He is arguably the most dangerous man in U.S. politics who belongs to a different period in time when the U.S. really was the sole superpower and could wield such power around the world. Pity the Moroccans who are charmed by his diplomatic endearments and refinements. They will soon learn that strong words often don’t come from a strong stomach.


By Martin Jay
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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