The Greater Maghreb Is One of The Most Volatile Geopolitical Frontiers

By Kester Kenn Klomegah* Interviews Middle East Expert Dr. Chatou Mohamed

MOSCOW | RABAT (IDN) — For several decades, the Maghreb region has been a multifaceted conflict region. It is also a gateway to Europe and to sub-Saharan Africa. Historically, the states of the region have different deep-seated political differences but are tightly bonded by the Arab culture and language. Interestingly, they are members of the African Union and an integral part of the Arab world that included the Middle East. Besides, the region has diverse natural resources, different levels in economic development, combined with foreign policy approaches that are sources of conflicts in the region and worse, caught up in the global geopolitical changes.

Late January, IDN’s Kester Kenn Klomegah held an emailed interview with Dr. Chtatou Mohamed, a senior professor of Middle Eastern politics at the International University of Rabat (IUR) as well as education science at Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco.

Following are excerpts from the interview on some significant issues in the Maghreb region:

Q: With rising conflicts and current political developments, how would you characterize the Maghreb region? Are external factors influencing these complicated developments, reminiscent of Arab Spring in these North African countries?

A: The Maghreb region or the Greater Maghreb, which includes Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, has become one of the most volatile geopolitical frontiers in the past decade. This vast area inhabited by some 101 million people—80 per cent of them in Algeria and Morocco—is landlocked between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert and separates southern Europe from the Sahel.

The Maghreb is one of the most conflict-ridden regions on the planet, with a wide range of structural problems: from poverty to corruption, unemployment, economic and social inequality, technological deficits, underdeveloped education and infrastructure, food insecurity, and water stress, which will be one of the world’s greatest by 2040.

At the end of August 2021, Algiers decided to break off diplomatic relations with Rabat before closing its airspace to all Moroccan aircraft a month later. With air links between Casablanca and Algiers already suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the decision should only marginally affect air traffic. But Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra has also indicated his intention not to renew a major contract for the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline (GME), which has linked Algerian fields to Europe via Morocco since 1996 and which expires at the end of October 2021.

Decades of instability in the region have greatly reduced trade between the two countries. In 2020, the volume of trade barely exceeded 500 million euros, or 1% of Morocco’s imports and exports, according to the Moroccan foreign exchange office. A paltry amount when compared, for example, to trade between the Sherifian kingdom [an Arab caliphate proclaimed by the Sherifian rulers of Hejaz in 1924, in lieu of the Ottoman Caliphate] and its neighbour Spain, which reached 13.5 billion euros in 2020. Morocco mainly imports hydrocarbons from Algeria and exports metals, fertilizers, and textile products to its eastern neighbour.

However, the official figures do not take into account smuggling, which has developed at the border, as well as companies operating in the informal sector to avoid administrative constraints, such as Moroccan VSEs working in the field of construction and crafts in Algeria.

The problem is that it is necessary to go through Marseille to send the goods. Obviously, the cost of transport is reflected on the final cost and faced with competition from China and Turkey; it is discouraging. So, many are forced to go through the smuggling routes or simply give up,” regrets an entrepreneur who had tried the adventure on the other side of the border, before giving up.

Until 2016, however, a year that saw a resurgence of tensions in the region, Algeria was Morocco’s leading trading partner in Africa. A position since taken over by Egypt and Côte d’Ivoire.  Diplomatic tensions are increasingly felt on the ground, on both sides. Containers are stopped at customs for no reason. More and more paperwork is required and it takes a lot of time at the risk of losing the perishable goods.

Diplomatic frictions are paralyzing the development of an economic union in this region, which shares the same problems: endemic unemployment among young people and graduates, the water crisis, the consequences of Covid-19 on investments and tourism.

According to a prospective report by the World Bank published in 2010, economic integration of the Maghreb could have increased per capita GDP by 34% for Algeria, 27% for Morocco and 24% for Tunisia, which is indirectly impacted by regional instability:

The Maghreb countries would reap significant additional benefits if, in parallel to reforms undertaken to improve trade liberalization with Europe, they improved conditions for streamlined trade among themselves. There is significant potential for trade in services in the financial sector, transportation and logistics, and communications and information, among other sectors. According to some studies, comprehensive services reforms that involve increased competition and regulatory streamlining would yield benefits that are at least twice the magnitude of those achieved through tariff removal alone.”

However, the much-desired integration has not materialized, and little has changed since (See: Is There a New Vision for Maghreb Economic Integation? Volume 1. Main Report, 2021)

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa  (ECA) estimates that a Maghreb union would have increased the five countries of the region (including Libya and Mauritania) by the equivalent of 5% of their combined gross domestic product.

Q: What are the narratives and the reasons for constitutional changes and of course, the system of governance? Do you also see any good policies addressing sustainable development goals in the region?

A: The differences in the political systems of the Maghreb countries go back to independence and the divergent political choices made at the time. Algeria chose the socialist path, Tunisia the liberal path, like Morocco but with a different political functioning, while Libya remains politically unclassifiable. Mauritania is based on tribal structures, with a state that struggles to form a base, while Tunisia and Morocco have managed to maintain an overall coherence that shapes their political systems, even if Tunisia now tends to pervert its own mode of operation. Bourguiba had tried to lay the foundations of a modern, liberal and republican state. Today, we are witnessing a return to despotism with President Kaïs Saïed and his constitutional coup d’état of July 25, 2021.

On the other hand, Morocco has kept this overall consistency. At independence, it opted for a liberal system and constitutionalized it by banning the single party. Since then, the country has not fundamentally changed. The same structuring logic has shaped the Moroccan political system since independence. Algeria is sliding towards liberalism and privatization of the public system, abandoning the socialist path chosen at independence but the army is still heavily in power, and the masses have rejected this governance through massive street demonstrations since 2019, known as Hirak or the “Smile Revolution”.

As for Libya, the decline of Qaddafi did not bring peace, as hoped by the people, but more turmoil and the country is still struggling to set up an acceptable governance in spite of help from other Maghreb countries, Europe, the UN, etc.

The Maghreb thus presents a conglomerate of political systems that operate differently. The analysis becomes even more complicated when one takes into account the significant gap in the five Maghreb countries—and especially in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia—a between the texts and the actual political functioning.

This hiatus makes the Maghreb political systems difficult to understand: a new outside observer always encounters difficulties in understanding the relationship between the citizen and the administration, between men and women, between the population and religion, the state, power and so forth. Morocco is often presented as a state of freedom, democracy and justice, a state governed by the rule of law. However, the lack of respect for the law is legion. From this point of view, the Tunisian situation is worse; the judicial system is locked, under the thumb of a despotic state, which marks a step backwards from the Bourguiba regime.

Today, the Greater Maghreb is a geographical, social and ethnic reality. But, at the same time, it is also the denial of a political and economic reality. Composed of five states—Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania—the region is a bridge between northwest Africa and Europe and is therefore perceived as a transit zone for illegal immigration, drug trafficking and terrorism, allowing them to enter the European Union (EU). Thus, EU members often view the Greater Maghreb as a threat, generating consequences for support mechanisms for the region.

Currently, migration, smuggling, and terrorist activities are challenges facing the Greater Maghreb, particularly in border regions that are often marginalized. These problems are exacerbated by the lack of communication and cooperation, the closure of many borders, and the poor economic development of the respective countries.

Q: Do you envisage women playing roles in forging peace and contributing to development in the Maghreb? How are women empowered in the region? Do you also see politics and culture as challenging women’s role there?

A: The status of women in the three Maghreb countries is marked by a struggle between social conservatism and modernity. Maghrebi societies are still caught between archaic customs and modernity. In these societies, women are still in a state of dependence, even submission, to men, even in countries like Tunisia where women’s rights have developed considerably. Despite the positive developments that have taken place over the last few decades in the Maghreb countries, Maghrebi women are still kept in a kind of legal ghetto in defiance of the international conventions they have ratified, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The three North African countries: Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, among the most developed in Africa, are Muslim countries where a Sunni Islam of the Malikite rite has been practiced since the beginning of the 7th century, marked by the presence of important religious brotherhoods (Tidjaniyya, Alawiyya…) practicing Sufism and the existence of numerous marabouts scattered throughout the cities and countryside. In this secular cultural framework, the status of women is governed by the Sharîca as transmitted by the cUlemas and understood by the population.

The independence achieved in 1956 (Morocco and Tunisia) and 1962 (Algeria) allowed for significant economic, social and cultural development in each of the three Maghreb countries. Among the most visible results is the promotion of women through the expansion of education and access to work in all economic sectors (administration, education, health, industry and services). Sociological burdens have begun to recede, especially since the legal status of women has undergone significant changes in each of the three countries, even if their scope is not the same. In Tunisia, the reforms carried out since 1957 have been profound, going as far as the abolition of polygamy and the recognition of women’s right to divorce; in Algeria and Morocco, the reforms carried out (the Moudawana in Morocco in 2004 and the Family Code in Algeria in 2005) have introduced new rights for women, but have remained far from what was expected and are strongly impregnated with the spirit of the Sharîca law.

However, this progressive trend was confronted from the end of the 1970s onwards with a political Islamism based on a Wahhabi vision that made women a central political issue by advocating a return to the sole provisions of the Sharîca. In the Maghreb countries, this has had the effect of crystallizing the social and cultural constraints that development had somewhat shaken off and of inducing retrograde individual and collective behaviours that attempt to reduce the social role of women in society and to limit their presence in the public space while imposing a standard dress.

In Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, civil societies have never given up on making their demands heard, whatever the regime. Women, in particular, have been fighting for decades to conquer more equality and freedom. And if there is one subject that symbolizes the tradition of injustices they want to abolish, it is the inequality between men and women in the field of inheritance. In none of these countries are women equal to their brothers, sons, cousins, or husbands, in terms of succession.

This practice, based on ancestral customs and social conservatism, and erected in the name of a questionable interpretation of Islamic law, has dramatic consequences. In rural areas, in particular, widows can lose their land overnight to family members they have never met. This, while the labour force of women in these regions is often essential to maintain farms. In addition, women in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are increasingly employed in skilled jobs and are often the driving force in the family economy.

However, they are often heads of families and have to deal with old-fashioned rules that make them vulnerable. Studies show that the use of the inheritance share attributed to women benefits the real economy much more than the share attributed to men. Inequality in inheritance is therefore also a brake on the development of an entire society.

In all three countries, gender equality is enshrined in the constitutions, and all have ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). But at the same time, they have expressed reservations that prevent the crucial issue of inheritance from being addressed. The International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) and its partner organizations in the Maghreb continue to denounce this aberration, while after decades of intense struggle, women’s rights have finally been able to progress.

UN Women Maghreb has supported capacity building programs in three Maghreb countries for women candidates and elected officials on both technical aspects related to the conduct of campaigns and electoral mandates but also to fight against self-censorship and to strengthen self-confidence and leadership. In Morocco, the partnership concluded in 2014 with the Ministry of the Interior—Directorate General of Local Authorities—has helped build the capacities of more than 4,500 elected women and civil servants in gender approach and leadership.

In Algeria, an important capacity-building program for elected women was also the framework of the “Tafcîl” program in partnership with the Ministry of the Interior and Collectivités Locales (local government). Nearly 600 elected women from 21 wilayas have been trained in leadership and electoral campaign management.

In Tunisia, the partnership with the League of Tunisian Women Voters conducted in 3 regions has reached out to the local population in order to encourage women to register to vote. Within this framework, young women and men were trained in door-to-door techniques. On the other hand, women candidates or elected of the region of Jendouba have been able to benefit from a training in the technical fields of parity and political commitment but also leadership and self-leadership and self-confidence, which are essential for leading an electoral campaign.

Q: Are rising Islamic attacks and human rights violations becoming thorny issues there? How would you argue that sometimes militant attacks have connection from external sources, direction and control? How do we argue, especially in terms of finance, coming from external sources?

A: In gestation during the 1970s, the Islamist phenomenon has spread in the Maghreb since the early 1980s, gradually taking over the monopoly of political protest. The acceleration, between 1978 and 1988, was linked to events in Iran, Afghanistan, and the Middle East conflicts, as well as to internal tensions in the Maghreb: an ideological vacuum, identity problems, devaluation of the political forces that had fought for independence, and a crisis in the welfare state that led to discontent among the underprivileged and the marginalization of intellectuals and the middle classes.

The Islamist wave then reached the machinery of the state, especially the army and the police. This Islamism, a political reading of Islam rather than theological renewal, appears above all, in the Maghreb, as a protest movement, another way of fighting against the powers in place when the classical forces have been discredited. It aspires to exercise “this tribunician function of defending those excluded from modernization and of managing values” which was, according to Professor Remy Leveau (Le sabre et le turban: L’avenir du Maghreb, 1993) that of communist parties in Europe in the 1930s.

The Maghreb countries are currently facing multiple challenges: social changes, modernization of the educational and judicial system, development in a globalized world, and the discovery of adapted modalities in the field of education and training. But to the extent that the Islamist movements have succeeded in imposing themselves as important vectors of contestation of the established powers, the management of this Islamist opposition is a central question that societies must face.

As we know, the establishment of Islamism in the Maghreb is due to the social crisis that young people in particular are experiencing and to the failure of attempts to economic development based on unsuitable models, and authoritarian models, as is the case in Algeria. This phenomenon has been reinforced by transforming to its advantage, on the same substrates of chauvinism as the national ideologies—the Algerian case is, once again, emblematic—the historical legitimacy confiscated by the power into religious legitimacy. The demographic and urban explosion, the difficulties of daily life but also the identity malaise offered to this ideology ideal conditions of popular implantation.

However, depending on the country under consideration, this politico-religious phenomenon has been variously controlled by the powers that be. The three Maghreb states have chosen different ways to face the problem. Morocco seems to be, at present, among the Maghreb countries, the one that has made the best choice: an accepted political alternation that seems to open the way to a controlled democratization involving, in particular, the integration of some components of moderate Islamism, which could finally lead to the “normalization” of this phenomenon.

Islamism is not a uniform or monolithic phenomenon, even if the ideological base, violently anti-democratic, even and if the breeding ground that favours it (social misery, identity malaise, frustrations born of the shock of modernity and the absence of spaces for expression and freedom) is globally identical. The nature of the relationships of Islamism with the powers in place has evolved over time and appears in a different light from one state to another due to the diversity of national realities.

Faced with a Moroccan regime whose legitimacy is based on Islam, in its Sherifian tradition, and recently modulated by an outline of political pluralism—in some respects exemplary, given the mediocre situation in this area, of other Arab countries, Islamism has remained diffuse, if not marginal, even if it sometimes shows a real presence in the social field.

In Algeria, which in the past has experienced brutal ruptures (conditions of independence, single-party authoritarianism, forced industrialization, then interruption of the democratization process since 1992), part of the Islamist opposition (armed groups) is characterized by the violence of its actions, even though moderate Islamist parties (an-Nahda and Hamas) remain associated with the government. As for Tunisian political power – long identified with the desire to build a modern state which, while remaining faithful to the principles values of Islam, is based on secularism -, it has never ceased to outlaw the initially moderate Islamists of Rashed Ghannoushi. At the same time as power became more personal and authoritarian, Islamism became more radical and marginalized.

Q: As the Maghreb countries are strategically located and have huge marine resources, what external actors and investors are actively expressing interests there? How do we estimate the level of geostrategic competition and rivalry among these foreign players?

A: A market of one hundred million consumers, the Maghreb occupies a key geostrategic position between Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Open to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, it has great potential in hydrocarbons and raw materials.

It is on the economic front that we can truly speak of an American-European competition in the Maghreb, as the forces at work are comparable. With a 26% share of world GDP, compared to 31% for the United States, the second largest agricultural potential in the world, and a strong industrial and financial base, the EU has the economic means to achieve its ambitions. Aware of Europe’s growing power in this area, the United States sought first to assert its hegemony over the oil economy of this region, starting with Algeria and Libya, and then to establish partnerships with the Maghreb countries, particularly through free trade agreements (FTAs), such as the one concluded with Morocco in 2004.

Since the late 1990s, the United States has wanted to give its trade relations with the Maghreb countries a well-defined framework, similar to the Euro-Maghreb relations. Dissatisfied with not being associated with the historic Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona in 1995, the Americans responded by proposing to the three central Maghreb states a partnership similar in many respects, notably through the Eizenstat project in 1998 and bilateral free trade agreements, the first of which was signed with Morocco in 2004.

Although the United States has put forward purely economic arguments to explain this renewed interest in a region traditionally committed to Europe, it is difficult for the United States to hide the fact that this is a manifestation of a rivalry that goes beyond the strictly commercial framework. The project, named after then-Under Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat, consists of economic cooperation based on trade and investment and aimed at accelerating structural reforms in each country and encouraging the private sector. But it is a conditional partnership in the sense that it poses as a prerequisite the dismantling of intra-Maghreb customs barriers, the Americans want an integrated regional market to enable their large companies to achieve optimal economies of scale.

However, the de-compartmentalization of the Maghreb markets remains dependent on a reactivation of the project of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) currently “on hold” because of the eternal problem of Western Sahara and the lack of real political will. In this context, the Eizenstat initiative seems unrealistic and unattainable unless the Americans invest more in the political field to help resolve the Sahara issue.

Moreover, the small amount of money proposed for this program (barely $2 billion) is an additional reason why the Eizenstat project has remained wishful thinking. It is not with such a commitment that the Americans can compete with the Europeans who are strongly anchored in the Maghreb.

However, faced with the offensive of its rival partners, the EU has not hidden its concern through the voice of Brussels and especially Paris. It is true that the process of establishing a U.S.-Maghreb FTA, competing with the one planned between the EU and the Maghreb, began with the entry into force on January 1, 2006, of the U.S.-Morocco agreement. Even if some voices try to put it into perspective, the free trade process proposed to the Maghreb countries by Washington inevitably clashes with European interests in the region.

In a study devoted to this free trade agreement. Robert Zoellick, who led the negotiations for his country, recalled that Morocco was no longer a French colony. U.S. officials did not fail to remind the Europeans that the Alawite Kingdom was the first country to recognize the independence of the United States in 1777 and that a treaty of peace and friendship has bound the two countries since 1787. Moroccan officials, on the other hand, have been at pains to demonstrate that the agreements with the United States and the EU are not contradictory.

By way of the Maghreb, the Americans and the Europeans seem to be playing a game of mutual containment. In response to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, the United States launched the Greater Middle East Project, to which Europe tried to respond by inventing other forms of partnership.

It is clear that the Maghreb has become important to the United States only in terms of its interest in the Middle East, and insofar as it allows them to achieve their strategic goals. This is the crux of the Euro-American rivalry in the entire Mediterranean. “The misunderstanding is that for the Americans, the Mediterranean is only a pawn in their global strategies, whereas it is vital for France and Europe” (Balta, 2003). What distinguishes the Europeans from the Americans is that the South and East of the Mediterranean represent for the former a human proximity that they must, no matter what, assume and try to manage.

Europe seeks to constitute a powerful pole including its proximity zone and competing with the great powers. In order to strengthen its place and role, the EU wants to be the hard core around which “concentric circles” revolve, on the same model as American regionalism. It is always France that is at the forefront of such ambitions, which put it at the heart of the rivalry with Washington.

The American deployment in the Maghreb in recent years has raised many questions. Indeed, many observers in France and in the Maghreb are concerned that the United States is taking too close an interest in the Maghreb and suggest that it wants to supplant French influence there. The Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs even declared on April 13, 2006, that France did not have “the same weight in Algeria” as the United States, which has become Algeria’s main client, with $12 billion in trade in 2005. This seemingly innocuous sentence implies that the United States is destined to play a leading role in the region.

But what is the reality? What are U.S. interests in the Maghreb? How has American policy evolved? Why has the Maghreb become a strategic region? Is it true that the United States wants to supplant European influence through the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and the Millennium Challenge Account? The main argument is that there is an undeniable US interest in this region, which has become strategic since 9/11.

It is also true that despite the appearance of competition between Europe and the United States in the Maghreb, transatlantic relations in the region are more about complementarity than rivalry. However, the question can be raised as to whether the United States has a strong interest in the region.

However, it is questionable whether the United States, whose foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, has given rise to a certain anti-Americanism—which has only increased with the United States’ support for Israel’s war against the Palestinians and the Lebanese in July 2006—will be able to establish the same level of influence on the Maghreb countries and their public opinion that Europe in general, and France in particular, have.

Moreover, the hegemonism and unilateralism of American foreign policy under the George W. Bush constituted an obstacle to the development of relations other than those related to security and energy interests. American-Israeli complicity in the Middle East has a definite impact in the Maghreb. Moreover, U.S. support for authoritarian regimes, despite President Bush’s rhetoric on the spread of democracy in the Arab world, only serves to discredit the image of the United States in the region.

Q: Where then do these Maghreb countries seek alliance for sustainable peace, political stability and developmentRussia, Europe, the United States or in the Arab world (Middle East)?

A: The Greater Maghreb is a puzzle with variable dimensions and a changing number of pieces. For a long time, it was France that modified the cuts. On the eve of independence, they were not definitively fixed and new players, each with their own piece, tried to adjust the contours. At first, the game was played by three players, and more precisely, by one (Algeria) against two (Tunisia and Morocco). But which Morocco is it then, a “small” or a “large”? Paris, both player and referee, decided to add a new piece in 1960, Mauritania.

After Algeria’s independence in 1962, the game became more complicated: the players had difficulty adjusting their five pieces because they did not agree on their final shape, nor on their respective weight. Each one wants to tilt the balance in his favour. Alliances are formed. But any rapprochement between partners—which changed according to the situation and national interests—immediately provoked the suspicion or fear of the others.

From 1975 onwards, the five will quarrel over the place and size of the sixth, Western Sahara: should it be independent, federated or integrated into the Moroccan kingdom? Alliances and reversals of alliances will continue: one against all, two against three or four. As partners change sides, the teams will not always be the same.

The weakness of intra-regional trade, excluding various contrabands, indicates a poorly integrated whole and reveals sometimes long-standing rivalries over regional hegemony between Algeria, and Morocco. Stemming from a territorial dispute from the colonial period, the Algerian-Moroccan rivalry has been fuelled by the tense circumstances and power strategies of the two states. In addition, there were ideological oppositions during the “inter-Arab cold war”: the Sherifian monarchy was rather conservative and close to the United States, while Algeria defended a third worldism inspired by the socialist bloc. In 1994, an attack on Western tourists in a hotel in Marrakech led to the closure of the land border.

While Algeria has moved closer to the United States on security issues of common interest under the Bush administration and has seen its non-oil trade balance widen since its association with the European Union, Morocco has a head start in its economic and political cooperation with the northern shore of the Mediterranean.

Moreover, the difficulties in settling the Western Sahara issue, claimed by Morocco since the Green March of 1975, and the Mauritanian withdrawal from part of these territories have first isolated Morocco but since the American recognition of the Moroccanness of the Sahara has given the Sherifian kingdom more international stature, no doubt.

The recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic by the Organization of African Unity led Morocco to withdraw in 1984, although it maintains good relations with many sub-Saharan states. Algeria, which supports Sahrawi self-determination, helps the Polisario and hosts its refugees. This conflict is the real stumbling block to regional integration: the creation of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) follows a year after the decision in 1988 to hold a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara within a UN framework; it will never take place because of problems in defining the electoral college, and the AMU will then be bogged down in political inaction.

The diplomatic normalization between Morocco and Israel entered its phase of concretization on December 22, 2020, with the landing in Rabat of a plane from Tel Aviv. On board, an Israeli delegation led by the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alon Ushpiz, and Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump and architect of the American “peace plan” in the Middle East.

The inauguration of this air link is the first consequence of the “deal” announced on December 10, 2020, by the U.S president Donald Trump, under which the kingdom undertakes to normalize its relations with Israel in exchange for U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

The Maghreb is living in a real economic stranglehold with the Covid-19 pandemic. These countries are suffocated. Morocco is being strangled economically, as is Tunisia and potentially Algeria. The Moroccans have found, through this agreement, a way out of the trap. Morocco will certainly benefit from aid from Israel, but also from the United Arab Emirates and the United States. This is very important for Morocco.

Moroccan opinion is sensitive to this economic dimension, but it is also sensitive to the fact that Western Sahara is recognized by the United States. For Moroccans, it is a question of nationalism: they do care about the Western Sahara more than the Algerians do. In fact, human ties have been forged over the decades with the tens of thousands of Moroccans who live in the Sahara.

The war in Syria had already brought Algeria closer to its former Russian and Syrian allies. Cold War alliances had played out again. In the case of Morocco and Israel, this time it is on the Western side. Morocco is intensifying its relations with the so-called “Western” forces if one speaks in terms of the legacy of the Cold War. In the same way that Algeria has moved closer to the Russians, Morocco is repositioning itself in the wake of the United States and its closest allies, like France and Israel. When one looks at the long term, one can say that in the end, it remains very classic. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 February 2022]

* Kester Kenn Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to IDN. During his professional career as a researcher specialising in Russia-Africa policy, which spans nearly two decades, he has been detained and questioned several times by federal security services for reporting facts. Most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted in several reputable foreign media.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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