Since Morocco chose to normalise ties with Israel late last year, tensions with neighboring Algeria and the Kingdom of Morocco have not stopped escalating. Many now fear that in one way or another, the war of words may escalate into violence.
Back in December, Algerian Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Djerad, immediately warned of “foreign manoeuvres” conducted in order to destabilize the country in the wake of the US move to facilitate Morocco-Israel normalisation and recognize Western Sahara as Morocco’s territory. The PM had also decried what he called the “desire of the Zionist entity to come closer to our borders.” Algeria’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Boukadoum, went a step further referencing the historic struggle of his country against colonialism, vowing that they “will not be shaken by Zionists and their allies”.
In response to Algeria’s fears of plots against them, especially due to conflict existing in neighboring Libya and a sense of isolation in the region, the Kingdom of Morocco seems to be moving in a more hostile direction. This can especially be tracked through Morocco’s media, which is now taking a much more staunchly anti-Algerian line, most of which has to do with Algeria’s backing of the Western Saharan liberationist militia, the Polisario Front.
Last Thursday Algeria’s Minister of Communication, Ammar Belhamir, had alleged that Israel had worked together with Morocco in order to launch cyber-warfare attacks on Algeria.
When Rabat and Tel Aviv announced their normalisation of ties, the most contentious issue which came along with it was the US recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. The territory is recognized by most of the international community as disputed, although it is claimed by both the native Sahrawi people and the Kingdom of Morocco.
The Polisario Front fought for what it calls the liberation of the Western Sahara, against Morocco, from 1975 until a ceasefire was reached in 1991. That long standing ceasefire was officially ended by the Polisario Front in November, last year, as they vowed a return to armed struggle against Morocco. Conveniently, after pressure having been applied to Morocco by the likes of the CIA and the United Arab Emirates, the normalisation deal is then presented to them behind closed doors at first, with the offer on the table to win over US support on the issue of Western Sahara.
Western Sahara is rich in phosphate deposits, as well as abundant fishing waters, it also provides a corridor to Mauritania, and for these reasons vital territory for Morocco. For the Algerian side, which supports the Sahrawi cause for liberating the entire territory, there is also an incentive for them to back the Polisario Front. If the Polisario front was able to win territory which would allow it a connection to the sea, being a natural ally of Algeria, the territory would be open for Algeria and would allow them to invest in port facilities, as well as new trade routes.
But the possibility of Algeria taking advantage of a Polisario Front-run Western Sahara, would severely undermine Morocco’s investment in its new port facilities. Morocco understands the incentives, aside from a moral alignment with the Polisario Front, that Algeria seeks to gain from its backing of Polisario.
Algeria is one of the few independent countries in the Arab world and is key to the new set of trade routes from Europe into Central Africa, which are being worked upon by major world powers. Algiers understands that on top of this, the country has been extremely isolated in the region and is surrounded by conflict, such as is the case in neighboring Libya.
Naturally, a country like Algeria is anxious about a possible hostile takeover led by the West or incited by the likes of Israel and has good justification to assume as such. It is not exactly the most easy-to-move country for the West and has one of the most powerful militaries in the region.
Tensions are growing between Morocco and Algeria, threatening a possible future military escalation. This possibility becomes all the more likely due to the fact that tensions are currently heating up in the Western Sahara.
The most concerning aspect of this however, is the possibility that the United States and its allies could possibly use the Western Sahara as a justification for attacking Algeria, as a result. Again this goes back to the US recognition of the territory as belonging to Morocco, decided upon under the Trump administration, a recognition which is being carried on by US President Joe Biden currently.
As was expected of this administration, the foreign policy is essentially following a similar doctrine to that of what the Trump administration did, except with more flowery language. If the US gets involved militarily in this conflict, in any way, it is clear that the situation was completely manufactured to work out that way.