What to do in the face of the escalating crisis between Morocco and Algeria?

The understanding of what happens in international relations is the consequence of an analysis of different events and milestones that appear, primarily, disconnected from each other, but that take on a solid sense when they are analyzed in perspective.

It is known the latent confrontation between Morocco and Algeria that has engulfed them in the most ambitious and dangerous bilateral arms race of the 21st century, and the reasons go far beyond their dispute over Western Sahara. We have always been aware that the Mediterranean has been a concern for the United States and that the surveillance of the Strait has been a constant for which its main ally since 1953 has been Spain.

I also think we can assume that the current Spanish government has launched messages that have greatly weakened this fraternal alliance with the United States, to which has been added the progressive distancing between the European Union and the North American giant.

Military career of Morocco and Algeria

The turning point in this situation came about two years ago when Morocco launched an ambitious program to modernize its weapons Being its strategic ally the United States, which has seen Morocco become its main client, surpassing Saudi Arabia. Without going into details, Morocco has tripled its military capacity in the last ten years in fields such as its Navy, air force, mobility capacity, air defense, armored … to which is added the modernization of its infrastructure, including a new base near Melilla from which to operate their Israeli drones over Algeria.

His neighbor has not lagged behind him and, with the support of its great ally, Russia, has not been left behind in this military career with the acquisition of submarines, combat aircraft, armored vehicles and artillery. However, in the last year there have been a series of events that have substantially changed the strategic panorama in the Western Mediterranean of which Spain has been the main vigilante and armed power since the conquest of Melilla by Pedro de Estopiñán in 1497.

Israel collaborates with Morocco

The reestablishment of relations between Morocco and Israel has allowed a deep program of military collaboration with major acquisitions of cutting-edge technology in drones and electronic warfare, which will include a joint Moroccan-Israeli base in the Mediterranean near Melilla to operate the drones over Algeria. Do youWhat has Israel lost with Morocco, beyond the strategic objective of breaking the unity of the Arab world vis-à-vis Israel, which it had already partially achieved at Camp David in 1977 with Egypt, then with Jordan, and with the Abrahamic Accords signed on September 15, 2020 with the United Arab Emirates ?

The clue was recently offered by a well-informed source on Israeli intelligence. In a recent not-so-secret encounter between the Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz and King Mohamed VIAt his personal invitation, the main issue during his lunch was the tension with Algeria. The intelligence of Morocco believes that Algeria plans hostile actions, which is why you need Israeli drones and their expertise in waterproofing borders. Even these destabilizing plans will include, according to this source, the infiltration of radical Islamist militias in Morocco.

But beyond this tactical necessity, there is a larger movement that goes through the acquisition of modern F-35s whose excessive cost would even be financed by the Emirates, ready to help their new allies in their fight. Against whom? Algeria? In fact, Morocco requested official help from Israel to convince the United States to supply them with these fifth-generation fighters.

This potential acquisition would be an immediate response to Algeria’s decision last January to acquire 14 SU-57 aircraft, the Russian equivalent to the Eurofighter and F-35. The next logical step would be for Algeria to accept the Russian offer to install S-400 missile batteries which are supposedly the only ones capable of detecting these Stealth technology aircraft. The deployment of these systems at the entrance to the Mediterranean would be a very dangerous step in this race, since would give control of the airspace of the Straits to Algeria. The American response would be either to attack these batteries or to impose sanctions, which seems more reasonable but less effective. What would come next? All options are open.

Algeria-Iran ties

What danger have the United States and Israel seen in going frantically to support Morocco against Algeria? This is not such a strategic ally for Russia as to send it such a powerful message in this way; the explanation must be sought in Tehran.

Despite Iran’s support for terrorist groups operating in Algeria in the 1980s, the ties between Algeria and Iran have been significantly strengthened in recent years. Thus, in 2012, these two countries were left alone supporting the brutal repression of the Assad regime in Syria, against the unanimous vote of the rest of the Islamic world; Furthermore, Algeria has been strongly supporting the Iranian nuclear program in recent years. The latest milestone of this collaboration, according to a Moroccan source, is Iranian support for the Polisario Front in its war with Morocco; the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs himself alleged the presence of Hezbollah elements involved in actions with the interests of Rabat in recent years.

Tehran was in August the main support of Algiers in its decision to break relations with Morocco for its hostile actions against Algeria, supporting the separatist movements in Kabylia and for the use of the Israeli software “Pegasus” to spy on Algerian military and citizens. In September this year, the foreign ministers of both countries, Abdollahian and Lamamra, met at the United Nations, where they discussed the deepening of their relations. And then, on November 11, at a conference between the two authorities, they decided to make a common front to prevent Israel’s accession to the African Union and to support Syria’s return to the Arab League. Even a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry from Casablanca echoed the fact that since the Arab Spring, Algeria had become a corridor for terrorist movements instigated from Tehran, and that they spread throughout the Sahel.

To top this nightmare, this week the North American combat group commanded by the aircraft carrier Harry Truman it acceded to the Mediterranean escorted by a Norwegian frigate and another Moroccan of the Sigma class. The fate of this group is to participate in attacks against terrorist groups in Syria and to dissuade Russia from intervening in Ukraine. The rear admiral of the North American fleet, Curt Renshaw, alluded to the great experience of sailing with the Moroccan Navy, pointing out the common objective of improve security and stability conditions in the region and warn those who threaten security anywhere in the world. It is not the first time that this collaboration has occurred, but in these moments it reaches a very special meaning.

The position of Spain

And how does all this affect us? An extraterrestrial who now arrives on Earth, would think that Spain takes sides with Iran, Algeria, Russia or China. Relations with Morocco have deteriorated, with the United States as well, to the point that Morocco is now its main ally in the region; for assure us the gas we have had to accept that the supply from Algeria leaves out Morocco, with whom it broke relations. The arrival of the Polisario leader, supported by the “axis of evil”, to Spain for a “humanitarian medical treatment”, it was no more than a maneuver to involve our country more in its confrontation against Morocco, a perfectly defined operation that would have been impossible without political assistance from Spain. Definitely, We slip dangerously into a conflict from which we should distance ourselves if it weren’t for the fact that Algeria has us caught by gases.

A dark scene

A militarily weak Spain vis-à-vis its neighbors, distanced from the United States and now also from Germany, given the recent pragmatic declarations of the new German government supporting Morocco in its allegations about the Sahara; with latent conflicts in Morocco unresolved, with a loss of military superiority and with a dependence on gas from Algeria … it is a dark scene.

If Algeria installs S-400 systems and the Iranian rapprochement is confirmed, beyond words, we would have the eternal Middle East conflict on our borders, and a direct threat to our security; Let’s not forget that Algeria is 180 kilometers from Cabo de Gata and that we do not have the infrastructure to replace Algerian gas in the short and medium term.

This system can shoot down aerodynamic objects at 200 kilometers and missiles at a distance of 60 kilometers and its radar can “hook” up to eighty targets up to a distance of 600 kilometers, detecting aircraft with very low signature, such as Eurofighter and F-35. We urgently need to maintain our strategic independence strengthen our military capabilities and our strategic positioning. The acquisition of 20 Eurofighter aircraft for the defense of the Canary Islands has been a necessary decision in order not to lose current capacity, but it does not represent a substantial alteration compared to the future incorporation of the Moroccan F-35s. The loss of the Spanish naval air force, the decision not to equip our S-80s with Tomahawk missiles, and the delays in other programs have not strengthened us diplomatically and weakened us militarily.

In any case, the underlying problem is political: Spain must align itself with its traditional western allies, maintain an excellent relationship with Morocco, with whom we share many interests, and now more, and resolve disputes. If the Polisario Front allows itself to be led by Algiers and Tehran in its conflict with Rabat, it will not only commit a profound mistake but will condemn its people to an unbearable existence. If we make a bad decision we will have altered the course of our history of the last fifty years and we will find ourselves before a strategic weakness very detrimental to our security, welfare and economic prosperity. It is the moment for a politics of height, for which we do not have leaders.


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