Divergences between Algeria and Washington On National Security

- Divergence of views between Algiers and Washington on several key topics that affect the national security of the United States make a strategic alliance between Algeria and the United States hard to succeed. Thus, the opening of the first session of the strategic dialogue between Algeria and the United States, which started this Friday in the nation’s capital, should be an occasion to raise the question around the value of such overtures toward countries that oppose American interests overseas.

Thus, the opening of the first session of the strategic dialogue between Algeria and the United States, which started this Friday in the nation’s capital, should be an occasion to raise the question around the value of such overtures toward countries that oppose American interests overseas.

Despite attempts by the two countries to portray certain normalcy in their ties, Algeria’s positions in Libya, Syria, Mali and the Western Sahara are often at odds with American interests. The absence of the Algerian foreign minister during this meeting coupled with the American representation at the Undersecretary of State level is an indication of a malaise in the American-Algerian relations.

Since President Bouteflika’s last government shake up, Algeria's foreign minister Mourad Medelci has been keeping a low profile on the international scene. During a recent high profile visit to the Sahel, Abdelkader Messahel, the Minister in charge of Maghreb and African Affairs, and high-ranking intelligence officers headed an important Algerian delegation. At a time when Algeria looks isolated in North Africa and the Sahel, the absence of the Algerian chief diplomat raises a red flag and further weakens an Algerian foreign policy mired in contradictions.

In Libya, Algeria, that supported Kaddafi until his death, has been lukewarm to the new Libyan government. The Algerian media continue to criticize NATO actions in Libya and refer to the new Libyan leadership as a puppet of the West. This Algerian attitude is complicating American efforts to assist the Libyan society in its transition to political normalcy and democracy.

The disagreements between Algeria and the United States are more pronounced on Syria. While the Algerian government has been voiceless on its denouncement of Assad’s massacres against the Syrian people, the American administration is actively calling for the removal of Bashar. In fact, the Algerian government position in the Syrian conflict is identical to Iran’s Mullahs and squarely in defiance of the U.S. and the European Union anti-Assad position.

The insecurity in the Sahel is fast becoming a source of friction between Algiers and its neighbors. While the international community is moving toward a military intervention in Mali, Algeria’s “no-foreign military intervention” policy seems weak and irrelevant. Unlike the Algerian position, the American government is open to all options, including a military intervention, to root out armed groups from Northern Mali. The Algerian foreign ministry continues to send emissaries to Sahel countries hoping “to better explain and clarify” Algeria’s position in the Malian crisis.

In the Western Sahara conflict, the American administration pro-Morocco position as stated by Mrs. Clinton is another point of disagreement between Algeria and the American administration. Washington is firmly behind Morocco’s Local Autonomy for the Sahara, while Algeria continues to support and encourage the Western Sahara separatists of the Polisario Front. The Americans view the Algerian support of the Polisario as a source of insecurity that encourages the spread of terrorism in the region.

24/10/2012