There are several reasons Morocco has been unable to make any tangible progress in its perpetual fight against the Algerian backed rebels in the Sahara.
First and foremost is the near impossibility for Morocco to make itself worthier than Algeria to the United States. Algeria is one of the world’s top ten producers of both oil and natural gas. Algeria is a lucrative market for many US businesses, especially in hydrocarbons: Any hint from the US that they will fully support Morocco, similar to the way it supports Israel, will undoubtedly throw Algeria into the arms of Russia, something American policymakers do not want to see. The alliance between Syria and Russia is an example the Americans do not want to see repeated in North Africa.
The US does not believe it to be wise on their part to alienate Algeria and empower Morocco, even though Morocco has been its strategic ally, or at least that is what we hear from American officials when they meet their Moroccan counterparts. The recent drop in oil prices has many Algerians calling on their leaders to open and diversify the economy. This sounds like music to American ears. Americans understand that they cannot allow Russia and China to take over such a profitable business. In turn, the Algerians equally understand that in order for the US to have a chance in developing their country, the US cannot fully support Morocco in the Sahara conflict.
This is what we have seen in the latest UN resolution. The United States drafted a Security Council resolution calling for the urgent restoration of “full functionality” of the UN mission in the Western Sahara. This resolution was not welcome by Morocco until France helped make it more acceptable.
In his latest speech in the Morocco- GCC summit in Riyadh in April, the Moroccan king stated that Morocco would form new alliances with other superpowers. There is already talk of signing a free trade agreement between Morocco and China during the King’s next visit. Will the Chinese authorities change their neutral stance toward the conflict? Of course not. China is already deeply invested in rebuilding Algeria, to the point that Chinese citizens are the ones building the extravagant $3 billion Bouteflika mosque.
Courting superpowers has neither been beneficial to Morocco nor to Algeria. It simply makes them forever a hostage to these superpowers. Morocco, and Algeria for that matter, can never be free to be themselves for as long as they are subject to the mercy of these superpowers.
The question that many ask is how should Morocco prepare itself for the next UN meeting. The answer is not to prepare for the UN meeting at all. Instead, Morocco should do whatever it can to meet with the Algerians to see what can be done (together) and at least to start talking. Morocco under Hassan II was able to make the Israelis and the Egyptians secretly meet in Morocco.
It is unconceivable that we are able to help solve others’ problems but not our own. All signs indicate that Algeria’s regime is not about to change anytime soon, even after Bouteflika. Regardless of who’s at the helm in Algeria, the lines of communication should open at all times.
Some analysts believe that the drop in oil prices will force Algeria to drop its support for the Polisario. However, this drop in oil prices has made Algeria even more adamant in blocking any positive opening in the conflict. Even during Algeria’s civil war, a time when Algeria was bankrupt, Algeria never stopped supporting the Polisario.
It is not in the interest of the UN, Russia, France, China, or any country involved that the problem to see it become resolved. It does not make economic sense for the superpowers to see Morocco and Algeria in peace.
They need to keep us dependent on them, like a slave dependent on their master. The leaders in Algeria are so anti-Morocco that they would rather see these countries’ economies thrive instead of Morocco’s, or even theirs.
Morocco should keep trying to bring Algeria to the table. Eventually someone in the Algerian regime will agree to talk peace. One thing Morocco should never do is to close the door on its neighbors.
We are now seeing alliances beginning to form. The latest strategic alliance between Morocco and the Gulf states and the courting between Syria, Iran, and Algeria will not serve Morocco in the long run.
King Mohammed VI once said that Morocco’s natural place is in the Maghreb. Unfortunately, the Algerians have not responded positively to the King’s call and Morocco is now forced to form alliances that are with faraway nations. These alliances do not make sense if we are ever to solve the Sahara problem, even though on the surface they sound reasonable.
It is a lot cheaper to find a way to bring about peace between Morocco and Algeria, as it is costing Morocco and Algeria billions of dollars to be at an undeclared war. Moroccans and Algerians are too smart not to understand that the superpowers look after their interests first and foremost. So it is time for Morocco and Algeria to do the same.