By Ghassan Essalehi
By Ghassan Essalehi
Morocco world News
Ifrane, Morocco, January 3, 2012
Given the history and depth of relations, the US has been quite unpopular in North Africa. This unpopularity could be explained by different reasons depending on each country’s case. Perhaps, one of the most common reasons for such unpopularity is due to the fact the US has been very supportive and a major sponsor to the state of Israel and does not take actions to condemn its policies towards Palestinians. At least, this is how the US is regarded by populations of North Africa, and this is the narrative repeatedly conveyed to the population by the media on their state sponsored TV and satellite stations.
For Morocco, it could be described as a model of the development effort the United States favors: pragmatic, non-ideological, and open to the West. This model had long been advocated and defended by the elite and, for that matter, the monarchy. However, this same model has not been appreciated by some of the country’s ideological movements, such as the Islamists and left wing parties. These movements, in fact, have the ability of mass popular mobilization and have been quite successful in the spreading of their sentiments of US hatred and of America’s unpopularity in the country over the last decades. Another explanation for US unpopularity in the country could be related to the fact that the US, despite the important weight and power it has around the world, especially in the UN, has not helped Morocco convey its plans of autonomy (since 2007) to be adopted as a solution to the Saharan conflict. Of course, there are other players in this issue, but many Moroccans regard the US as being able to solve this issue quickly, if it really wanted to do it.
For Algeria, the US was long regarded as a rival to the USSR and- later on, Russian interests in the country. While the Algerian regime preferred to strengthen their relationship with the communist and Soviet camp(s), the US was never discarded. Yet, it was never privileged in terms of being a major and important partner for Algerians. Also, while the US expressed its concerns in regards to the Saharan conflict and the security risks this could bring the region, namely the Sahel, Algeria has always been supportive and a major sponsor to the POLISARIO. Such a fundamental difference in how the two countries treat the issue and viewing its dimensions from different perspectives has not helped make any better the US image in the eyes of Algerians.
For Tunisia, during Bourguiba’s regime, the United States had long-standing good relations with Tunisia based largely on Bourguiba’s personal affection for USA. During Bourguiba’s presidency, the US showed him strong support since he was viewed as a genuine nationalist hero among Arab and African leaders. The US then became unpopular in Tunisia in the middle of the 1980s for the following reasons: Washington initially accepted Israel’s bombing of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headquarters in October 1985 near Tunis. This caused hostility among the Tunisian public and a lack of trust in relations with the US. As for Ben Ali’s regime, the US preferred to provide civil society with soft tools of empowerment, public advocacy, and political dialogue instead of more directly pushing the Tunisian regime to implement reforms and open up its political scene to diversity. This US attitude has made the Tunisia public hostile to its double discourse (i.e. a public discourse that encouraged democratization and on the ground actions that failed to apply this discourse). The Tunisians, therefore, saw the US as a country that was supportive of a friendly “dictator”. Tunisians believed that their leader was going to be outside of US plans and demands for democratization as long as Ben Ali fought the Islamists, and provided the country with an increasingly restricted atmosphere of civil and human rights that were to be the only model envisioned by the US for Arabs and Muslims on the path of modernization: “à la Tunisienne” (i.e. on the Tunisian way).
For Libya: the ideological differences between Qadhafi’s regime and those of the US made the two countries incompatible in terms of developing a healthy and lasting relationship. This was shown through Qadhafi’s continuous public attacks on the US and its policies around the world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. Also, in 1986, a US air attack was made against the Libyan leader. The attack destroyed Qadhafi’s home and killed one of his children. In addition, Qadhafi’s support to various separatist movements around the world made the US public discourse very hostile to Libya, and consequently caused public hostility towards it. These were important events that helped crystallize growing Libyan public hostility toward the United States in Libya.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Ghassan Essalehi was born in 1988 in Rabat, Morocco. He holds a BA in International Studies & Communication and now is completing an MA in Diplomacy at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. Ghassan has experience as the Editor in Chief of the University English newspaper and focuses on community welfare. Ghassan is also a member of his university Student Government Association and Mimouna Club which aims at promoting Moroccan Judaism.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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