Washington D.C. - Mauritania’s “positive neutrality” in the Western Sahara conflict has been the arrangement that underpins ties between Rabat and Nouakchott.
Washington D.C. – Mauritania’s “positive neutrality” in the Western Sahara conflict has been the arrangement that underpins ties between Rabat and Nouakchott.
However, Mauritanian President General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz careless and irresponsible acts of provocations towards Morocco are undoing the years of relative calm in the region. The General’s ostentation and pomposity are nudging Algeria and Morocco closer to an armed conflict in the Western Sahara.
Recent news reports of Moroccan troop movements closer to the Mauritanian borders to counter the activities of the Algeria backed Polisario guerilla in the no-man’s land in the Western Sahara are alarming. General Ould Abdelaziz strategy of sanctioning the Polisario separatist movement to counter Morocco’s diplomatic and economic expansion in Africa is pushing the Sahel and the Maghreb to the brink of war.
Moroccan-Mauritanian relations have never been simple. From Moroccan nationalists’ territorial claims in Mauritania to the close connection between the current military government and the Polisario, several sensitive issues have marred the contacts between the two nations. This rocky relationship is set for more turmoil with General Ould Abdelaziz deliberate diplomatic and military provocations in the Western Sahara.
General Ould Abdelaziz has been nipping at the feet of the Moroccan Monarch for months now. Feeling self-important, the Mauritanian leader cannot stomach that King Mohammed VI flies over his country to travel all over Africa but never stops to see him.
What started as a nuisance is turning into a full-blown crisis with potentially lethal ramifications. Morocco can no longer dismiss Abdelaziz maneuvers as childish. His recent decision to let Algeria get access to the Atlantic Ocean thru the Western Sahara is a serious breach of the military and political understanding between the Kingdom and its neighbor to the South.
Morocco will not negotiate its stance on Mauritania’s responsibilities in the Sahara. The General’s game of using his country’s location and close relationship with the Algerian military and the Polisario leaderships to hassle Morocco will eventually push the region into a war. The world should have “serious concern” about these developments.
In his absurd race to compete with Morocco, the General has attempted some attention seeking tactics that have backfired ridiculing Mauritania and further weakening his position in the Arab and Muslim world.
Form his laughable attempt to host the Arab summit when he knows that Nouakchott does not have enough hotels, to his absurd decision to withdraw from the COP 22 meeting in Marrakesh because of an Israeli delegation, the General has made a joke of his nation. In fact, no major Arab leader showed up for his summit and no one noticed his absence in the COP 22.
However, Mauritania’ absenteeism in last weeks’ meeting on terrorism in the Sahel that was held in Senegal is a sign that the General is taking his gambits too far and endangering the stability and security in the region. It is time for France to reign in its “partner” in Nouakchot.
It is not secret that Ould Abdelaziz, who came to power in a coup, has been ruling for this long because of France’s backing and support. The French military has given him the security cover to stay in government and the General Directorate for External Security (French Intelligence agency) has pronged his reign in a country known for military rebellions.
As Mauritania keeps using the Western Sahara as a means of pressure, Morocco will be forced to repost to these escalation by either moving its troops further South and West or reaching out to its supporters within the Mauritanian military and civilian institutions for “action” before it is too late.
Rabat’s policy needs recalibration. Moroccan can no longer ignore the Military maneuvers of General Ould Abdelaziz and his stooges. King Mohammed should put France, the real power behind the regime in Nouakchott, on notice over its indifference, because a war in the Western Sahara will undoubtedly hurt Paris.
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