Algeria is suffering from a psychological complex that enables its hostile acts towards Morocco, argued Samir Bennis, a senior political analyst and the editor-in-chief of Morocco World News.
“Algeria has a complex because despite all the natural resources it has, it can never have the rich history that Morocco enjoys,” he said.
Bennis made the statement on Thursday evening, February 18, during an interview with television channel Chada TV. The live interview featured during the “Ntifi Live” talk show, which discussed Algeria’s obsessive hostility towards Morocco.
Bennis presented an overview of the motives behind the Algerian regime’s hostility towards Morocco. He argued that there are two main types of motives — psychological and political.
The US-based analyst explained that since Algeria gained its independence in 1962, its rulers have been comparing their country to its western neighbor, Morocco.
“The Algerian ‘political elite’ under the control of the military found itself with a large country, rich with natural resources, but lacking a historical identity like the one Morocco has,” he said.
Morocco has a deeply-rich history, Bennis added. “It has one of the oldest dynasties in the world. It is one of the countries that significantly contributed to the spread of Islam during its Golden Age. It is the only country [in North Africa] that was never under Ottoman rule.”
Bennis argued that this “envy” is what pushed Algeria to take a hostile stance towards Morocco and to attempt to play a dominant role in the Maghreb region.
“This explains the campaigns that Algeria has launched for over six decades to prevent Morocco from regaining its territorial integrity,” he stated.
The hostility of Algerian rulers towards Morocco is also politically motivated, the foreign policy expert added. For him, political motives include both internal and external ones.
“Internally, Algeria has been going over the past six years through one of its largest political and economic crises in modern history,” Bennis explained.
He recalled that former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been “ruling” the country from a wheelchair for seven years.
“We all know that it is not the president who truly has authority in Algeria, but the army,” Bennis clarified.
He explained that as long as the “political elite” at the head of Algeria remains in place, the country’s crises will not end.
Giving the mounting wave of protests that hit Algeria over the past week as an example, Bennis argued that the Algerian people are still unsatisfied with the situation in their country, despite the election of a new president.
In addition to the domestic crisis, the expert continued, Morocco’s successive diplomatic triumphs over the past six years are a major motive for the Algerian regime’s hostility.
“Prior to Morocco’s return to the African Union, Algeria was using the continental institution as a tool to weaken Morocco’s position on the Western Sahara issue,” Bennis recalled.
However, he added, a turning point occurred in June 2014, when Algeria, South Africa, and Nigeria pushed the appointment of former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano as envoy of the African Union to Western Sahara.
The move that challenged Morocco’s territorial integrity led the Moroccan diplomacy to launch an unprecedented campaign in Africa to counter anti-Moroccan narratives in the continent and to prepare for the kingdom’s return to the African Union.
“After Morocco’s return to the African Union, we saw how the kingdom was able to pull the rug from under Algeria and how it was able, in a short period of time, to disrupt Algeria’s plans of weakening the Moroccan position,” Bennis said.
The political analyst gave the example of Nigeria, a major African power that used to challenge Morocco’s territorial integrity but now maintains good diplomatic relations with the kingdom.
“Indicators of the bilateral rapprochement began to appear after the visit of King Mohammed VI to Nigeria in December 2016, which led to the signing of several agreements, notably those regarding the Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline and the construction of fertilizer plants in Nigeria,” he explained.
Bennis recalled that prior to 2016, the Algiers-Abuja-Pretoria axis has been strongly pushing Polisario’s separatist agenda within the African Union and the UN. Nigeria used to call for a self-determination referendum in Western Sahara every year at the UN General Assembly.
On a broader international level, the speaker said, the UN Security Council has become fully aware of Algeria’s involvement in the Western Sahara issue, despite Algeria’s repeated denials regarding its involvement in the conflict.
The Security Council mentioned Algeria as a main party in the territorial conflict for the first time ever in 2018, in UNSC Resolution 2440.
“This is among the points that weakened Algeria’s efforts to obstruct the political process [in Western Sahara],” Bennis argued.
Another development that motivates Algeria’s hostility towards Morocco, he added, is the US’ official recognition of the Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. “This was the knockout blow for Algeria.”
Responding to a question about the international community’s perceptions of Morocco and Algeria, Bennis asserted that Morocco is considered to be the main actor ensuring regional stability.
“Morocco is a trusted country. The international community knows it can count on [Morocco] to maintain stability in the region,” he said.
In contrast, the international community has a generally-negative image of Algeria, the expert stated.
“Algeria is seen as a country that still lives in the past, based on an outdated political discourse that is void of content,” he explained.
Algerian lobby in the US
The final part of the interview focused on Algeria’s lobbying efforts to push the new US President Joe Biden to reverse his predecessor’s decision to support Morocco’s territorial integrity.
One of Algeria’s most-recent lobbying attempts was a letter signed by 27 US senators that urged Biden to review Trump’s Western Sahara decision.
When asked whether the letter could actually have an impact on the decision-making of the Biden administration, Bennis admitted that it is hard to predict. He affirmed that the main motive behind the letter is to put pressure on Biden as well as to promote the Algerian-fabricated narrative on Western Sahara within the American political sphere.
“We live in a world of narratives. The party that can promote its narrative in influential political and media spheres is the winner. This is what Algeria is attempting to do,” the expert explained.
Bennis gave the example of two lobbying companies that work for Algeria. The first is law firm Foley Hoag, which has been promoting Algeria’s interests in the US since the early 1990s. The company receives $420,000 every year from Algeria.
“Last year, this company had 45 correspondences and meetings with members of the US Congress and officials from the US Department of State,” Bennis revealed. “All these meetings and correspondences focused solely on Western Sahara.”
The second company lobbying for Algeria in the US is Keene Consulting. The firm belongs to David Keene, a politician who is very close to former US National Security Advisor John Bolton, known for his support for the separatist Polisario Front.
Algeria signed a contract with Keene Consulting in September 2018, Bennis declared. Under the contract, the firm receives $360,000 every year from Algeria.
“These are only the disclosed numbers,” the analyst added. “We cannot really know what happens behind the scenes between the Algerian lobby and influential people in the US political sphere.”
Bennis emphasized the “hypocrisy” of the Algerian regime for claiming that it is not involved in the Western Sahara issue while, at the same time, assigning large budgets to lobby in favor of the Polisario Front.
Another contradiction between Algeria’s claims and actions, Bennis highlighted, concerns the Palestinian cause.
“While it claims that it supports the Palestinian cause, Algeria had no issue dealing with James Inhofe (the senator who wrote the recent letter about Western Sahara to Biden) who, two weeks ago, presented a law to push Biden to maintain the recognition of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the eternal capital of Israel,” the expert said.
“This proves the hypocrisy of the Algerian regime and the vast difference between its speeches and its actions,” he continued.
Bennis also underlined that Algeria is among the countries that do not provide any aid to Palestinians. Instead, it spends “tens of millions of dollars” every year to support Polisario to fuel the Western Sahara conflict.
‘Morocco should be careful’
In his closing remarks, Bennis stressed the need for Morocco to double its efforts against the Algerian lobby in the US.
“It is true that Morocco has a privileged position in US foreign policy, but we must be careful because we are now at a stage when Algeria has nothing left to lose,” he warned.
“Morocco needs to make an unprecedented mobilization to neutralize Algeria’s efforts and to convince members of the congress to support the Moroccan position [in Western Sahara],” he urged.
The political analyst recalled that, in 2007, 174 members of the congress expressed their support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan in a letter addressed to the US President at the time, George Bush.
“I hope we can see something similar in the near future,” he concluded.