Tunisia Morocco: Who is Behind the Tensions in North Africa?
New tension clouded Maghreb countries’ relations on the eve of the “Tokyo International Summit for Development in Africa” (TICAD 8) hosted by Tunisia on August 27 and 28.
Despite Japan’s opposition, Tunisian President Kais Saied invited and received the leader of the separatist Polisario Group.
As a response, the Kingdom of Morocco summoned its ambassador to Tunisia for consultations.
In a statement issued on Friday, August 26, 2022, the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that:
“Morocco has decided not to participate in the 8th TICAD Summit to be held in Tunisia on August 27 and 28 and to recall its Ambassador in Tunis for consultations immediately.”
“After recently multiplying positions and hostile acts against the Kingdom of Morocco and its higher interests, the attitude of Tunisia in the TICAD (Japan-Africa Cooperation Forum) process has confirmed its hostility.
“Against the advice of Japan and in violation of the preparation process and the established rules, Tunisia decided unilaterally to invite the separatist entity.” The reception of the Tunisian Head of State to the leader of the separatist militia is a serious and unprecedented act, which deeply offends the feelings of the Moroccan people and its forces.” Added the Moroccan Ministery of Foreign Affairs.
Therefore, this statement clearly shows that Moroccan-Tunisian relations have entered a stage of diplomatic tensions, to be added to the long-term crisis between Morocco and Algerian relations.
Both crises have one source and cause the Algerian regime’s sponsorship of the separatist Polisario group, supporting it with money, weapons, and training.
Algeria’s opposition to Morocco’s interests, and its obstruction of all efforts to resolve the Sahara issue, dominated the history of Maghreb diplomatic relations, prevented the union of its countries, and endangered its security.
I must answer many questions to discover the danger of Algeria’s attempt to dominate the region, leading it to serve the interests of the military junta that rules Algiers.
1- Was the Tunisian president’s decision to receive the leader of Polisario group, a sovereign decision?
Many observers consider Kais Saied’s reception of the Polisarios’ group leader as a retreat from the neutral position that Tunisia has been taking since the last century.
The decision taken by the Tunisian president could have been an inevitable concession to the economic challenges in his country. While others consider it compliance with intense Algerian pressure, that began with financial incentives Or by deliberately destabilizing Tunisia and weakening the position of President Kais Saied in the face of his political opponents, who rejected his dissolution of Parliament and his coup against the democratic path agreed upon by Tunisians after 2011.
No one can find an objective justification for Tunisia to adopt the Algerian position on the issue of Sahara without specifying the outcome of this position and what it would gain from it.
President Kais Saied needs to consolidate his authority, suppress his opponents, and dominate the national political stage.
Choosing to align with Algeria against Morocco is not the result of a coincidence. Instead, its features began to unfold since the visit of the Algerian president to Tunisia and then Kais Saied’s visit to Algeria and France.
2- Does Algeria serve a French Agenda aiming to destabilize North Africa and counter the American interests?
Immediately after the outbreak of the Ukrainian-Russian crisis, France found itself facing complex geopolitical and economic challenges.
The road to Moscow was no longer possible for France unless it came within coordination with the United States and the rest of the Western countries. Paris no longer had many energy options (gas in particular).
After the deterioration of the Algerian-Spanish relations and Spain’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara, it would be easy to find a convincing explanation for the convergence of French-Algerian interests.
France needs Algerian gas more than ever, and Algeria needs to compensate Spain with a European customer.
France realizes that the price of Algerian gas will not always be financial but rather political and often against Moroccan interests, secretly and twistedly.
Paris was never satisfied with the Moroccan American rapprochement, just as Spain and Washington’s recognition of the Moroccan Sahara was not good news for Paris.
It is now finding Algeria the best ally to pass its plan to destabilize North Africa and to stand in the way of American involvement in the African continent through the Moroccan gate.
Morocco’s absence from the Japanese African summit primarily serves France’s interests, so Paris will never accept the infiltration of a strong competitor such as Japan into African markets in general and Moroccan in particular.
Paris wants to (impose) itself on the region’s countries as the only economic Partner. Still, it has no pressure tools except the human rights Dossiers against Kais Saied and the Algerian president. At the same time, it sticks to its ambiguous position on the issue of the Sahara to barter with it Morocco and Algeria alike.
During his press conference with the Algerian president, Emmanuel Macron did not mention the issue of the Sahara, which explains his unwillingness to get out of the circle of ambiguity and maintain the line of return with Rabat. He announced his intention to visit next October.
Thus, all indications point to France’s hidden and clever involvement in its exploitation of Maghreb conflicts to ensure the continued benefit of its former colonies. A policy that may not serve the principles of the republic nor does it conform to the slogans of democracy and certainly does not consider the interests and future of the region’s people.
3- Has Algerian Gas Become a Currency to Buy Political Positions?
The answer is easy, and it is yes.
The Algerian military regime is practicing exploitation of the country’s wealth. It can no longer keep up with King Mohammed VI’s initiatives toward African countries. Algeria has not been able to take a clear position toward the international efforts to find a realistic, serious and viable solution to the Sahara issue. So the rulers of Algeria adopted the tactic of obstruction and prevented the region’s stability. They bet on buying political positions with gas and squandering the wealth of the Algerian people instead of benefiting from it in the country’s development and reducing the large class gap Between the ruling military junta and the general vulnerable Algerian people.
The rulers of Algeria have realized the value of gas in the current international political situation. They have become more determined to turn it into a weapon against Morocco. They will not stop using it to achieve their expansionist ambitions in the North African region.
Algeria’s Military Junta is using the suffering of tens of thousands of detainees in the Tindouf camps.
By pushing President Kais Saied to deviate from the democratic political approach and the exclusion of Tunisian constitutional institutions in exchange for money and gas, Algeria is throwing the region into an unknown fate and opening the gates of North Africa in the face of all kinds of extremism, indifferent to the repeated American calls for the necessity of preserving the stability and security of the North African region and the rest of the world.
4- Was the Biden administration aware of the Tunisian move?
Morocco is an old ally and friend of the United States, this country, under the leadership and wisdom of its King, has proven to be on the side of our national interests.
So the biggest unanswered question is:
Did the Biden administration know in advance that the Algerian regime was working to impose the leader of the Polisario on the Japanese-African summit in Tunisia?
Suppose the answer is yes, and it is a possibility. How can it be explained that the administration of President Biden did not anticipate this move hostile to a friend and an old ally like Morocco?!!
But suppose Washington is not aware of President Kais Saied’s move. In that case, the matter is dangerous for a country like the United States. How can its diplomatic body ignore such an event?
A few days before the convening of the Japanese-African summit, members of the US Senate and Representatives visited Tunisia, during which they met with President Kais Saied. Tunisia
This visit coincides with some American reports that the United States may withhold $500 million in aid to Tunisia.
On July 28, 2022, the US State Department expressed, in a statement, its concern about the path of democratic treatment of Tunisia:
“Tunisia has experienced an alarming erosion of democratic norms over the past year and reversed many of the Tunisian people’s hard-won gains since 2011. Since July 25, 2021, the suspension of constitutional governance, consolidation of executive power, and weakening of independent institutions have raised deep questions about Tunisia’s democratic path, both in Tunisia and internationally”.
This statement tangibly confirms that the United States is closely following what Tunisia is witnessing under the leadership of Qais Saeed. So how can one believe that the United States, with all its organs, relations, capabilities, and the assessments of its observers, did not sense that a diplomatic shock was coming and that its friends’ relations were in danger?!!