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Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Today, Algeria finds itself with few friends and more unhappy friends and neighbours
November 3rd, 2010 at 6:14 pm
Recent comments by Algeria's Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Mourad Medelci, regarding the self-determination referendum in Southern Sudan and a new wave of Algerian media attacks against the countries in the Sahel region have left diplomats in the Maghreb scratching their heads and mystified about the goals and intention of the Algerian government. By all accounts, the once stolid Algerian diplomacy is on the wane.
Since his arrival to power, the Algerian President Bouteflika ,who was once a Foreign Minister under president Boumedienne, has gradually alienated several key friendly governments and continued the adverse relations with his “usual” foes in the region. Today, Algeria finds itself with few friends and more unhappy neighbors. A quick analysis of the current state of Algeria’s foreign policy reveals its steady decline in clout and effectiveness.
An old mentality approach and inflexibility to regional and international relations has pushed the Algerian diplomats to the sidelines. Algeria’s political and military old guard is unwilling or incapable to adapt to new geopolitical realities in the Sahel and North Africa. Additionally, the ongoings feud between The Bouteflika team in one corner and the General Mohamed 'Toufik' Mediène, head of the Algerian Military Security Agency (DRS) in the other adds to the disarray and confusion of Algeria’s foreign policy.
Algeria’s campaign against the countries in the Sahel that dared to object to Algeria’s self-aggrandizing, anti-terrorism scheme is a typical case of Algiers' puzzling and self-defeating security approach to a regional conflict with major international ramifications. The Algerian government, putting the interest of the world community aside, and pursuing a campaign against the Sahel countries of Niger, Mali and Mauritania summarizes Algeria's president's Boutaflika's approach to foreign affairs. In several articles published in pro-government newspapers, the Algerians have alluded to the involvement of military and government officials in Mali and Niger in drug and weapons smuggling. More recently, the Algerian government has accused the country of Chad of being involved in the same illicit trade, adding a new enemy to the list of countries that Algiers suspect of being too cozy with Morocco.
The fact is Algeria’s wrath is not over the Sahel’s countries anti-terrorism policy but rather over their invitation of Morocco to meetings to discuss the security in the Sahel, against the wishes of Algeria. Now, Algeria’s African policy is in decline as more countries have voiced their displeasure over its negative claims and unfriendly attitude. While Algeria continues to portray itself as a regional leader, accusations of Algerian undiplomatic campaigns against neighbors shows that it is more angry and alone than a country in charge.
Algeria’s stanch support for Sudan’s territorial unity comes to reveal the extent of Algiers “contradictory” foreign policy on the Arab and African scenes, wrote a Lebanese foreign expert writing for a Pan-Arab newspaper published in London. Algeria’s Foreign Minister pompously stated that his country has great concerns that Southern Sudan’s self-determination referendum “might lead to partitioning of the Sudan into two parts, a factor that will aggravate instability in the region for a long period.” Mr. Madlasi analysis is in sharp contrast to his standing on the Western Sahara conflict where Algeria is adamant about the partitioning of Morocco. Mr. Madlasi believes that “Sudan's partitioning will have fatal repercussions on the African Continent.” However, in the case of Morocco, the Algerian government views the independence of Western Sahara as the only viable solution. Algeria’s flip-flopping on such sensitive conflict is another indication of a foreign policy motivated by self-interests.
Algeria is not completely isolated. Countries that have commercial interests and investments in the oil industry continue to entertain friendly and courteous relations with the two competing camps in Algiers. Nations that have defied Algeria in its conflict with Morocco over the western Sahara have paid a higher gas prices as in the case of Spain or have been excluded from lucrative contracts with Algeria as in the case of France. In addition, Algeria continues to have close relations with unsavory regimes like Castro’s in Cuba and Chavez’s in Venezuela.
Algeria’s “split-personality” foreign policy is based on a single premise: if a nation is supporting Morocco’s position on the Western Sahara conflict, then that government is not a friendly one. By being a one-dimensional foreign ministry, the Algerian diplomacy became predictable and irrelevant in the region and around the world. Security experts worry that as Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and even Libya continue to adopt to the new geopolitical realities and the changing security demands in the region, the Algerian will stay behind trapped in their the Revolutionary-Anti-Colonialist-Champion-of-Africa's diluded self-Image that goes back to 1962.