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Algeria the construction of an enemy

2022-06-10 | Magreb

After months of a policy which can only fuel imperialist conflicts in the Maghreb, the Spanish government seems bent on turning Algeria into "the Russia of the South" and undertakes the construction of an enemy in the press... and vis-à-vis NATO.

The consequences for Algeria of Sánchez's turnaround

Border between Algeria and Morocco.

Border between Algeria and Morocco.

The reversal of the Spanish government's position on the Sahara in March of this year was a direct blow to the inter-imperialist balance in the Maghreb. It came at the end of a phase opened in November 2020 in which Morocco, after the US had recognized its domination of the Sahara in exchange for its support to the "Abraham Pacts" with Israel and the Emirates, was rearming and taking to the maximum the belligerent tension towards its eternal imperialist rival, Algeria.

Read also: Spain changes its policy on the Sahara and stirs up war in the Maghreb, 19/3/2022

This move was preceded by progressive cuts in Algerian gas imports. Before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, for the first time imports from Russia and the USA combined exceeded those originating in Algeria. Spain was not only stirring up tensions in preparation for a war in the Maghreb, but was also putting itself in the front line to suffer the costs of the war in Ukraine.

To top it all off, the Spanish government intended to use the Maghreb gas pipeline to sell gas to Morocco. It clarified that it was not Algerian gas but LNG of international origin bought by the Makhzen, brought by ship and regasified in Spain. But the numbers did not add up, at least in Algiers, which for the first time threatened Madrid with a lawsuit for breach of contract and the closure of the gas flow.

And just in case the risks seemed small, the Sánchez government, which will organize this month the NATO summit in Madrid, became the main animator of the new African policy of the Atlantic military organization. A policy which places the European armies in a situation of partnership and dependence on Rabat, while positioning them around the Algerian borders.

Read also: NATO wants to take the war with Russia to Africa... and expel China from the continent, 26/5/2022

The resulting new map not only minimizes the Algerian "strategic depth", fundamental for an eventual defense against an attack from Morocco, it jeopardizes Sonatrach's aspirations to pipe Nigerian gas to Europe. The new game of alliances places Morocco as the most feasible alternative for the Europeans and Americans who will logically invest more easily in a gas pipeline if their own troops are involved in its security.

Algeria's dangerous solitude

The Algerian army takes up positions in the mountains of Ain Defla against an Islamist guerrilla financed by Morocco. This support is part of the permanent subsurface war between Morocco and Algeria.

The Algerian army takes up positions in the mountains of Ain Defla against an Islamist guerrilla financed by Morocco. This support is part of the permanent subsurface war between Morocco and Algeria.

Historically, in times of crisis, Algeria has turned to two allies: Russia, its main arms supplier, and Egypt, a regular customer of its hydrocarbons with whom it shares a common struggle: to prevent the consolidation, especially in Tunisia and Libya, of the Muslim Brotherhood, supported by Qatar and Turkey.

Turning to Russia now could only end up putting Algiers in NATO's crosshairs... which is what Morocco is trying to force. This very weekend, the "flies", the disinformation group of the Moroccan intelligence networks, organized a whole campaign of fake news around some minor drills in Tindouf whose aim was none other than to present an Algeria on the verge of invading Western Sahara on the eve of the NATO summit in Madrid.

Egypt, which has explicitly refused to recognize Moroccan rule over the Sahara, nevertheless has its own crisis in Ethiopia, in whose civil war it has been decisive. Its main goal is to address the existential danger to its agriculture posed by the filling of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. To this end, it is trying to create a diplomatic front with both African countries and Europe.

Morocco, which has a direct influence on the position of half a dozen African countries and now sees itself as a privileged interlocutor of France, Spain and NATO, has pledged its support to Cairo. This is more than a gesture. It means, in fact, that Egypt's support for Algeria in a crisis situation cannot go very far for the time being.

And when it seemed that the scenario could not be worse for Algiers... Sánchez hands over gas contracts to Qatar and opens the door to its investments.

But Qatar never makes state investments where it cannot prop up the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the leadership of the local Muslim community. In fact, the French experience has ended in a real battle of the French state to recover the neighborhoods against the "separatism" of this organization, a battle that has gone hand in hand with an open imperialist confrontation with Turkey and a covert one with Qatar.

For the Algerian bourgeoisie, which waged a brutal war for ten years against the local branch of "the Brotherhood", the Spain-Qatar alliance means more than just losing a client to an old enemy. It means fearing, with good reason, that Algerian migrants in Spain will end up becoming well-financed, indoctrinated, Islamist militants eager to return home.

To top it all off, the presidential self-coup in Tunisia, supported by Algiers precisely because it was aimed at curbing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, is beginning to take a dangerous turn for its sponsors. President Saïed is trying to impose a presidentialist constitution without counterweights that would force the enemies of the Brotherhood to place all their bets on him and him alone. The powerful Tunisian trade unions are opposed and behind them what is left of the old state bourgeoisie. Algiers, which knows that Saïed is no Sisi, that is to say, that he does not have an entire social class prodding him, is beginning to worry and has already sent a serious warning to Tunisia.

In short, Algeria has never been so lonely.

Sánchez deepens the rift

Sánchez in Morocco

Sánchez in Morocco

Meanwhile, last Tuesday, the Spanish Parliament disapproved Sánchez's Moroccan turn on the Sahara with the unusual joint vote of PP, Podemos and the nationalists. The next day Sánchez appeared, two months late, to "explain" Spain's geostrategic turn (=turn in its imperialist strategy for the Maghreb). But instead of explaining anything, he soberly dismissed the issue as if it were a trifle of the opposition.

The date was not chosen at random. It was a question of staging a "closing" in order to be able to appear today in Rabat "with everything solved".

The Algerian response came in a matter of hours. First came the suspension of the cooperation and friendship treaty signed in 2002.

The immediate reaction of Sánchez's propaganda was to claim that it was a merely symbolic agreement. This is not true. It means officially closing a long period of peace between the two countries.

Before Alfonso Guerra's famous trips, Algiers had financed, trained and equipped the main terrorist groups that in the 1970s were attacking Spain (MPAIAC, Polisario Front and ETA) and kept the question of the "decolonization" of the Canary Islands open in the Organization of African States. In other words, by suspending the treaty Algiers is communicating that it no longer feels constrained to use any means to defend its imperialist interests against the Spanish strategy.

Moreover, the suspension of the treaty was not merely declaratory. The Bank of Algeria ordered the banks present in the country to freeze direct debits and foreign trade operations of products and services to and from Spain as of today. In other words, the Algerian government closed all bilateral trade except for gas.

The construction of an enemy

One of the boats with Algerian migrants apprehended by maritime rescue on their way to the Balearic Islands.

One of the boats with Algerian migrants apprehended by maritime rescue on their way to the Balearic Islands.

It only took a few minutes for El País to discover that the real "migratory danger" for Spain lay in Algeria and not in Morocco, and for the news agencies to report the invasion of 100 Algerians in boats.

This is not only one of those Orwellian exercises to which the Sanchist management of El País is used to. They seek to "create the narrative" for a new barbarism: the Spanish government now wants NATO to consider the failure (by third countries) to repress migrations as an act of "hybrid warfare". The mere statement is already a contradiction in terms: being hybrid means that it should combine "Green March" type techniques with... military actions. But oxymoron is a NATO trademark.

But let's recap. The message is brutal: Spain intends to reserve the right to consider itself militarily attacked, to invoke NATO assistance and to request armed aid against any neighboring country in a practically arbitrary manner. Six rowboats would be enough.

Read also: Is there a "hybrid attack" on the border between Poland and Belarus? 7 questions and answers, 11/11/2021

What's next?

Abdulmadjid Tebboune president of Algeria

Abdulmadjid Tebboune president of Algeria.

The disapproval vote on Sánchez's turn the day before yesterday in Congress is the first sign that Sánchez's dangerous turn on the Maghreb might not have the support of the Spanish bourgeoisie as a whole. The fact that Sánchez has sacrificed the director of the National Intelligence Council (CNI) in order to cover up the eavesdropping suffered by his own government from Morocco makes it even stranger.

The Spanish press is already talking this morning of the possibility that the Commission, at the initiative of Spanish Commissioner Borrell, will establish trade sanctions against Algeria. In fact, the Sánchez government, after promising a "calm and firm response", has sent the Minister of Foreign Affairs to Brussels to agree with the Commission on a possible course of sanctions.

Pushing the regime in Algiers to the limit, stifling its imperialist interests and openly threatening it, would seem irrational when, with Russian gas imports reduced to a minimum, a simple accident in a gas plant in the USA already puts the whole of Europe at risk of shortage of gas supplies.

But the Spanish government behaves as if, instead of serving its own interests, those of Spanish capital, it wanted to play the role of a US outpost, to increase energy costs to the point of making German exports unsustainable and to definitely upset the imperialist balances in the Maghreb, even at the cost of a war on its southern border. It is not surprising that part of the Spanish ruling class is beginning to portray him as a "Manchurian candidate".

The Algiers regime's press, building on this perception and, filtering the off the record statements of its leaders, calls on "King Felipe, the Parliament and the opposition" to "throw the reckless socialist out the door before the country plunges into darkness". It is not a bluff. Algeria has already covered the sales it was making to Spain in Italy, Tunisia and Mauritania, and may well cut off the gas.

A rupture of the gas contract by Algeria and the closure of the Medgaz pipeline would take place in a delicate context for European countries that have chosen to follow the path traced by Washington in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The Spanish government does not seem to take very seriously the warning of the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) who, in a recent interview with the leading German weekly Der Spiegel , warned that Western Europe and the United States were at risk of running out of fuel and electricity this summer. How does Pedro Sánchez, who intended to resell Algerian gas on the sly to his Moroccan blackmailers, intend to make up for this energy deficit?

Towards the non-renewal of Algeria's gas supply contract with Spain. Algerie Patriotique

Who is the enemy of whom?

Teachers' strike in Morocco.

Teachers' strike in Morocco.

Teachers' wildcat strike in Algiers.

Teachers' wildcat strike in Algiers.

The Spanish government is proceeding, step by step, to the creation of an enemy. Algeria has gone from being the great latent business of Spanish capital to a "migratory danger" - and therefore, according to the new doctrine, a military one - to be pressured with European sanctions and surrounded by NATO troops, while its neighbor, Morocco, does not cease to organize armed attacks by interposed forces of various kinds and to exert pressure at all levels. Spain and Morocco seem to have allied to repeat the script we have already seen in Ukraine.

It may be that Sánchez and his media advisors are just a group of adventurers or they may reflect a larger bet of a part of the Spanish bourgeoisie that is trying to take advantage of the Ukrainian war to score points before Washington at all costs. Whatever. Both the construction of the "Algerian enemy" by Sanchism and the calls to defend the Polisario in the name of the "Saharawi people" lead to the same place for the workers.

Between Morocco and Algeria there are some 20 million working class families, about twice as many as in Spain. In total thirty million families who can only lose if they allow themselves to be dragged along by the propaganda of their governments... or that of their rivals. Thirty million families whose basic living conditions are even more threatened by the consequences of the imperialist escalation and to whom the horizon of a new military slaughter is ever closer.

The enemy of all these working families is not on the other side of any border, but in their own country, in their own governments and companies, "building enemies" in the media to suit the interests of the capital groups and their hunger for markets and opportunities for profitability.

They are playing to bring the southern border of Europe to a situation similar to that of the eastern border. So the example of Russia and Ukraine should be enough for us to understand the role that the patriotic chants and protestations of innocence of our governments have in store for us. Every day it becomes more urgent to face them, confront them and stop them in their tracks. In every country and without fear of being the first.