From the Maghreb to Bosnia via the Horn of Africa and Syria, a loop of simmering armed conflict is reactivating around Europe as the bulk of the U.S. imperialist effort shifts to Asia.
Table of Contents
Algeria and Morocco
This Wednesday Algeria accused Morocco of the death of three Algerian truck drivers in a drone bombing as they drove from Mauritania along a Polisario-controlled road. It represents a step beyond the terrorist financing allegations this summer that led to the breakdown of diplomatic relations and the closing of gas supplies to Morocco – and Spain via the pipeline running through the Rif.
This strategic position is serving Algeria to try to counterbalance the Moroccan political offensive by taking advantage of its new lobbying capacity in Europe. For the time being, the Algerian government has already obtained from Spain the surrender of opponents linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and is demanding the “point-by-point renegotiation” of its trade agreement with the EU.
But the main course is to use Spanish “mediation” to contain the Moroccan momentum. That aspiration is what the sophisticated drone attack which killed two truck drivers this week was in response to.
In Algiers, the possibility of war with Morocco is looking closer and closer, but for the moment, deadly incidents like Wednesday’s are likely to increase. What is certain is that Morocco is tempted to take advantage of the de facto rupture of relations between France and Algeria to impose itself regionally by any means. It hopes that Paris, at odds with Algiers in the imperialist game for control of Mali, will stay out of the way.
The reality is that as of today the Algerian-Moroccan border is a “hot border” with more and more armed incidents and that all the maneuvers of imperialist interests are possible.
They even involve Egypt, Algeria’s ally and client whom Morocco is pressuring with moves in Ethiopia. Egypt refuses to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara but has cautiously accelerated its energy independence program. Cairo thus covers its back against an eventual shortage while becoming the exit for much of the Libyan gas to the East and the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, in agreement with the military in Algiers, it supports the self-coup of the Tunisian president and the consequent displacement of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Read also: Morocco and Algeria: new steps towards an old war, 2/9/2021
Sudan and Ethiopia
But Egypt has its own problems on the southern border. The Russian-encouraged coup in Sudan jeopardizes its patient diplomatic encirclement work on Ethiopia to obtain without open war its goal of stopping the new fills of the Renaissance Dam.
Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, its support for the Tigray militias, which prevented the crushing of the northern region, is being consolidated. After a series of defeats of the Ethiopian army, the Tigrayan columns have a clear passage to Addis Ababa. The government is mobilizing and arming the civilian population of the capital and intensifying the repression of opposing ethnicities.
There comes a new massacre and after it a critical moment in which probably a government of the Oromo – the majority ethnic group – and the Tigrayan forces will accelerate the disintegration of Ethiopia giving way to at least three or four new states. Needless to say, the breakup of the Ethiopian state would by no means be peaceful. Any fracturing of factions of a ruling class into different states with their own borders is always preceded by bloody bargaining for rents, infrastructure and strategic points.
Read also: our articles on Ethiopia and the Tigray War
Turkey is on the ropes. Economically with inflation at 20% and a plummeting currency. Strategically the pressure from France and Greece stopped its game in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Egyptian forcefulness finally pulled it out of Libya and the intervention of Russia put a border on its Syrian expansion bringing the regime to the brink of collapse; Russia also left little or no expectation of Turkish gains from the role it played in the Azeri army’s triumph against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh.
But now Turkey is gambling on a new Syrian offensive as a bargaining chip with the US. Erdogan knows he can’t conduct a large-scale operation against the US-backed PKK-YPG guerrillas without Russia allowing him to make use of airspace. Five Turkish commandersin charge of Syria-related missions applied for early retirement last month, apparently in protest at Erdogan’s initially adventuristic approach.
But now, the rise of imperialist tensions between Russia and Iran offers him a new opportunity to be useful to Moscow. Erdogan hopes to trade it for a moment of assertion in Syria. Or at least that’s how the new Erdogan threats are being interpreted by regional media.
Everything is lining up for a new winter of war in Northern Syria with new killings and columns of refugees.
The last week of October, the Bosnian Serb Republic, one of the two states that make up the confederation, conducted nominally police but military-style maneuvers surrounding Sarajevo. The European Union Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina responded by sending an aircraft that prevented the takeoff of one of the helicopters used in the operation.
The message was clear: the Bosnian Serb Republic, despite the EU presence, can turn its police into an army to support its claims for independence at any time if independence is not achieved through other channels.
This week, in case there was any doubt, an accident on the Bulgarian gas pipeline supplying the region made the imperialist agenda clear. Serbia accessed Russian gas through Hungary and in turn transported it to the Bosnian Serb republic of Bosnia ignoring the Bosnian confederal government.
Russia has long been funding and training pro-independence Serb militias on the orders of the Bosnian Serb president and threatening a “hybrid intervention”. For its part Turkey prompts the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Bosnian-Croatian republic… which in turn mobilizes France, Serbia’s traditional ally. … and unexpected allies like Hungary, who see Bosnian Serb nationalism as a useful barrier to migration… something they actually are by means of brutal violence against migrants and refugees approaching their borders.
Meanwhile, the social and labor situation continues to degrade, driving a constant and massive migration. The EU is trying by all means to sell as salvation the prospect in the indefinite future of Bosnia’s EU integration as a single state. But by now even Germany has given up on this goal and the reform of the Bosnian electoral system that was linked to it. All Brussels and Berlin have to offer today is turning the region into a bantustan of cheap labor for Franco-German industry.
But the key to the current development of war trends is the movement of the US concentrating its imperialist strategy on the battle against China. Russia and its Serbian nationalist allies have been waiting for years for this moment to rethink the Balkan borders from Kosovo to Bosnia. They are confident because, once Washington has made it clear that “keeping order in Europe is up to the EU,” they know that France will counterbalance any attempt at a forceful response from Berlin or Brussels.
As a result, the threat of a new Balkan war is once again taking shape and becoming a day-to-day presence. It is the closest one to the center of the continent of the loop of simmering armed conflicts reactivating around Europe as the bulk of the US imperialist effort shifts to Asia. It was obvious that the easing of US imperialist pressure in the region, which became evident after the departure from Kabul was not going to be the beginning of an era of tranquility and peace. Rather quite the opposite: the powers with regional interests were going to take advantage of the situation to measure forces.
From the Maghreb to the heart of Europe, via the Horn of Africa and the Caucasus, that phase has already begun. And it threatens to leave new masses of refugees, corpses and victims.