“This Alleged War”: the Algerian PST on the Maghreb’s regional crisis.

Is the “lesser Maghreb” (Algeria, Morocco, and the Western Saharan Polisario Front) slouching towards war? 

Below is the position of the Algerian PST’s Samir Larabi, written in Arabic and available on the party’s website

It serves as a companion piece to Hassan Abennay’s recent article, translated by Al-M, on the apparent annulment of the three-decade-long Polisario-Morocco ceasefire. 

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Sofiane Zouggar,  Algeria, Contemporary Algerian art, Sharjah, UAE, Sharjah Foundation, Formwork, Algerie
‘Temporary flesh walls’ stories’ (installation detail), Sofiane Zouggar, 2017

The latest issue of Army Magazine is written as if a war is imminent over the next weeks and months – a classic [i.e., interstate] conflict, meaning that we must mobilise all our strength to oppose this alleged war.

‘Alleged’, since it is not once directly referred to in the magazine – neither the country nor the Front directing its army against us is mentioned. Perhaps the editor meant our neighbour, Morocco; a country that has neither the political capabilities nor the military hardware to wage a war against our army. [1]

The purpose of these shenanigans can be summarised with the two following points –

1.  To cast a shroud over the consequences of the domestic political crisis suffered by the regime since February 2019, a crisis that only deepened after the constitutional referendum of 1 November 2020. 

And now, a struggle is raging amongst the higher rungs of power over how to deal with those consequences, after the president’s bout of ill-health (raising the question of Tebboune’s successor) and the war rumours themselves – hence the regime’s need for these preposterous scenarios, in order to frighten the people and silence dissenting voices. 

2. The second purpose is legitimating of the army’s re-equipment with bespoke, high-cost matériel – an expensive outfitting done so as to forge deals with the arms manufacturers, as largely based [المتمركزة أساسا] across various Western states; arms deals that we don’t need, but that prop up the economies of the capitalist states which own [تملك] the advanced military systems (for example Russia, France, Germany, and the US). Vast sums of money will be spent to acquire this military equipment – a ruse used by the developed states to protect their own military budgets at the expense of public money.

At a time when thousands upon thousands of workers are losing their jobs; when national companies (such as the ENIEM) are threatened with bankruptcy, and various services – health, education, transport – are struck by severe [budgetary] imbalances, the country’s leadership prefers buying high-cost armaments over helping the vulnerable classes and reviving the family of national industries. 

The Algerian people are in dire need of an immediate programme both to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and to make the industrial and agricultural leaps needed for social development and advancement – since poverty and backwardness cannot be eradicated with tanks, warplanes, or frigates.

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[1] Algerian-Moroccan military expenditures were roughly similar through the 1990s, though after 2000 the former has spent vastly more than the latter year-on-year: in 2019, over 10.3 billion to Morocco’s 3.7 billion (an annual number that’s hardly risen over a decade).

10.3 billion is more than half of the total sub-Saharan African spend (including South Africa) that same year, and fifth highest across the MENA region after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, and Iran, according to the World Bank.

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