After several weeks of anticipation, Algeria has finally cut diplomatic relations with Morocco because of what Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra described as a proliferation of ‘hostile acts’ by Rabat.
He announced the decision on 24 August but, as Algeria Politics & Security – 31.08.21 explains, it was not taken ‘reluctantly’ and nor was it ‘inevitable’ as Lamamra claimed. On the contrary, there is evidence to suggest it had been taken purposefully and with considerable planning over several months.
This conspiracy, which we explore in some depth, involved: fabricating a completely false alliance between the small and largely irrelevant Mouvement pour l’autodétermination de la Kabylie (MAK) and the Rachad movement which has broad support; falsely designating them as terrorist organisations; and then indicting them, with the alleged support of Morocco, for both the forest fires in Kabylia and the public lynching of Djemal Bensmail.
Besides this, two genuine reasons for Algeria’s anger are: Morocco’ growing alliance with Israel and their joint hostility towards Algiers’ and Rabat’s widespread use of Israel’s Pegasus spyware technology against some of Algeria’s most senior politicians and army officers.
There is also evidence that Algeria’s intelligence chiefs briefed their Western allies over several months about their impending plans to cut ties with Morocco.
It is possible that state agents may have been involved, as many people in Kabylia believe, in starting at least some of the forest fires as a way of punishing the region for its opposition to the regime and its virtual universal boycott of the 12 June elections. The economically hugely damaging fires officially killed 90-100 but there is detailed evidence from the local authorities that estimate the death toll at 192 as of 30 August.
So far, the regime has put forward no evidence for any of its claims. None of the 22-23 alleged arsonists that it claims were caught on the first day of the fires has yet been brought to court. It has not also produced the text messages between the MAK, Rachad and Morocco, that it sys it has obtained, nor any of the other unspecified material evidence that has supposedly been found.
As anticipated, Algeria is also not renewing the Gazoduc Maghreb Europe (GME) pipeline contract to transport gas to Spain and Portugal via Morocco. As we explain. However, the economic and financial damage that the regime claims this will cause Morocco is greatly exaggerated.
There are unverified reports that around 20 directors of Sonatrach’s foreign subsidiary companies have been dismissed as of 31 August. Sonatrach owns the Sonatrach International Holding Corporation (SIHC) holding company which has a portfolio of 34 overseas subsidiaries including the 100% owned Sonatrach Petroleum Corporation (SPC) which, in turn, owns half a dozen others. We do not yet know the reason for this sudden and extraordinary measure but, because most of these companies generate considerable amounts of foreign exchange, we suspect that it has something to do with Algeria’s dwindling supplies of foreign currency.