A war in the Maghreb can no longer be ruled out -expert-

Tags : France, Morocco, Algeria, Western Sahara, USA, Israel,

What is the cause of the tensions between Paris and Rabat?

Khadija MOHSEN-FINAN. – This deep and indefinite crisis was triggered by different factors against the backdrop of the predominant issue of Western Sahara. Morocco believed that its plans for the recognition by the international community of the “Moroccanness” of this territory would succeed. He thought European countries would fall in line with the United States, which embarked on this path in December 2020 under the Trump Administration, but Paris did not follow suit. France still considers that the autonomy plan proposed by Rabat in 2007 is only a basis for discussion.

Does litigation have a sentimental dimension?

The Moroccan injury is narcissistic because France has not accustomed Morocco to this treatment. Under Chirac, the nature of the relationship was downright intimate. He had taken the future Mohammed VI under his wing, like an uncle. There was real trust. I understand to a certain extent the disappointment of Moroccans on the Western Sahara affair, because France has gone very far in its support, whether at the United Nations Security Council, the Commission and the Council of the EU . They are witnessing a distancing at a time when France is experiencing a relaxation of its relations with Algeria. It is a wounded love that expresses itself.

The affect goes beyond the personality of the king and Emmanuel Macron. It has been entrenched for a long time. Disappointed by Algeria, many French people turned to Morocco. A large part of the political class, artists, individuals who were born in Algeria have transferred to Morocco. Yves Saint Laurent has recreated the Oran of his childhood, perhaps prettier, in Marrakech. Hassan II responded very well to this request by opening the door to his country where everything was possible. There was a complicity that we still know with commercial exchanges and a Moroccan student community in France – around 45,000 – and French people in Morocco. This dimension must be taken into account at its fair value to understand the reactions on both sides.

Does the aging of the “French generation of Marrakech” pose a problem of relaying influence in Morocco?

The so-called “Mamounia” generation is no longer in charge. France is presided over by a young man who has not experienced colonization and decolonization. He intends to behave in a “normal” way. He wants to rewrite history with Algeria, which does not really help Morocco, that is to say smooth the relationship, and try to evacuate the dispute without it being possible to say whether will achieve it. The question of the change of generation plays for Macron but the mentalities are transmitted. The Élysée manages the question of the Sahara but there are also strong economic and trade relations, the very close proximity and sympathy of many senators or diplomats from the Quai d’Orsay with Morocco. Beyond the « Mamounia effect », there is a sympathy for this country in these political circles on the right and on the left.

Is Morocco experiencing a period of nationalist revival?

There is a new Moroccan insurance which was born several years ago, more than a return of nationalism. It was confirmed in December 2020 with Trump and with normalization with Israel. Morocco feels solid economically and thanks to its strategic successes, but the moment it acquires this assurance, its privileged partner fails it, turns away from it and goes towards Algeria.

Are we witnessing a geostrategic big bang in the Maghreb?

The Abraham Accords introduced an additional actor: Israel. Its strategic aid can be a game-changer in the rivalry between Morocco and Algeria. It includes technology transfers that help Morocco become a regional power. The disproportionate purchases of arms on both sides of the border in relation to the threat are the indicator of the rise in tensions. The desire to set up the neighbor as an enemy raises fears of a military explosion. There is a danger of war linked to internal tensions in Algeria between the presidency and the general staff of the army and to a possible underestimation by Morocco of the forces of its rival.

After nearly fifty years of deadlock, can the question of Western Sahara still be settled through diplomatic means?

Mohammed VI seems imprudent to me when he says that the Moroccanness of Western Sahara is the prism from which Morocco must define its international environment and forge its alliances. Linking the two issues leads to headlong rush and escalation. This prevents countries that could be friends or allies from having a posture of apparent neutrality.

This file is entrusted to the United Nations. Any operation aimed at taking him out of this framework can have serious consequences. We are trying to rewrite international law and force states to position themselves on this travesty. This is difficult for observers to accept, whatever their bias on the issue. Countries don’t have to have a clear position, it’s called being diplomatic.

Le Figaro, 04/10/2023

#Maroc #France #Macron #Algeria #Western_Sahara

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