First Emirati reactions to Algerian provocations

Following the latest insinuations by President Tebboune, who made indirect threats against the United Arab Emirates, Algiers has been the target of a series of vitriolic attacks by prominent Emirati and Arab personalities
Abdelmadjid Tebboune - PHOTO/FILE
Abdelmadjid Tebboune - PHOTO/FILE

Algiers declared hostilities last June. It began with the publication on the website of the daily En-nahar of a report, denied by the authorities, that the Emirati ambassador to Algiers had been expelled for spying for the Israeli Mossad. 

As a result, Mohammed Bouslimani, the Minister of Communication, who has no power over the media responsible for the dissemination of this false information, was removed from his post late on the night of 20 June 2023. When he dismissed his minister, Tebboune was unaware of the background to the information disseminated by a publication close to the intelligence services. The editor of the publication was not sanctioned in any way. 

A few weeks later, another Arabic-language media outlet, the daily El-khabar, published a scathing attack on the UAE under the headline 'Abu Dhabi, the capital of intrigue'. It was followed by Le Soir d'Algérie, a privately owned French-language daily. 

For ten months, the Algerian press, both private and public, has been waging a veritable campaign against the UAE, without any intervention from the authorities, known for their severity and heavy-handedness against the media. 

The silence of the public authorities is a sign of complicity, even if so far no official statement has followed the plethora of newspapers and news websites that have competed in verbal violence against a country accused without evidence of supplying arms and espionage material to the Algerian regime's "traditional enemy", Morocco. The only recorded reaction from the Emirati side was the refusal of the head of state, Sheikh Mohammed ben Zayed Al Nahyane, to meet with the Algerian president at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in April last year.

Completely uninvolved in this escalation against Abu-Dhabi, President Tebboune was dragged to a meeting of the High Security Council, which includes seven heads of the security services, including the army chief of staff, General Saïd Chengriha, on 10 January. At the end of the meeting, Algeria expressed regret over "hostile actions against Algeria by a brotherly Arab country". Without naming the country in question, everyone understood it to be the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Abdelmadjid Tebboune y Said Chengriha - PHOTO/FILE
Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Said Chengriha - PHOTO/FILE

Until now, the hostilities were limited to simple press articles commissioned by the intelligence services under the control of General Chengriha, but last Saturday, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was invited to get involved. 

A journalist from the public television station AL24 asked the president what he thought of this "state, which we have always refused to mention by name, and which continues its aggressive actions against Algeria". Apparently embarrassed by the question, the Algerian president finally spoke out. His insinuations were very clear. The "brother state" that had been pilloried was none other than the United Arab Emirates. He confirmed the journalist's accusations: "It is strange to see how one of our distant brothers acts by making allusions and insinuations about its relations with the UAE, continuing with veiled insinuations without clarification or explanation". And the Algerian president threatened: "If they pretend to behave with us as they do with others, they are wrong. We have 5.63 million shahids [martyrs] who died for this country. Those who want to approach us, let them do so".

Although the Algerian head of state had refrained from naming the target country, the following day the Arabic-language daily Echourouk did not mince its words. In their analysis of his statements to the Emirates, Echourouk's experts conclude: "3 messages from Tebboune to the state to take care of business". This is a way of removing any ambiguity about the president's insinuations. "As if they wanted to involve him more in these hostile activities against a country where the barons of the Algerian regime deposit a large part of the booty stolen from the Algerian people", comments an expert on Algerian affairs.

The Emirati reaction was not long in coming. It was initiated by Dr Anwar Gargash, former Emirati Foreign Minister and current senior adviser to Mohammed ben Zayed Al Nahyane. He tweeted on the X platform, adopting the same style as the Algerians, with insinuations that left no doubt about the target country. "It is strange to see how one of our distant brothers acts insinuating and insinuating about his relationship with the Emirates, continuing with veiled insinuations without clarification or explanation. However, choosing not to respond and being patient in the face of these provocations will continue to be our path, for wisdom is a legacy of our leadership, which considers relations with brotherly countries a priority and a central pillar of our policy."

Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, presidente de Emiratos Árabes Unidos - PHOTO/BANDAR ALGALOUD
Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates - PHOTO/BANDAR ALGALOUD

Abdulkhaq Abdullah, professor of political science, followed suit: "The comments by the president of an Arab country about another Arab country are disappointing and unfortunate. Mr President, you have complex internal crises; deal with them with wisdom and good management, and do not attribute them, even by innuendo or carelessness, to an external party in an obvious Machiavellian attempt to flee abroad to cover up internal mistakes. We pray that [Abdelmadjid Tebboune] will be better guided during the last ten days of Ramadan". A tweet that frankly hurts the Algerian president. And there is more.

Nawaf Musfer Ben Hilal, an Arab writer specialising in the Arab world and North Africa, had no qualms about naming and shaming President Tebboune, writing on the X platform: "It is a big mistake for the Algerian president to talk like this about a brotherly Gulf country. He has not solved the problems of his oil-rich country. Where does his enormous oil and gas wealth go? Its people are dying at sea to get to France and its money is going to the Polisario. Is Algeria envious of a country [the Emirates] that has invested its wealth while it is riddled with corruption?" Never before has a foreign figure dared to get to the bottom of things and put his finger on the problem that is most damaging to the Algerian regime.

"This is only the beginning," says a person close to the Emirati authorities. "There is talk that a media campaign will be launched in the coming days that will make Algiers regret this gratuitous provocation against a country that has never sought to cause it trouble." A press campaign against Algiers is what the Algerian secret services, which measure the Emirates' influence in the Arab media, fear today. They should have thought of that before casting the first stone.