In the run-up to the presidential elections in November, President Joe Biden has no intention of leaving the White House without having left his mark on the role of the United States of America in resolving the long-running Algerian-Moroccan conflict.

Joe Biden names "Mr Sahara" ambassador to Algiers

©DR | El secretario general del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y Comunidad Nacional en el Extranjero de Argelia, Lounes Magramane, con el subsecretario de Estado estadounidense, Joshua Harris
photo_camera ©DR | Secretary General of the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Community Abroad Lounes Magramane with US Under Secretary of State Joshua Harris

The man who said "it was time to close the file between Morocco and Algeria" (without mentioning the Polisario), is Joe Biden's favorite to represent and defend US interests in Algiers.

A man who knows Algeria well, its politicians, its diplomats and above all the famous Sahara issue that the Polisario, with Algerian support, is disputing with the Moroccan kingdom.

Joshua Harris, Assistant Secretary of State for North Africa, has been nominated by Joe Biden for the post of US Ambassador to Algiers. This is according to a White House press release.

All that remains is the approval of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he will succeed Elisabeth Moore Aubin, in office since February 9, 2022. The latter behaved like a real governor in Algeria, trampling all the rules of diplomacy and taking advantage of the Algerian authorities' lack of reaction.

Elisabeth Moore Aubin is the ambassador who took the liberty of visiting the presidential palace in El Mouradia without invitation. She knocked on the door of the army's Chief of Staff to take the temperature of the military institution.

She didn't expect to be invited by the new head of the police force, who had just been appointed head of the Direction Générale de la Sûreté Nationale.

To get to know the country better, she visited over thirty wilayas (departments) where she met industrialists, businessmen and members of the chambers of commerce and industry in each wilaya.

She has a perfect knowledge of Algerian realities, far better than many Algerian ministers and President Tebboune himself, who has only visited two wilayas in his four years in office. Djelfa and Tindouf, where his visits were of very short duration. Not even a day.

Joshua Harris is of a different calibre. He'll be tackling the thorny problem of Algerian-Moroccan relations, which have deteriorated sharply since Tebboune's arrival at the El-Mouradia palace.

This is a deterioration for which Algiers bears sole responsibility, since it initiated the severing of diplomatic relations and the closure of airspace between the two countries in 2021, in addition to the boycott of all events hosted by Morocco, including the Russian-Arab forum held in Marrakech on December 19.

Joshua Harris, who made two visits to Algeria in September and December 2023, where he met Algerian officials but was not received by President Tebboune, has a good grasp of his subject and is fully aware of the scale of the difficulty that awaits him.

He will certainly have to push hard to get Algiers to assume greater responsibility and demonstrate realism by abandoning old-fashioned theses that have been overtaken by history.

In particular, that of the referendum, which concerned only 74,000 people counted in 1974 by the Spanish authorities, the majority of whom are no longer with us or have Spanish nationality.

The future American ambassador to Algiers is well aware that the Polisario issue is nothing more than a pretext for Algerian generals to inflate their arms bills, a source of illicit enrichment for many of them. In less than 4 years under the Tebboune-Chengriha tandem, the Algerian army's annual budget has more than doubled.

It has risen from US$9 billion in 2021 to US$18 billion in 2023 and will reach US$21.6 billion in 2024, according to the finance law passed by the Algerian parliament. And to think that Algeria is not in a state of war.

With the appointment of Joshua Harris, nicknamed "Mr. Sahara" for his in-depth knowledge of the issue, as the standard-bearer for American diplomacy in Algiers, we can expect some new developments in the North African region.