Atalayar's geopolitical expert stopped by the microphones of 'De Cara al Mundo' on Onda Madrid to analyse the situation between Morocco and Algeria

Pedro Canales: “Si no hay cambios en Argelia permanecerá la tensión contra Marruecos”

pedro canales

People are starting to become alarmed, some even fear that there could be a war between Algeria and Morocco, is this possible or is it a very extreme case?

The truth is that I would like to say that there is no such possibility, but unfortunately, I would have to say yes, with certain nuances. A partial, limited and controlled military clash, yes, but a long, generalised, and total war, I don't think so, among other things, because neither wants to or can defeat the other. Although they can engage in a small military confrontation.

That Algeria further strengthens the capacity of the Polisario Front and that the Polisario carries out more attacks...

Yes, but here too there is a need for nuance. Frankly, from my experience, I know Algeria, the Polisario and Morocco well, but the Algerians don't trust the Polisario. They control it, they feed it, they arm it, and it is on their territory, but they do not give it the guarantee that they could give to a fully independent movement and they would prefer to be in charge. I am referring to a confrontation between Algerians and Moroccans, which could take place in one of the sectors of the border demarcation line, which are not well drawn, there are borders that overlap one village with another, and there I could see a small confrontation that would justify this exalted tone that we are experiencing.

Spain is trying to mediate, do you think it is possible for Spain to play a mediating role between Algeria and Morocco?

Spain can offer a framework so that both Algeria and Morocco can negotiate if they want to, but not to play a mediating role.  Other countries that have much more weight and importance over Algeria and Morocco, I am referring in particular to Russia and the United States, have not managed to get such mediation to go ahead. Spain can offer its goodwill to lend them the room in which they can meet, but to go from there to mediating is to have a slightly exaggerated idea of Spain's role.

Who is taking such aggressive decisions with Morocco? Because they broke off relations in August, they have left the Geneva table, they have closed the gas pipeline... Who is taking the decisions in Algiers now?

It is the military leadership. Among other things, there has been a change in the constitution that allows for the first time in Algeria that the army can carry out military operations outside the country's borders. This has not happened officially since Algeria's independence in 1962, although it has happened, but not officially. This time the Constitution does allow it, and there has been an important change in the High Security Council, which has modified its internal statute and is now an executive body, and in this body the military is in charge. In Algeria, the presidents have always held all the powers: the military, the legislative, the executive, the judiciary, and the financial power, they dominated all the powers, and for the first time this has changed.

You wrote a couple of days ago in Atalayar that the closure of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline, which passes through Morocco, is a serious mistake. Why do you consider it a mistake?

I consider it a mistake because the main objective, as Algeria has admitted, was to stifle the Moroccan economy, to deal a severe if not fatal blow to the Moroccan economy and to Morocco's industrial apparatus, which needed gas to supply its entire industrial apparatus with energy. This has not been achieved and cannot be achieved, firstly, because gas is a very small part of Morocco's energy production and, secondly, because what it has done is to stimulate the contracts that were already signed and in activity with international companies, particularly British companies. Morocco can compensate for this loss of gas, and the financial loss of 50 to 100 million euros that the transit of the pipeline through Morocco could have meant is more than compensated for by Morocco's allies in the Gulf countries.

In the end, it is Spain that suffers most from the closure of the gas pipeline. Finally, I know it is very difficult to make forecasts, but after the extension of MINURSO, after there is a new UN special envoy, after the trend is that Morocco is gaining support for its position of broad autonomy for the Sahara under its sovereignty, can we say that this can be resolved in the short term or is the current tension going to remain for a long time?

I think it will remain as long as there are no changes in Algeria. Changes do not necessarily mean overthrowing the current state, but the Moroccan lobby in Algeria, let's be clear about the lobby, I mean all the high military, political and institutional commanders, the cadres of the state apparatus who have never wanted to come to a confrontation with Morocco (among other things because Morocco helped in the Algerian national liberation war), most of them have died of old age. All these people who know the historical reality between the two countries do not want a confrontation, but they have lost a lot of weight. I only hope that there will be a return to sanity and restraint and a deeper state vision. And that the Algerian army or political leadership realises that a major change is needed.

Let's also see what Russia is interested in, which I'm sure is behind the scenes, pulling a lot of strings.

Yes, but not very much, because Russia also has important interests in Morocco. In fact, it has achieved things with Morocco that it had not achieved with Algeria, such as the petrochemical installations it is going to build near Nador. With the whole mess overfishing in Saharan waters, Russia has managed to renegotiate and sign the renewal of the fisheries agreement it has with Morocco. In other words, Russia is playing both sides of the fence and it is possible that it will not get too involved in this little war.