No need to be a soothsayer to grasp the messages sent by Algeria through the delivery of new military equipment to the Polisario, the movement that challenges Morocco’s sovereignty over the Moroccan Sahara.
The Algerian lot generously delivered to the Polisario includes armored vehicles, ground-to-air missiles, all-terrain vehicles … but it’s not enough to worry the Moroccan army, or to change the balance of power. Of course, the Algerian generals are perfectly aware of this, and their message is intended somewhere else. By providing this new military equipment that the separatist movement has rushed to ostentatiously display for picture-taking, Algeria is actually trying to pressure the UN.
The next meeting of the Security Council on the Sahara is scheduled for April, a month marked usually by the maneuvers of Algerian diplomacy in the UN corridors in New York. Hence the Polisario’s headlong rush in the new hot spot of Guergarate, evidently at the instigation of the Algerian regime.
The message is clear. By refusing to withdraw from this buffer zone, at the Moroccan-Mauritanian desert borders, the separatist front challenges the UN and its new Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.
Following the dangerous escalating tension in this buffer strip separating the borders between Morocco and Mauritania, the UN Secretary-General had called on the two sides to withdraw from this zone. He also called for maintaining freedom of movement and movement of goods from Morocco to Mauritania, and up to Senegal.
Morocco quickly responded to the call, unlike the Polisario, which finds itself today in the uncomfortable position of an aggressor. In fact, the Guergarate case is just one part of a broader stratagem schemed by the ruling politico-military regime in Algiers: maintaining tension in the region to divert attention from the internal situation in Algeria.
This internal situation is actually worrying world capitals as they fear the worst of what could result from the ongoing secret struggle taking place between the various clans over the succession to President Bouteflika, who has been invisible for months because of his poor health condition.