At least 90 people have been killed in wildfires that have swept through northern Algeria over the past weeks. The blazes have consumed some 100,000 acres, mostly in the northeastern Kabylia region. While remaining silent on the role of climate change, the Algerian government is exploiting the disaster for political purposes. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said the fires were “criminal” in origin, and blamed them on regional rival Morocco. Authorities have arrested several presumed members of the Kabylia Self-Determination Movement (MAK), a civil organization seeking independence for the predominantly Berber region. The DGSN security agency said the suspects were part of a “terrorist organization.” Last month, Algiers recalled its ambassador in Rabat in protest of Moroccan diplomatic statements in support of self-determination for the Berbers of Kabylia. (Photo via Twitter)
US-led forces are currently carrying out war games in Morocco, the periodic “Afrian Lion” exercises—this year taking place near the disputed region of Western Sahara. Morocco is trumpeting this as a re-affirmation of US recognition of its claim to the territory. The Trump administration last year formally recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for Moroccan diplomatic recognition of Israel as a part of the so-called Abraham Accords. But Spain, the disputed territory’s former colonial ruler, is opposing Morocco’s current push for international recognition of its claim. Just before the war games opened, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya called US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging him to reverse Washington’s recognition of Moroccan rule in Western Sahara. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)
President Donald Trump announced that Morocco and Israel have agreed to normalize relations, adding that the US will formally recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the occupied territory of Western Sahara. The blatant quid pro quo makes Morocco the third Arab state to join Trump’s vaunted “Abraham Accords,” which have already seen the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recognize Israel this year. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Morocco’s King Mohammed VI for his “historic decision” to sign the deal, and pledged a “very warm peace” between the two countries. This would indeed be appropriate, as Israel and Morocco are both illegally occupying the territory of a colonized Arab people. Until Trump’s proclamation, not one country on Earth has recognized Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara, which was seized after Spain withdrew from its colony of Spanish Sahara in 1975. Some 60 recognize the exile government that has been declared over the territory by the Polisario Front, the national liberation movement of the territory’s Sahrawi Arab people. (Photo: Kirby Gookin via Western Sahara Resource Center)
The Polisario Front has declared the 1991 Western Sahara ceasefire defunct after Morocco launched a military operation within the UN-patrolled buffer strip through the disputed territory. At issue is a road linking the territory to Mauritania, which passes through the buffer zone just before the border. Polisario considers the road illegal, claiming it was built in violation of the 1991 truce. What are variously called protesters or Polisario-linked militia have been blocking the road at Guerguera, within the buffer zone. Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces say they are seeking to secure the flow of goods and people along the road; Polisario contends the road is being used to smuggle drugs and contraband. Polisario’s armed wing, the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army, claims to have launched attacks on Moroccan forces. It is unclear if the renewed conflict has yet claimed any lives. (Photo: MINURSO via Yabiladi)
In Episode 16 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses how Berbers, Palestinians, Sahrawi Arabs and other subjugated peoples of the Middle East and North Africa are pitted against each other by the Great Game of nation-states. Berbers in North Africa and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories face identical issues of cultural erasure, yet the Arab states' support for the Palestinians and retaliatory Israeli support for the Berbers constitute an obstacle to solidarity. The Sahrawi Arabs meanwhile fight for their independence from Morocco in the occupied territory of Western Sahara. But the Arab-nationalist ideology of their leadership is rejected by the territory's Berbers—leading to Sahrawi-Berber ethnic tensions in Morocco. Yet there are also signs of hope. Arabs and Berbers were united in the 2011 "Arab Revolution" protests in Morocco, and greater Berber cultural rights were a part of the constitutional reform won by those protests. And the new protest wave in Morocco's Rif Mountains over the past year has again united Arab and Berber. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image of Berber flag via Kabylia Information Agency)
The UN Security Council extended the mandate of the peacekeeping force for Western Sahara (MINURSO) through the end of October 2018, while calling for Morocco and the Polisario Front to finally negotiate an end to the decades?old conflict. Western Sahara is claimed by Morocco, while the Polisario Front seeks independence for the territory. The territory has since the 1975-1991 war that followed its independence from Spain been divided by a series of sand berms and a "buffer zone." These separate the territory's Morocco-occupied west and a Polisario-controlled eastern strip. Recent months have seen growing tension between Morocco and Polisario over the borders of the buffer zone, with Polisario seeking to expand control into contested areas. (Photo: MINURSO via Yabiladi)
As Morocco is readmitted to the African Union, it is pushing for the suspension of Morocco-occupied Western Sahara, placing the AU in a difficult position.
The passing of Mohammed Abdelaziz, leader of Western Sahara's Polisario Front, occasioned confusion in media coverage as to the difference between Arabs and Berbers.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, on a tour of North Africa, met with Sahrawi leaders seeking independence from Morocco—but not Berbers seeking independence from Algeria.
The conflict over Western Sahara spilled into Morocco as clashes between Berber and Sahrawi Arab students at universities in Marrakech and Agadir left two dead.
World War 4 Report offers its annual annotated assessment of Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing or escalating the apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism.
US troops newly arrived in Morocco will be redployed after Rabat axed joint maneuvers in retaliation for US support of expanding UN peacekeepers' mission in Western Sahara.