Several events seem to indicate that Bouteflika’s fabricated reputation of ‘Diplomatic Know How’, needs to be revisited. Whilst the previous US ”Decidor“ managed to keep Algeria and its immediate neighbors Lybia, Sudan and Tunisia quiet, to deal with their big brother Saddam of Iraq, by pretending to take them for friends; President Obama’s message to them is straight forward -” I’ve got a stick and a carrot, which one do you want ?” – The former arrangement “ccarot for carot” i.e. “Oil for silence”, it seems, is being revised.
Recent agitation by AQIM in the area compounded by the US inability to take a swift action in response to provocations, such as the attack carried out last summer in the Sahel region, which cost four American Military Advisors their lives, seem to have put a stringent constraint on US-Algeria relations – contrarily to what’s being propagated by the strained and conditioned Algerian Press. Indeed, the few semi-independent publications there, can rely but on Quote & and Quote when dealing with the subject, to convey to its reader, “interpret otherwise!” in its quote of official declarations which they never miss to report in order to continue to exist. Amazingly, even its counterpart in the Europe and US, seem to play the same game, for accriditation.
In absence of at least three other theaters, namely Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, US troops would have already been on the ground tracking the authors of the ambush, or at least an immediate (Reagan or Clinton) air-strike would have been executed; but they didn’t. Taking the option of time and place by the US, is read in Algiers as a sign of weakness. It may well be the case, so – US troops in Iraq are due to leave soo, the Pakistani new President seems to mean business, and the threat has moved closer to the Atlantic shores. A base for AFRICOM is needed and showing restraint by Obama to other African leaders is what is at play. Contrarily to the US need for a mediator with Iran, leaked to the Algerian street and insinuated by the pseudo-independent press and media, the fate of Iran seems to be already sealed with Israel – America’s desire to move to Africa where several urgencies are put on hold, is irreversable – Obama wants AQ, and AQ is in Algeria.
Hardly back on its feet, the regime with Bouteflika’s face on it, gave the world the impression that it wants to reform itself, hand the controls to a civilian government, and focus on eradicating terrorism, in order for the country to reclaim its seat among stable nations, and developing nations where once it belonged. But, after two 5 years terms in office, things don’t seem to get any better, and the imposture adjective of Bouteflika is well deserved. Pleading to join the war against terrorism was valued by western powers and, seen as a sufficient reason to grant the regime, the benefit of the doubt. A grace period which has brought no result whatsoever, and whose time signs seem to indicate, has just expired. Indeed, after a bail out by the World Bank and oil prices having reached their highest price ever, the expectation was the power behind the curtain will immediately reform the system, and tackle the terrorism problem for real. But it didn’t.
There are several signs which indicate that neither Bouteflika nor those who put him in power seem to take the matter seriously. Poverty with all the other adjacent misdeeds, is ravaging the country, creating perfect conditions, once again for radicals to recruit. The other condiments to democratic reform, such as a free press and media, social equality, particularly an end to Kabyle repression, and a permanent end to corruption, all have regressed –
Well, these are tightly related to the fight on terrorism, but it seems that the message has gotten lost in the translation – For many observers, terrorism has replaced oil, just like it did for decades in Pakistan – It doesn’t yet bring hard cash, but it certainly buys immunity to criticism – to the point where all those who, a decade ago, made a good faith effort to help the country are revising their decisions, and contemplating new policies – France and the US, the two countries most involved in the region, seem to have given up trying to convert a regime which its own citizens reject and want to take down.
It is clear now that the failure in the implementation of Africom to confront and pursue AQIM in the Sahel region, and the reluctance the reluctance to deal with the Darfur swiftly by the African Union, a body dominated by pan-Arab dictators is due to the Algerians who assert greater influence than their Egyptian, Tunisian, Libyan and Sudanese counterparts.
Another cause of concern and disbelief in Washington, despite its silence except through a certain media is the Algerian laws which grant total immunity and impunity to any criticism let alone legal prosecution of the author of close to 200 000 victims. It has finally come to be understood as it should have been in the first place – a proof that the Bouteflika clan needs the terrorists as much as they need it – as its author, Bouteflika himself, said so, in his speech addressed to them implicitly:“ “I understand you, and I would have joined you … bla bla…”” – How could he not? for, they provide him with the perfect excuse maintain a 17 years state of emergency, which has not stopped terrorism, and far from eradicating it, but provide with the means to govern with Executive Orders, manipulate the Constitution to rig a 3rd term, silence the opinion, and dispose of another 5 year-term, to totally eliminate his sworn opponents, the Kabylians and their homeland, and only provinces to have taken a firm stand against Islamists, which continue against all odds to deny AQIM the support they enjoy elsewhere.
It is surprising that his confident Nourredine Yazid Zerhouni, and Chief law enforcer, in an conference at the Western Mediterranean Summit held in Italy, December 2009, declares to an Italian news network that “Islamic terrorist is not the problem for global security, but rather the Jewish, and Christian Extremism, and other movements which under the cover of cultural and linguistic specificity, spread dangerous ideas” – To be understood as the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia, a democratic and secularist movement, to safeguard its 10 million population from cultural genocide, and Islamic-jihadist ideology. A bold statement following last summer’s AQIM ambush on the borders with Mali and Mauritania, successfully targeting and killing 4 American Advisors, in addition to numerous kidnappings and attacks on nearby countries military bases, where American and/or French personnel are suspected – or reported to be. This time however, it’s not business as usual – The White House has more stakes in Africa, and its diplomacy is no longer in the hands of an oil merchant, but those of an iron Lady.
The Commander of Africom went to Algiers to address the situation, and probably to seek answers from the Algerian military chiefs; but the state controlled media, all of the media that is, reports the visits, which would have been better kept secret, as a proof that Bouteflika is sought for counsel by Foreign powers – Medelci, the Algerian Foreign Minister was summoned to Washington to review these matters, but the regime’s media reports it as a deepening of the excellent relationship between the US and Algeria, to be understood by his pan Arab Islamists supporters as “I know how”, and by his detractors as “protected”. Meanwhile, in the southern regions of Algeria, civilian government has been relieved of its functions of law enforcement, taken over by the military, now in charge of policing and immigration.
There are signs that do not lie. Algeria has been included amongst the places from which travelers to the US must undergo a complete search and scrutiny before and after arriving on US soil. In a second visit, Medelci, Bouteflika’s chief of diplomacy was searched like everyone else. There is no high regard from the Obama’s administration to 3rd term riggers.
Obama’s address to African dictators now, we know, includes those of Algiers – Or does it? Time will tell.