Tags: algeria | israel | alliances | russia | iran | terrorist groups | antony blinken

Algeria Building Closer Alliances With Russia, Iran, Terrorist Groups

sergey lavrov meets ramtane lamamra
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, meets Algeria's FM Ramtane Lamamra on Feb. 11, 2014. (Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 03 February 2023 09:29 AM EST

Algeria is not one that typically draws much attention in Israel, the United States, or in the global media.

But it's a country to which we need to pay much closer attention.


First, it is Africa's biggest exporter of natural gas to Europe, which makes it an extremely important country in terms of energy security.

But second, Algeria is going in a very dark and dangerous direction by becoming increasingly aligned with Russia and Iran.

Algeria is also the base camp of the Polisario Front, a criminal and extremist group that many believe is a terrorist organization. They work closely with the Iranian regime and Hezbollah, Iran's terrorist proxy group in Lebanon, and they actively seek to destabilize and overthrow the King of Morocco, one of the West's most important Arab allies.

Given my recent visit to Morocco, I wanted to look more closely at the double game that Algeria is playing, and the threat it could pose to American, European and Israeli interests.

Algeria's growing alliance with moscow

In March 2022, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Algeria.

Behind closed doors – and in public comments to reporters – Blinken urged Algeria to significantly dial back its long-standing alliance with Russia in the light of the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin has proven himself such a cruel and brutal aggressor in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

"The countries of North Africa and the Middle East have experienced themselves the consequences of Russia's military campaigns before," Blinken said at a press conference following his meeting with the Algerian president.

He noted that Russian aggression in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya was driving up the cost of oil and gas, as well as food prices, and creating tremendous instability and human suffering.

Blinken's not-too-subtle message: No country – including Algeria – should be helping Russia advance such aggression.

"The international community must increase the pressure on Russia to end this unprovoked and unjustified war," he argued.

"There are times when one issue emerges that is so clearly black and white. It's important to stand with the victim and to stand with the principles that have also been violated."

Iran's malign influence on Algeria

Blinken and others in Washington are also deeply concerned that Algeria is far too close to the terrorist regime in Iran.

Their concerns are justified.

Tehran's influence has helped make Algeria a fierce opponent of the Abraham Accords, the one recent development bringing hope for peace and prosperity to the region.

Iran is reportedly supplying arms to the Polisario Front for use against Morocco.

Last October, Tehran agreed to send military drones to the Polisario Front.

If all that wasn't bad enough, a recent article in the German publication, Die Welt, put a spotlight on Algeria's support for the Polisario Front which is not only trying to sow instability in Morocco but in Europe, as well.

The article alleged Tindouf-based criminal financial activities on European soil, further underscoring the concern that Algeria's close ties with the Polisario Front pose a threat to Western interests beyond North Africa.

Biden team's warnings to Algeria are not working

Unfortunately, the Biden administration's attempts to persuade Algeria to distance itself from Russia and build closer diplomatic, security and economic ties with the U.S. and the West appear to be falling on deaf ears.

Last month, Algiers and Moscow conducted joint military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, much to the chagrin of the United States.

In December, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was expected to sign an arms deal worth over $12 billion during a visit to Moscow.

"Algeria, a global energy exporter with Africa's largest defense budget, is one of Russia's top arms export clients, behind only India and China," according to a report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

"From 2016 to 2020, Algeria accounted for 15% of Russian arms exports," the report added. "Algeria's military relies overwhelmingly on Russian arms, and the country has used its vast oil and natural gas exports to finance extensive arms purchases since embarking on a military modernization effort in the early 2000s. Algeria imports a wide range of Russian arms across all major weapons categories, including some of the most advanced systems available, such as Iskander-E short-range ballistic missiles and Project 636 submarines. 109 Russia appears determined to keep its market share in Algeria due to Algeria's high demand and ability to pay for the latest Russian weapons."

I have seen no public reporting that the new arms deal was, in fact, signed in December.

Perhaps the Russians can't afford to send weapons to its allies when it needs them on the battlefield in Ukraine, where its army is being humiliated.

Perhaps it was delayed to this coming May, when President Tebboune will to make a state visit to Moscow.

Time will tell.

But the bigger question is this: How can Algeria remain one of the most important clients of Russia's military industries while simultaneously positioning itself as southern Europe's most important supplier of natural gas?

For example, Algiers supplies 48.8% of the imported gas to Spain, flowing through two pipelines.

It also supplies large quantities of gas to Italy.

What if Moscow demands that Algeria cut off the flow of natural gas to Europe?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently discussed economic issues including gas supply to the E.U. with his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra.

By strengthening its relationship with Algeria, Russia could be able to persuade Algiers to weaponize its gas supplies, as it has in the past, and wreak further havoc on the European energy grid and natural gas prices.

The E.U.'s dependence on Algeria only gives Russia further leverage over gas prices and energy supplies on the continent, something that needs to be avoided at all costs.

Where do we go from here?

I give Secretary Blinken for trying to persuade Algeria to leave its ties to Russia, Iran, and terrorist groups and fully join the West.

But trying isn't good enough.

The Biden administration's efforts aren't working.

Moscow and Tehran have too tight a grip on Algeria.

And few in North Africa sees President Biden as a strong and decisive enough leader to follow.

It's time for the U.S., Europe and Israel – along with our real Arab allies in North Africa and the Middle East – to recognize what Algeria stands for, take necessary countermeasures, and levy sanctions as should already be done under U.S. law.

We also ought to redouble our efforts to strengthening countries that have made peace with Israel and want close ties to the U.S. and Europe, countries like Egypt and Morocco.

And ought to do it quickly.

The clock is ticking.

This article originally appeared on ALL ARAB NEWS and is reposted with permission.


Algeria is not one that typically draws much attention in Israel, the United States, or in the global media.
algeria, israel, alliances, russia, iran, terrorist groups, antony blinken
Friday, 03 February 2023 09:29 AM
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