Bouteflika’s Iranian junket

Bouteflika’s visit in Tehran, it should be noted, included a visit to the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeni, which was preceded and followed by pronouncements of Third World solidarity, praise for Iran’s nuclear program, calls for increased cooperation in a variety of sectors, and allusions to Bouteflika and Ahmadinejad’s predecessor’s “Dialogue among Civilizations” pet project (including blaming Western countries for constructing the “clash” of civilizations). Also in attendance was Chakib Khelil who, together with his Iranian counterpart, “said gas contract data should be shared among members of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum and producers should have more control over contract terms.” The Algerians have supported the idea of creating a natural gas cartel previously (during Putin’s memorable visit to Algiers, for instance). Algeria is a critical link in any Russian strategy to “encircle” Western Europe via gas. I remain skeptical as to the sincerity of Algeria’s involvement in such a cartel, especially given their increasing prospects in Western Europe. There is too much of an opportunity for them to play both sides of the game. The Algerians and the Iranians also steered away from making statements too critical of Russia’s prosecution of the Georgia War, as the Russians are major patrons of both states (Algeria’s relationship with Russia has had some low points in the last several months; the Iranians want the Russians to keep covering their backs; their comments were not especially supportive, either, and that’s probably due to the Europeans and Chinese) Algeria and Iran have become more and more “brotherly” since 2000, when the two countries re-established diplomatic ties.

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