Thinking about Algeria and Libya

At the moment, with much incomplete information, it is important to consider Algeria’s conduct during the Libyan crisis at two levels: (1) the strategic and motivational level; and (2) the operational and practical level. This is to say: why would or why did the Algerians provide support to Qadhafi during the conflict at the structural, political, economic or cultural levels — and whether any such “support” was official and formal or unofficial and informal or a mix of both — and then consider the means by which they did this (if indeed they did do this) from within the network of elites and institutions in the country’s diplomatic, military, intelligence, criminal and other informal circles. As yet there is no evidence of the Algerians supporting Qadhafi, though there are many accusations that they have.

The Algerian role during the Libyan crisis has not received heavy attention from those outside of the conflict or the politics around it. It is likely that the subject will receive increasing attention in Algerian, Libyan and pan-Arab media and that much of this will be conveyed to the liking of the handlers of the information rather than the raw and dry facts themselves. Once more information is available and some time has passed it may be possible to form a really informed and worthwhile analysis independent of political interests and popular sentiments. The questions below attempt to help direct an analysis of the situation from the standpoint of an outside observer. At this stage, though, one can only wonder and postulate about the various elements involved in this extremely complex problem. There are so many questions and means of asking about them: let us count the ways. There are plenty more, for sure.

At the first level, one might ask:

  1. What are the foundations of the Algerian relationship with Libya (and vice versa) and how have the changed or remained constant over time (in terms of material/economic, strategic interests and concepts and personalities)?
  2. Does the available information and evidence point to a concerted, state-directed, policy of active or passive support for the Qadhafite regime, official neutrality or something else?
  3. What were the major sources of discord between the Qadhafite government and the Algerian government generally and in the last twenty years particularly — especially on terrorism, ethnic politics in the Sahel, the Tuareg rebellions, political ideology and posturing, continental (African) affairs and Maghreb-specific issues, such as the Western Sahara?
  4. What is Algeria’s leadership’s perception of the country’s (1) internal political and socio-economic outlook, specifically as related to its short and middle term political stability, (2) international position in strategic and economic terms (especially as related to the US, Europe, major African and Arab players and the BRICs), (3) regional standing in the Maghreb and north Africa, African Union politics and with respect to NATO. How does this relate to its sense of confidence in taking policy stances on Libya and Arab uprisings generally?
  5. What was and is the popular perception in Algeria with respect to the Arab uprisings and especially the Libyan uprising? How did/does Algeria’s military, civilian and business leadership view these views?
  6. What sorts of positions did the Algerian opposition take on Libya both before and after UNSCR 1973 and its implementation by NATO?
  7. What were the specific grievances expressed by the Algerian government on the Arab League no-fly-zone and UNSCRs 1970 and 1973 and the NATO intervention?
  8. What sorts of Libyan investments came into Algeria in the last fifteen years and with whom are they associated in either country?
  9. What interest would Algeria have enlisting the support of the Polisario Front in any effort to assist Qadhafi? (“Plausible deniability” can be ruled out given its impossibility as a result of Algeria’s close association with the organization internationally and regionally).
  10. Who within the Algerian and Libyan states/governments were responsible for managing the countries’ relations with one another most directly — ambassadors, politicians, intelligence officials, military officers/administrators in the ministry of defense or in particular military regions, services, etc.?

At the second level, he would consider:

  1. Official links between the Algerian and Libyan intelligence services on terrorism and the treatment of Libyan rebels by the Algerian services during the recent conflict;
  2. Operational, logistical or other material support — monetarily, technically or otherwise —  provided by the Algerian government to Qadhafite forces and the previous Libyan government;
  3. To what degree was the Polisario Front involved if at all? If so, how was this participation in the conflict facilitated?
  4. What direct or indirect incentive would [or did] Algerian security or political officials have to “support” for the Qadhafite regime? How did this compare with other Arab and third world or African governments?
  5. To what degree was any Algerian support for Qadhafi during the uprising centrally directed or taken at the particular initiative of various power centers within the regime and security apparatus?
  6. What role did Algerian allies or partners in Africa and the BRIC countries (South Africa, Russia, China, etc.) play in influencing Algeria’s behavior during the Libyan crisis?
  7. To what degree were NATO governments aware or unaware of Algeria’s behavior during the Libyan crisis and what specific action or pressure[s] did they take or apply as a result?
  8. How true were [specific] war time claims from Libyan and TNC sources regarding Algeria’s alleged support for Qadhafi and to what extent were they exaggerated or influenced by third parties in the Gulf and Morocco, for example?

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