Tensions between Morocco and neighboring Algeria are growing and the Algerian regime is getting increasingly nervous about Morocco’s close military cooperation with Israel.
Even before Israel entered the picture, Morocco had accused Algeria of supporting the anti-Moroccan Polisario militia fighting against Morocco’s controversial annexation of the West Sahara territory. In August 2021, Algeria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco, accusing the Moroccan state of being “hostile” toward Algeria.
A recent analysis of relations between the two North African countries paints a scenario in which Algeria responds to Morocco’s growing military ties with Jerusalem by acting irrationally – which could even lead to an open conflict that neither Morocco nor Algeria wants.
“The tension rises every day a little more between Algeria and Morocco, to the point that we are now talking about war between the two Maghreb countries,” the Paris-based newspaper, L’Opinion, said in a recent article.
Quoting sources close to the Algerian army, the report suggests that Algeria is trying to avoid war with Morocco, but is preparing for the worst possible scenario.
“Algeria does not want war with Morocco, but it is ready to do so,” said the source.
The unnamed Algerian source told the L’Opinion that while Algeria believes it is militarily stronger than Morocco now, it fears that the balance of power between the two North African countries would shift if Morocco were to enter into an alliance with Israel.
“This will change the situation within an estimated three-year period,” stated the Algerian, referring to a potential Moroccan-Israeli military cooperation.
Consequently, the Algerian source believes that if anything has to be done, “it is today, because we are militarily superior at all levels and this may not be the case in a few years.”
Global Firepower, a website focused on documenting the military strength of countries worldwide, currently ranks Algeria’s military as the 31st most powerful, compared to 55th for the Moroccan military. In theory, Algeria has a clear edge in air power with an air force consisting of 552 planes, compared to only 249 for Morocco.
However, Morocco has an edge in land power with a larger number of active military personnel and 3,335 tanks compared to 2,196 Algerian tanks. There is an extensive land border between the countries.
“Over the last 10 years, Algiers has bought [more than] twice as much equipment ($10.5 billion) as Morocco ($4.5 billion),” claimed the Algerian source.
In late November 2021, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited Morocco and signed a historic defense agreement including intelligence sharing, the first of its kind between the Jewish state and an Arab state. According to media reports, in November, Morocco bought Harop “kamikaze” drones from Israel Aerospace Industries in a $22 million deal. In December, Moroccan authorities indicated that they intended to acquire more military hardware from Israel in the near future.
At the heart of the rivalry between Morocco and Algeria are ambitions on both sides to emerge as the dominant power in the western part of the North African region. Algerian authorities increasingly fear that Israeli military technology could tip the balance of power in Morocco’s favor. Morocco and Israel enjoyed close unofficial ties even prior to the normalization agreement in 2020. By contrast, Algeria has been one of the most hostile Arab countries towards Israel and still rejects peaceful relations with the Jewish state.
In November 2021, Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra criticized Libya by stating that he “considers some of Libya’s politicians’ promises to normalize ties with Israel irresponsible.”