An increasingly armed Maghreb

  • Morocco and Algeria have significantly increased their defense budgets over the last decade

  • The two countries maintain a diplomatic pulse that has worsened with the normalization of relations between Morocco and Israel

Israel’s arrival in the Maghreb, after the normalization of relations with Morocco, has tightened the region and aggravated the diplomatic pulse maintained by the Moroccan and Algerian authorities. In the last ten years the two neighboring countries have greatly increased their defense spending, a military and arms race in which Rabat and Algiers look at each other with suspicion while modernizing their armies.

“It is an important advance for Morocco, the country will gain from the start, technology and knowledge,” says Mohammed Masbah, president of the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis (MIPA), on the military agreement signed this Wednesday with Israel. According to this expert, Morocco is trying to position itself and gain weight in the regionIn contrast, Algeria perceives this approach as a threat.

“We need to know the details of this visit & rdquor ;, says Masbah. The experts consulted still do not dare to predict what will be the effect in the region of the intelligence, security and training pacts signed in Rabat between the Israeli Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz and his Moroccan counterpart, Abdellatif Ludiyi. The two countries have cooperated in this area for years, but until now they had not formalized it publicly.

This Thursday the president of the Council of the Algerian Nation, Salah Goudjil, stated that “the enemies are increasingly mobilizing to harm Algeria”, in response to the pact between Israel and Morocco, according to the State News Agency of the country. Algiers decided cut diplomatic relations with his neighbor in August accusing him of “hostile acts & rdquor; and espionage, in retaliation it also closed its airspace to Moroccan planes and cut the gas pipeline that carries Algerian gas to Spain through northern Morocco.

Record defense budget

Currently Algeria invests approximately 7% of its Gross Domestic Product in defense and Morocco 5%. Some figures that, for example, Spanish military spending triples with respect to its GDP, which last year stood at 1.4%, according to World Bank data.

“It is a destructive competition for both parties & rdquor;, laments Masbah. “In the last five years there has been a great increase in military spending, at a time when this type of investment should be directed towards the developing, hospitals, etc & rdquor ;, reflects the president of MIPA.

In the budgets that the Moroccan Government manages for next year, the item dedicated to defense will be close to 50 billion dirhams (almost 5,000 million euros), the largest in history dedicated to military spending. Authorities attribute this record rise to the process of modernization of their armed forces. Algeria has also increased its military spending, especially during the last decade, in 2019 it dedicated 9.2 billion euros, an amount that remains well above the Moroccan.

Algerian military hegemony

Analysts consider the Algerian army to be one of the strongest on the entire continent. “Algeria has sustained higher spending on defense for decades, since its economy is stronger than the Moroccan, that scenario will not change but Morocco is cutting distances & rdquor; explains Yago Rodríguez, director of Political Room.

This defense expert remarks that Israeli weapons are reputed to be expensive and, above all, are within the reach of countries that have oil or large incomes, “Morocco, on the other hand, has relied heavily on donations from the Gulf & rdquor ;, he explains. That is why he is a bit skeptical about the possibilities of Morocco to acquire large quantities of Israeli military equipment, “although yes, Israel is going to open the doors of its companies so that Morocco can buy what it wants & rdquor ;, concludes Rodríguez.

The weight of drones

“We have already seen that Turkish drones have changed the rules of the game on the ground. Morocco now controls the situation much better than before & rdquor ;, remarks Masbah. In recent days, the Moroccan media have speculated about the possible acquisition of Israeli drones by Rabat, information that official sources have not confirmed.

Related news

Drones are playing an increasingly decisive role in today’s conflicts. The Polisario Front has denounced that Morocco is using drones to attack its positions in Western Sahara. Algeria also accused Rabat of bombing and killing “with sophisticated weaponry & rdquor; three Algerian truck drivers as they drove through the former Spanish colony.

Faced with these accusations, the Moroccan authorities keep strict silence and avoid commenting on what is happening in Western Sahara, in addition King Mohamed VI appealed to “good neighborliness & rdquor; among the Maghreb countries in his last speech at the beginning of the month.

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