On October 31, Algeria—the world’s fifth-largest producer of natural gas—ceased exporting gas to Spain and Portugal via a pipeline that runs through Morocco. To Dore Gold, this is a sign of growing tensions between Algiers and Rabat which in turn hark back to the cold war, when Algeria placed itself firmly in the Soviet bloc, while Morocco threw in its lot with the America:
The Algerians took this step just as Russia reduced its natural-gas exports to Europe, leading to soaring gas prices at the beginning of winter. . . . It is instructive to note that Algeria was cutting gas supplies at a time when it intended to increase its share of Europe’s gas market to over 30 percent, according to the Algerian energy minister Mohamed Arkab. In essence, the Algerian government was not reducing the share of its gas sector in its overall energy production; it was singling out Morocco and escalating tensions in North Africa as a result.
Algeria has been assisting the guerrilla forces of the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara region, fighting the Moroccan army and allowing the Islamic Republic of Iran to use its embassy in Algiers as a conduit for arms, funding, and training for the Polisario forces. Iran employed Hizballah for this training mission because its operatives spoke Arabic, while its own special forces were more fluent in Farsi, which the Polisario did not understand. At the time, after Morocco warned Iran that it knew what it was doing in Algeria, Rabat cut off diplomatic relations with the Iranian government.
Now Algeria is engaging in a new military buildup as it purchases both Russian state-of-the-art aircraft and Chinese naval platforms, including frigates and corvettes, presently under construction. It should be recalled that China seeks to become a more dominant power in Africa in the years ahead.