By severing diplomatic relations with Morocco, Algeria is attempting to divert the attention of its population from internal problems and rally it against an external enemy, according to the US think tank Middle East Institute (MEI).

Algeria has chosen to break its “already minimal bilateral relations” with the Kingdom “even at the risk of potentially jeopardizing its critical energy exports, is about drawing a line in the sand, a total unwillingness to allow Morocco any leverage, as well as an effort to draw the attention of domestic audiences away from problems at home and rally against an external enemy,” said the director of the program North Africa and Sahel within the MEI, Intissar Fakir.

“Indeed, the biggest challenge for Algeria’s military leadership has remained how to convince an inwardly focused population that Morocco is a greater threat to their well-being than internal economic, political, and security challenges,” the analyst explained in a recent article titled “What’s driving the escalating tensions between Algeria and Morocco?”.

She recalled that “the Algerian military and ruling elite’s dislike and suspicion of Morocco runs deep and goes back to the border conflict of the 1960s and Cold War-era ideological tensions.”

“Morocco’s growing ambitions to increase its regional political and economic influence therefore remain alarming to some in Algeria’s military,” she said.

According to the author of the article, the recognition by the United States of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara “has dealt a blow” to Algerian efforts to isolate Morocco on this issue. The US recognition is “a major win” for Morocco, she noted.

In addition, the analyst of the Washington-based think tank stressed that Algeria displays an extreme distrust of the growing Moroccan-Israeli cooperation, recalling that Algiers was “extremely critical” of the normalization of relations between Rabat and Tel Aviv.

The reason is that Algeria is “growing more anxious to reassert itself as a regional power following two years of turmoil at home and a longer-standing retrenchment from regional affairs”.