US grows interested in Maghreb countries

Algeria is seen as a potential market and an ally in fighting al Qa'eda in sub-Saharan Africa while Tunisia and Morocco represent a haven of political and social stability.

In an opinion article in the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej, Alhussein al Zawi reviewed the status of US relations with the Maghreb countries, saying that they have recently experienced enormous growth thanks to special development and economic programmes. A more comprehensive plan is to come next month during US-Algerian business council talks in Algiers, which are expected to detail investment initiatives in the countries of the region.

Except for Algeria, the growing US strategic role in the Maghreb Arab countries should not be seen as  an alternative to that of France's, however.  Currently, Algiers considers Washington to be the right economic partner. The US, in turn, sees Algeria as a potential market and an ally in fighting al Qa'eda in sub-Saharan Africa. Tunisia and Morocco represent for the US a haven of political and social stability. Both countries would like to expand their dealings with Washington, while keeping their traditional relations with France and the rest of Europe. Although US relations with Libya and Mauritania have improved recently, they are less developed in comparison to other states. The US is still uncertain about the future of Tripoli, but that does not prevent it from considering it for investment in the energy sector. Mauritania is less appealing because of its small economy.

In a comment piece for the Jordanian newspaper Addustour, Yaser al Zaatra argued that  the Palestinian Authority must engage in negotiations to ensure the Palestinians that it is striving to establish an independent state.

Amid the propaganda for and against direct negotiations, talking about pressure exerted on the Palestinians is pointless. It should be noted that continuous consultation has always been undertaken between the two parties either in Ramallah or in contacts' offices. "These are the kind of negotiations that yield practical results, while much publicised talks have other hidden goals and are less likely to lead to a final deal. And if the Palestinians accept Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal, this can translate into plain political suicide." The Israelis have shown interest in this new round of negotiations because they look forward to an "economic peace" that will avoid the eruption of a new intifada across the Occupied Territories, and especially in the West Bank. But the Palestinian Authority is left with no other choice but to concede to the Israelis' demands.

The military action in Afghanistan has both declared and undeclared objectives, wrote Zakariya Shaheen in a comment piece for the London-based newspaper Al Arab. The discovery of substantial reserves of oil and valuable mineral resources in the north of the country has prompted many observers to question the real reasons for invading Afghanistan in the first place. According to The New York Times, the war launched in Afghanistan in 2001 was aimed originally at ensuring the installation and security of oil pipelines in close consultation with some Taliban groups. This was carried out further after the US troops had controlled Kabul and its surrounding areas, and vowed to assign permanent forces there.

"The US knew at the time that the war could not be decided overnight against the Taliban because of the complex tribal character of local communities and other factors. For this reason, the Americans contracted with para-military forces, whose number has reached about 104,000, to watch over the oil pipelines." Although the US administration claimed that it was first informed about Afghanistan's mineral wealth in 2007 in a Pentagon survey, the elite of the business community already knew this fact after geological studies undertaken by the then Soviet Union before the war of 1979-1988.

"As soon as Saudi Arabia launches its products in a foreign country's market, we witness our won market drowned with their products," noted the Saudi newspaper Al Jazeera. "Many countries have even resorted to protective duties in violation of the laws and regulations stipulated by the International Trade Oraganisation, which encourages smooth trade activities across the world." Many countries obstruct the entry of Saudi goods, especially petrochemicals, to their markets. Such products have faced the protectionist measures that were first applied in Europe. Now India has followed the same trend, although the trade balance is strongly in its favour. Indian exports to the kingdom amount to billions of dollars, and no constraints have ever been imposed. "This is not to mention the value of remittances of one million Indian expatriates working in the Saudi Arabia. They are estimated at billions of dollars every year.For all these reasons, India's attitude is a breach of the simplest rules of reciprocity that govern relations between states."

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi