Y.H. Zoubir, L. Dris-Aït-Hamadouche, Global Security Watch – The Maghreb, Praeger, Santa Barbara, 2013
North Africa remains much less studied (in the academic field) than the eastern part of the Middle-East (Egypt, Levant, Near East and the Gulf). This recent issue of the Global Security Watch series (see also former issues on Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon or Jordan) provides us with a timely and relevant introduction to the Maghreb (plus valuable bibliographies).
Starting with internal security dimensions, then addressing the collective security mechanisms (or their absence), the book depicts a region ridden with instability. The Moroccan-Algerian row over Western Sahara, the Libyan conundrum (under Qadhafi then because of his demise), and an increasing link with Sahel and Nigerian security challenges, undermine regional structures. Algeria’s complex game between Morocco and Libya, Morocco’s strong alliance with the U.S. and France, Tunisia’s efforts to survive in a troubled neighbourhood, the new presence of China, the ongoing presence of Russia (especially in Algeria), all account for new foreign policy puzzles. The encounter between transnational actors (such as AQIM, Boko Haram, or, in a different category, the Tuaregs) and national security forces (with much different traditions and relations to society, as chapter 1 by Cherif Driss remarkably illustrates), is also a key parameter to the future of the region.
A french reader might be surprised that France’s role is barely mentioned here. After decades of political presence in the Maghreb, a recent intervention in Mali (ongoing since 2013), and a newly reorganized military presence in West Africa, it might have deserved more. The book’s objective, though, was clearly to address the dynamics among Maghreb’s local actors. For they – and no one else – are the key to understand the great North African game.