Wednesday, January 25, 2017

An Interesting Situation, All Around

Is the Western Sahara region the site of the next war in North Africa?

I suppose the limitations on that sentence reduces its significance.

And it neglects that low-level fighting has been going on for many decades now.

Really, the conflict is interesting although it has never risen to a level to attract foreign powers.

It began with a large civilian "invasion" march by Morocco in 1975 (that made an impression on me back then as an innovative method of invasion) that the Spanish colonial power would not shoot at.

Well, it began before that with rebels fighting the Spanish. But the pattern was set by that march of Morocco versus the rebels who wanted independence from Spain and now from Morocco.

Another interesting aspect is that Morocco took what was valuable, built a sand wall between that to protect the region from the wall to the coast, and let the rebels have the wastelands beyond. The author of the initial article writes:

I recently traveled to the free zone. There is no phone service, no GPS and not a single paved road. To navigate, drivers rely on memories of where rocky outcroppings and dried riverbeds stand in relation to one another. The ground is mainly granitic, with waves of petrified forests, meteorites and land mines.

And that's where we remain, after all these years.

Except that Morocco has sent troops across the wall, to build a road that would extend Moroccan control. And the Polisario Front rebels are giving up on the long hope of a UN-sponsored referendum to resolve the conflict.

It doesn't seem likely that the rebels can do much more given their long failure to mount a challenge sufficient to shake Morocco's hold. Unless Morocco's government itself falters in internal unrest, it seems futile. The only leverage the rebels really have is that neighbors are worried about one more war in a region already reeling from jihadi-inspired chaos.

I'm highlighting this mostly because it is so odd. And you can't blame it on Bush 43, Trump, or even Obama.