Algeria: The Carrot, The Stick And The Bad Memories


June 3, 2012:  The elections last month were generally seen as another successful scam by the military dictatorship to prolong their rule. The government has managed to keep the "Arab Spring" movement out of Algeria with stunts like this. So far, the "old revolutionaries" (the families that led the 1950s, war against the French colonial government) continue to run Algeria and exploit it for their own benefit. This has been going on since the French left in the early 1960s. They do this via rigged elections and a very efficient security force. Using government power to cripple opposition parties does not always work. For example, in 1992, Islamic parties won an election that would have given them control of the government. The military staged a coup to halt that, which triggered fifteen years of Islamic terrorism in response. Although the Islamic terrorists were defeated, they were not destroyed, and a few hundred terrorists and supporters keep the killing going, if just barely. While the government has the edge, as long as the nation is run by an unpopular dictatorship there will continue to be unrest.

The government has noted how the oil-rich monarchies in the Persian Gulf remain in power and are using the same techniques. That means giving out jobs and other economic opportunities to the most ambitious and educated. These benefits can be withdrawn, a threat which discourages many from organizing violent resistance. Demonstrations are illegal and this carrot and stick approach has kept people off the streets. Government employees have had their pay increased 50 percent in the last four years and billions have been spent on subsidies for many consumer goods. Life is better and resistance seems futile. No one wants another round of bloodshed, not yet. This sort of national trauma is not unique to Algeria. Lebanese are still leery of violent solutions because of their 1975-90 civil war. Same situation in Iran because of the 1980s war with Iraq (where people are still getting over the 2004-7 sectarian terrorism). But eventually the bad memories are overshadowed by the present persecution.

Despite all this, there is some resistance. One of the more widespread opposition activities is the illegal consumption of alcohol. To placate and undercut the Islamic parties (often Islamic terrorists who accepted amnesty over the last two decades) the government has put tighter restrictions on alcohol consumption. Production of beer, wine, and harder stuff is legal but the government has made it harder and harder to get a license to sell the stuff. This has resulted in the proliferation of illegal bars and clubs. The cops look the other way, despite complaints from Islamic politicians and activists. If the Islamic activists want to raid these places, they do so at their own risk. Most Algerians still like to have a little wine or beer regularly and are willing to fight a gang of Islamic fanatics to defend that. All this helps keep the Islamic and secular Algerians from protesting government corruption and misrule.

Al Qaeda groups, based in the far south, are demanding $57 million in ransom for nine captives (two foreign aid workers and seven Algerian diplomats). The government is not willing to pay that kind of money, which will just encourage and subsidize more kidnappings.

For the last three months several hundred members of al Qaeda (many of them Algerians) have been assisting Tuareg rebels, and local Islamic radicals, in establishing a separate Tuareg state in northern Mali. The Tuaregs have been a problem for centuries, as they are ethnically distinct from the Malian black African majority in the south. These ethnic differences are complicated by Tuareg participation in smuggling cocaine and hashish north, through Algeria, to Europe. The drug smuggling is actually handled by Arab gangsters that are not terrorists. Al Qaeda gets paid lots of money to provide security for the drugs as they make the long run through forests, then the Sahara. The Tuareg provide local knowledge of the terrain, and people, at least in the far south. The Algerian government is afraid that the Tuareg will be tempted, by a big payday, to provide sanctuary for al Qaeda, as well as providing new recruits for Islamic terrorist operations (especially those that raise a lot of cash, like kidnapping Westerners). While the Tuareg in general are not fond of Islamic terrorism, young Tuareg are allowed to work with al Qaeda as hired guns. The pay is good and, so far, not too dangerous. But the young Tuareg are picking up some radical ideas from their al Qaeda bosses and that is causing some tension with tribal leaders. This is especially true now that some of these young guys have joined a local Islamic radical group (Ansar Dine) that wants to impose a religious dictatorship on Tuaregs in northern Mali. The mere fact that Tuareg are working for al Qaeda in southern Algeria has angered Algerian officials. Most of the 1.5 million Tuareg in the region are living in nations bordering Algeria (Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, and Niger). Mali has faced rebellious Tuareg for a long time and made peace with most of them in 2007. The current Tuareg rebels insisted that they have no connection with al Qaeda, but many other Tuaregs do and there's no denying that. The Tuareg Mali rebels have declared an alliance with the Islamic rebels (Ansar Dine) and an agreement to give Islamic terrorists sanctuary but not allow the imposition of Sharia law.

June 1, 2012: East of the capital an improvised mortar killed two soldiers.

May 21, 2012: An army patrol on the Libyan border intercepted five Islamic terrorists travelling in an all-terrain vehicle. Three of the terrorists were killed and two captured. The vehicles contained a dozen assault rifles and several RPGs. There were also documents indicating the five men were members of al Qaeda.

May 18, 2012: A bomb went off outside a coast guard base east of the capital, killing two military men.

May 10, 2012: Parliamentary elections were held and the ruling party won 48 percent of the 462 seats. A pro-military party got 15 percent, giving the military dictatorship another lease on life. The seven Islamic parties got only 13 percent of the seats. The opposition claimed fraud, pointing out that international observers were not allowed to examine most electoral records and that only 42 percent of eligible voters turned out.

May 6, 2012: East of the capital a bomb killed a soldier.

May 2, 2012: Al Qaeda released a list of 58 attacks they claim to have made in the Kabyle region (about a hundred kilometers east of the capital) over the last five months (since November 26, 2011). The terrorists claim to have killed 53 policemen in these raids. The government admits some of the police deaths and many more civilians killed in these attacks. Al Qaeda does not like to discuss civilians killed in terror attacks directed at security forces. Many of the al Qaeda "attacks" were claimed by police or soldiers as attacks on Islamic terror groups. The government also claims to have killed more than three times as many terrorists during that period. What everyone can agree on is that most of the country has been free of Islamic terrorism for years. The only remaining hot sports are the Kabyle (where al Qaeda fights to maintain bases in the mountain forests along the coast) and the far south (where the 463 kilometer long border with Mali is). Northern Mali, and the border with Algeria, is now under the control of Islamic terrorists. This is not good for Algeria.




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