Does Algeria have leverage to retaliate from Spain after its Sahara move?
Algeria has recalled its ambassador from Spain after Madrid voiced support for Morocco’s territorial integrity and for the autonomy plan. Algiers has also said it will reassess all deals signed with Spain in a diplomatic escalation that shows the extent to which Algeria is involved as a real party to the Sahara conflict that it has perpetuated. But Algiers has little leverage over Europe.
The gas card was evoked by regime proponents in Algiers. But Algeria has already undermined its position as a stable and reliable gas supplier by unilaterally halting a pipeline that carried 13 cbm of gas annually, in a move that was driven by a hostility and an intent to hurt Morocco.
Spanish officials opposed the suspension of the gas pipeline while Algerian officials promised to raise the capacity of an 8 cbm pipeline that didn’t cross Morocco. This promise however did not materialize as the Medgaz pipeline has already hit maximum capacity and was vulnerable to breakdowns as it was mostly offshore.
Spain so far this year has imported 34% of its gas needs from the US followed by Algeria with some 23%, while imports from Nigeria are closely competing with Algeria at a rate of 21%.
Algeria has only gas and other hydrocarbons to sell and imports most of its needs including much of its foodstuff, leaving the country vulnerable to price volatility in international markets.
Algiers oil export capacity has declined to 400,000 barrels per a day from 1 million barrels a decade earlier partly due to a rise in domestic consumption and lack of investments.
When the Spanish government took the decision to support Morocco’s autonomy plan, it studied scenarios and took such as a decision bearing in mind that Algeria’s leverage was insignificant.
Algeria’s quest to retaliate from Spain only vindicates Morocco’s stands that the Sahara issue will only be resolved if Algeria is involved in line with its role as the real party in the conflict.