The importance of geopolitics in the Maghreb

A map of the Maghreb (Photo: by Shutterstock)

The Maghreb is important strategically to Europe and to North America, Ahmad Abdel-Rahman explains the role of the region and its strategic importance.

Theorists of international relations differ about the importance and role of geography in shaping foreign policy. However, they all agree that space plays an influential and decisive role. This is the case in the Maghreb, which comprises Algeria, Tunisia, most of Morocco, Mauritania and the disputed part of Western Sahara,

It is also a meeting point between the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. It is strategically important to Europe and North America, and is an important route to Africa.

The region is also well situated geographically. Moreover, the countries in the region are geologically and topographically similar, with a common culture, language, religion and history. The region is also a significant route for international navigation, since it takes in the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. The Maghreb countries are also strategically important in international economics and trade, as well as in politics.

Economically, the geographic location of these countries helps achieve openness and economic development, and constitutes an opportunity for further trade. About 50 per cent of the oil consumed by Europe passes through the Mediterranean. The Maghreb countries are also important in terms of natural wealth, energy resources, water resources, agricultural production and tourism, and it is probably the best region in the world for solar energy production,

The Maghreb has more than 22 million hectares of agricultural area, and is rich in underground water and renewable water, with a global reserve of underground and renewable water estimated at about 40 per cent. Algeria and Libya are rich in oil and have a a reserve of 6000 billion cubic meters of natural gas. In fact, Algeria is number five in the world in terms of natural gas reserves, the first in Africa in terms of natural gas production, and is the second exporter to Europe.

The Maghreb is also the third producer of phosphate in the world.  Indeed, about 80% of the world's reserves of rock phosphate are in the region. There are also other minerals in the region, including iron in Algeria and Mauritania, with reserves of iron estimated at 90 billion tonnes These countries have 17 per cent of global reserves of coal, and large untapped reserves of lead, uranium, copper, zinc and gold.

The military perspective

Military strategists believe that the Maghreb region is an extension of the Middle East, which makes the region strategically important in any future global clash. The region's geographic location in the center of the Mediterranean Sea guarantees that the Maghreb countries continue to be strategically important.

Throughout history, the major powers have always been obsessed with the geographic location of the region, wishing to occupy and influence it. Outside forces fear that the Maghreb will be one unified bloc which will facilitate its emergence as an organized, integrated system. This will mean control over strategic outlets, and thus an imbalance of power globally.

That is why the region is witnessing conflicts and interactions between the interests of the major players, especially between the US, China and the EU, France in particular. Economic incentives, especially oil, have become the main reason for the Maghreb's interactions with foreign countries. The region has become an open and important market for European exports and investments and imports of oil and natural gas supplies within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy once said: "The future of Europe is in the south."

For its part, the US is aware of the geopolitical importance of the Maghreb region, and it is the US that has defeated the Axis countries from its bases in the region and its presence in the Mediterranean. That is why the US always seeks to secure its interests, and is not ready to compromise in favour of France. The Maghreb is a market with more than 100 million people and has important energy resources. Moreover, the US is not ready to waste the security outlets it needs in any logistical move. During the Gulf Wars, 90 per cent of the American and allied forces passed through the Mediterranean.

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Saturday, 30 September 2023