Maghreb Rising: Competition and Realignment

Part of Rocky Harbors: Taking Stock of the Middle East in 2015

In Chapter 7 of Rocky Harbors: Taking Stock of the Middle East in 2015, Haim Malka analyzes the future of politics and security in the Maghreb.

After decades on the margins of the Arab world, what happens in North Africa’s Maghreb region now reaches into its core. Since December 2010 much has changed. Libya is divided by civil war and is destabilizing its neighbors, political Islamists won elections in Morocco, and Tunisia is on a fragile path toward more representative government after decades of dictatorship. These trends, combined with regional uncertainty, turmoil, and competition, increasingly affect the interests of a wide range of actors. No longer an outlier, the Maghreb is now an important strategic component of new regional alignments that have been coalescing since the uprisings.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Turkey have been the most assertive outside actors in the Maghreb. These governments seek to reshape regional alliances to protect national interests—and their hold on power. They desire deeper military, diplomatic, and economic partnerships with Maghreb states to expand their spheres of influence. Moreover, these new partnerships provide strategic benefits in what these governments view as longterm regional conflicts in which the United States is either indifferent or preoccupied with different objectives.