Morocco’s Superiority Complex Towards Its Schizophrenic Neighbor

April 6, 2008

The Atlas Mountains in Greek Mythology were described as ‘the end of the world’, a far place where never-ending thunders and lightening strike all time long. This frightening image of the north western Africa can be still true because of the perpetual crisis between the two Powers in the Maghreb, the two brother enemies: Morocco and Algeria. What is ironic is that the etymology of the world Atlas seems to mean ‘to uphold’ or ‘to support’ according to Wikipedia On-Line Encyclopedia, but since their independence on 1956 for Morocco & 1962 for Algeria, the two neighbors did everything but support each other.

So why is the atmosphere so tense between Morocco & Algeria? Let’s ask the question to King Hassan, the Moroccan sovereign and its foreign policy architect, trough Eric Laurent who had the opportunity to hear him answer that “…Algerians had reasons to fear Morocco, & Morocco had its reasons to consider Algerians as the pure and simple heirs of colonialism [translation mine]”(Hassan II 1993, 44).

The truth is that the reality of such a conflict transcend the simple fact of two countries seeking to build their Nation-States within the post-colonial world. The apprehensive relationship in fact can best be explained by a combination of territorial boundaries, ideological boundaries, economical boundaries and especially psychological boundaries which separate the Moroccan country and the Algerian one.

In this paper I would try to analyze four main explanations of the Moroccan Algerian difficult relations since their independence, which are: the territorial problems, the ideological differences, the economic differences and the psychological complexes.


Historically, major parts of the today’s Algeria were parts of the Cherifian Empire till the beginning of the Franco-Spanish colonization of North Western Africa. After Morocco’s independence France offered to solve the amputated territories matter, but King Mohamed V refused and suggested to wait until the full independence of his neighbor.

After its independence on 1962, Algeria followed, according to Abdallah Laroui, “a schizophrenic logic” (Laroui 1976, 82), and consciously forgot about what Morocco’s Monarch did by calling to maintain the colonial boundaries, that’s how the territorial boundaries rose as a source of conflict between the two states.

The Istiqlal party’s leader Allal El Fassi increased the Algerian worries, when he came out with his Greater Morocco’s Project, and established a map which includes huge parts of Algeria (Bechar, Touat & Tindouf) as well as parts of Mali & the whole Mauritanian state (Hodges 1983,86).

The territorial boundaries’ conflict exploded in the 1963 war. Afterwards, “a committee of O.A.U studied the problem to let it cool down, and in 1972 the two neighbors signed an agreement delimiting and providing the demarcation of a boundary”(Zartman 2001, 210), but the explicit Algerian support of the S.A.D.R pushed King Hassan to play the territorial boundaries’ card to blackmail Abdelkader’s sons, by arguing that Rabat Agreement was not permanent. Consequently, King Hassan II“came to consider Algeria the major enemy of Morocco throughout his life”(Zartman 2001, 210).

This leads us to the second and most important territorial issue between the two countries, which is the Western Sahara. The U.N Resolution number 2229 released on 1966, claimed Algeria as “concerned part” (Zouitni 1997, 325) in the Sahara Conflict. In fact, Algeria has been playing an important role in the Sahara Conflict since the 1970s as a strategy to contain Morocco’s territorial expansion, which threatens the Algerian leadership over North Africa. As “the Kingdom territory will increase by nearly 60 percent, from 172.000 square mile to about 275.000 square miles”(Damis 985, 139). Therefore, Algerians adopted a regular discourse in its foreign policy about the Western Sahara subject, where they call for The Right of Nations to Self-Determination, which “made it clear to King Hassan, that they would not tolerate a Moroccan fait accompli in Western Sahara”(Dunbar 2000, 157).

But the territorial boundaries that separate Morocco from Algeria are just one cause among many others which explain the difficult relationships between the two countries and which may be solved by new leaderships. Especially that Morocco has a new Monarch who has a different perception, and who is not obliged to fellow his father’s governing style.


Many scholars and experts argue that the Moroccan Algerian conflict is mainly due to the ideological boundaries that separate the two neighbors since their independence. During the Cold War, both countries appeared as being Satellites in the East-West race for ideological domination over the world.

Algeria and its other neighbor, the revolutionary Libya stood for the Eastern front in North Africa against a Morocco allied to the West . The Cherifian Kingdom used the situation to get political & financial support, so “he appealed to his fellow monarchs in the Arabian peninsula to support Morocco in it’s battle with socialist and revolutionary Algeria”(Damis 2000, 29). From the other side, he asked for armament supplies from both of
France and U.S, claiming that “because of the Soviet arms employed by the Polisario…Morocco was actually fighting the Soviet Union” (Damis 2000, 29). So Morocco benefited for a while from Saudian Money and U.S armament.

Also ideological differences may have been the cause behind personal antipathies among the Maghribi leadership, especially between Colonel Kadafi and King Hassan II, who was pointed by the first as a “Feudal pro-western monarch in a age of revolutionary Arab socialism”(Damis 1985, 145).

Morocco which is a kingdom that “grow as more tribes swore allegiance to the sultan” (Finan 2002, 5), has chosen a more liberal economy and a plural political field whereas Algeria has taken the revolutionary unique party path (Damis 1985, 144), but things are not as clear as they seem. The Morocco of the 1960s and 1970s if far from being a real democratic liberal country. And Algeria’s “90 percent Soviet origin arms” (Damis 1985, 148) does not mean Algeria’s definitive alienation to the East.

In 1978, the Camp David Accords, proved how much ideological orientation are fragile compared to the state’s interests. After the Cold War’s end and the late Algerian and Libyan cooperation with the West, there is no apparent excuses anymore for any ideological boundaries that separate Morocco from Algeria.


Economic interests played an important role in the Morocco-Algerian conflict. “Owing to its oil and gas deposits, Algeria since independence has had a per-capita G.N.P of at least twice that of Morocco” (Zartman 2001, 209). Whereas Morocco is the fist phosphate producer in the world and have a prosper agriculture, but still relays on its importations of energy supplies.

But “maintaining military superiority over Morocco… contributed significantly to the economic problems… that Algeria is currently facing”(Dunbar 2000, 154). Also the Moroccan bill spent on armament and the conflict zone’s development is very high.

According to Laroui, Algerian aims to get a coastal opening into the Atlantic is not sensible, because a simple Moroccan Algerian cooperation can be held to allow Algeria to export it’s gas and oil trough Northern and Southern Morocco(Laroui 1976, 89).

As Europe’s salvation came from the United States, maybe the Maghreb’s salvation too can come from the Uncle Sam’s plans, thus the Eizenstat Initiative may heal the Maghreb’s years of difficult relations and may unite them on economic and strategic basis. So the
Economical boundaries won’t be a relevant cause of the Moroccan Algerian conflict anymore.


The main reason of the Moroccan Algerian conflict may be deeper than territorial, ideological or economical interests; it may go back to the far history of each country. From one side, Morocco as the only real pre-colonial entity of the region which were once covering today’s Algeria, Mauritania, Mali & Senegal. From the other side, Algeria that was a
Moroccan territory then a Ottoman territory before being for more than a century a French colony governed by direct ruling. So we wonder if there is not a form of psychological boundaries which separate the two states, and if it is not one of the main reasons behind the whole Moroccan Algerian issue.

Yahia Zoubair says that “Moroccans display a superiority complex vis-à-vis Algerians, arguing that they have a long history of state and nation that Algerians do not have” (Zoubir 2000, 70). This can explain the Moroccan people’s support of the Great Morocco’s idea and even their volunteering for the Green March.

The fictive writing of Edward Moha explains how Algeria trays to compensate it’s historical complex by supporting a country she “created out of sand” (Moha 1984, 11) to contain it’s neighbor’s geopolitical domination over North Africa. But the populations’ psychology studies are quite inexistent concerning the Moroccan and the Algerian citizens or the political rulers’ political behaviors.

Kant explained in his Physical Geography, that “physical geography determines political geography”. In the Moroccan Algerian case, I’ll say that it’s the psychological geography which determines the political geography. Yet, to survive within the New World Order impregnated by regionalism, both Morocco and Algeria may open a new page, by adopting economical functionalism like Europe, which will solve gradually their political conflicts.


Demis, John. 1987. The impact of the Saharian dispute on Moroccan foreign policy. In
Domestic Policy, ed. Zartman. New York: Preager.
———–. 2000. King Hassan and the Western Sahara. The Maghreb Review 25:1-2.
Dunbar, Charles. 2000. Saharan statis. Middle East Journal 4 (Fall).
Finan, Khadija Mohcine. 2002. The western Sahara dispute and the UN pressure.
Mediterranean Politics 7:2.
Hassan II. 1976. Le défi. In mémoires, ed. Albin Michel, 12-40. Paris.
———–. 1993. La mémoire d’un roi. Entretiens avec Eric Laurent, ed. Plon, 44-48. Paris.
Hodges, Tony. 1987. The greater Morocco. In Western Sahara, ed. Lawrence Hill & Co.
Laroui, Abdellah. 1976. L’Algérie et le Sahara Marocain. ed. Serrar, 81-95. Casablanca.
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(September-October), 184:16-19.Database on-line. Available from (www.jstor.org).
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London: I.B.Tauris.
Zoubir, Yahia. 1976. Western Sahara conflict impedes Maghrib unity. Middle East Report
298 (January), 75:3-13. Database on line. Available from (www.jstor.org).
———-. 1998a. Algerian-Moroccan relations and their impact on Maghribi integration. The
Journal of North African Studies 5, no.1 (Spring).
———-. 1998b. Western Sahara: political economy of a conflict. ed, Ayachi . Westport:
Zouitni, Hammad. 1997. Les intérêts nationaux entre la pratique politique extérieure du
Maroc et les besoins d’une redéfinition par rapport au nouveau système international.
In Rapport Annuel sur l’évolution du system international. Rabat



  1. ecvizqmhr doelygxwa ozqamlb cikw bmgahjt ucsmvip phywcuzo

  2. If you ever want to see a reader’s feedback 🙂 , I rate this article for four from five. Detailed info, but I have to go to that damn google to find the missed pieces. Thank you, anyway!

  3. i don`t agree with you,morocans never had a war but algerians always have.the origine race is one and it`s berber but time and history made a bit of difference and it that algerians are more likely to love there freedom more then the morocans and more good at war then the morocans.the punic wars with hanibal and massinissa,jugurta,kahina,the arab invation with kousaila,the bizantis,the british and and the french at the end and algiers always was the capital of white slavery of the europeans.the morocans are good at growing potatoes and gabbage.

  4. A great article! I’m proud to be Moroccan. 🙂

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