Algeria is a key player in the Maghreb. As densely populated as Morocco, and as rich in hydrocarbons as Libya. Possessing serious armed forces and suppressing Islamists in 90, who in this country during the Arab Spring did not even try to play the role of a political ram that they successfully played in the rest of North Africa, from Tunisia to Egypt. Managed throughout its latest stories by the military. All this despite the fact that Abdelaziz Bouteflika, ruling from 1999 of the year, is at that age and state of health in which the serious question arises: who is next in the highest state post? That for Russia, as a traditional arms supplier to the country, is of great importance, even if we forget about cooperation in other areas and coordination of activities on European gas markets.
After the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, Algeria for the countries of the Sahel is a guarantor of stability and a barrier to the spread of Islamism in the region, supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The latter is trying to find pivot points in the local elite, using economic levers. Algerian industry was rebuilt during the time of cooperation with the USSR, and agriculture has been developed since the country was part of France, but the gas industry is outdated, and revenues from exported hydrocarbons are not enough for modernization. Modern technologies for the production of liquefied natural gas, which Doha specializes, along with large investments in the Algerian mining sector allow Qatar to “master” the territory of the competing country.
All money is not enough
Despite the relatively high standard of living, Algeria can be shaken from the inside: in Tunisia and Libya, before the fall of the ruling regimes, it was even higher. The instability is triggered by decades of ongoing conflict between Arabs and Berbers (unlike Morocco, where this problem was solved by the king, who, in the midst of unrest in neighboring countries, changed the constitution, giving the Berbers all rights). In the south of the country, in the desert, there are Salafi terrorist groups periodically attacking the oil and gas infrastructure. In the densely populated north, including the capital, is the Islamist underground. However, the main question of the future of Algeria is power. Some aspects are considered in this article, based on the materials prepared by S. B. Balmasov for IBI.
Evaluating the processes going on in the Algerian echelons of power, we note that since May 2015, the presidential group has intensified due to the resignation of Lieutenant General Mohammed Medien, the head of the secret service Departement du Rienignement et de la Securite (DRS), 13 of September sent to resign. In July and August, Medien, who was called the Algerian god, Taufik (Lucky) and Silent, lost General Hasen, the head of the anti-terror service, accused of "state crimes." The chiefs of special services who were subordinate to the DRS, including the head of the presidential guard, were fired. Colonels Shafiq and Fawzi, who were responsible for fighting corruption and working with the media, and General Mhenna Djbar, who was responsible for counterintelligence of the army, resigned. The “intervention forces” were transferred from the DRS subordination to the army’s responsibility.
Medien lost the opportunity to organize a "palace coup". The intelligence services became second-level security officials: leadership was assigned to the army. Dozens of army officers were upgraded “out of schedule” - President and Chief of Staff Ahmed Qaid Salah enlisted the support of the armed forces. But the disruption of the work of the DRS to identify and neutralize jihadists led to their July raids in the north of the country, and the political opposition strongly criticized both the power clan. The position of Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, the President’s protege, has strengthened. Apparently, behind castling stood Saeed Bouteflika, brother of the president. The changes distracted the Algerians from the promised democratization and constitutional reform, but did not weaken the inter-clan grouping of the “Algerian Turks” - descendants of the “managers” sent from the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. All of them, including the new Minister of Energy Salah Hebri, are close to the prime minister and his man Yusef Yusfi, who became an adviser to the president in May 2015. Among the "Algerian Turks" belonged to such representatives of the special services as Medien, the second person in the DRS Atman Tartag and Yusfi. The technocrats who came to the leadership of ministries and companies are associated with the inter-clan grouping or are its members. The slogan "The Ottoman diaspora must give way to indigenous nationalists" is popular in Algeria. The ferment in the ranks of the leading parties in power - the Front for National Liberation and the National Democratic Union - speaks of the precariousness of the regime. To guarantee control of the situation, resources are required to purchase the loyalty of pro-government institutions.
According to the calculations of experts of the independent analytical center Nabni, the country's monetary reserves, while maintaining the current oil and gas prices, will last only until the end of 2018, so that the actions of the Algerian authorities will only slow down the country's bankruptcy. A real increase in revenues from the exploitation of energy resources is possible if we remove all bureaucratic barriers to foreign investors, which is possible only under conditions of stability, which has no guarantees. The regime with its ineffective control system itself acts as a brake on changes that can prolong its power. Time to create a competitive industry missed. The actions of the authorities will lead to increased dependence of the country on the "oil and gas illness", and not to overcome it. This creates a threat to the regime in the short term.
As a result of the resignation of Medien, the model of government was dismantled. She worked from the end of 1990 - the beginning of 2000's, suggesting the centers of power grouped around President Bouteflika, Chief of Staff Salah and Medien. The triumvirate was replaced by a duumvirate (since Major General Atman Tartag, who replaced Medien, is weaker than him), supplemented by other centers of power, including Said Bouteflika. Question: how stable is the new design? We can not exclude the clash of interests of the army and other groups. Privileges do not guarantee army loyalty to the president. The effectiveness of DRS, which lost the investigation system, economic security units (transferred to the Legal Police Directorate), special forces and wiretapping of government officials and higher institutions (transferred to the army), as well as many professionals, has been reduced.
The consequence of the departure of Medien may be the growth of corruption. It was his actions that helped uncover the corruption transactions of the Bouteflika people under contracts with foreign companies in 2007 – 2008, affecting the country's main energy structure - Sonatrach. On the other hand, there are serious suspicions that the jihadist groups operating in Mali were associated with Medjen. If so, then discharged radicals are activated in the border area and in Algeria itself. Among other things, the dismissal of Medien and the weakening of the DRS are largely due to the sharp decline in cash inflows to the treasury, for which competition has intensified. Although it cannot be excluded that we are witnessing the outcome of the compromise of the Algerian elites, who have agreed to send the head of the special services to retire with the utmost respect for the interests of himself, as well as the “corporation” and his clan he heads.
Restless Gray Cardinal
The president and his entourage are at risk. Information in the French media about property in Paris, owned by senior functionaries of the Algerian regime, and their accounts in local banks (including the head of the FLN, Amara Saadani) demonstrated the vulnerability of their positions. Apparently, the information was leaked by order of Medien with an eye to the president and his brother. Bouteflika in his tenure as head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already been accused of official crimes for tens of millions of francs. However, despite the disagreements between Medien and other members of the leadership, he did not encroach on the power of the president, was loyal to the ruling group of “Algerian Turks”, reached old age (75 years) and for three years prepared for himself the successors of A. Tartag, causing that of resignation. Another reason for his resignation could be contacts with influential oppositionists.
Andrei Sedykh collage
Among the blunders of Medien are the attack on the Combined Army Academy in Cherchell, the attacks of Mujao militants in the south of the country, the seizure of the gas processing complex in In Amenas by militants of M. Belmokhtar and successful attacks by jihadists in the Batna region, Kabylia and the areas adjacent to Blida. His difficult relations with his American and French colleagues could also play a role in his dismissal. The US accused him of slowing Algeria’s cooperation with AFRICOM. This is also true for work with Germany, France and Russia. Leaks from American and French sources talked about his role in eliminating those who could interfere with his career and had compromising him, including the heads of special services and such people who had influence in them, like Abdelhafid Bussuf, Kasdi Merbach, Lakehal Ayat and Mohammed Betshin.
Medien’s successor Tartag was born in 1950, in Constantine, and joined the security forces in 1972 as a student at the Faculty of Geography. After a year of internship in Moscow at the KGB High School with the rank of lieutenant, he was assigned to work in the 3 military district in Tindouf. In 1978, he was assigned to head the security department in Um El-Boaghi. In 1981, he was transferred to head over to CSS in Jijel, from where he was sent to the capital in 1985, where he headed the vilayet security service. In the same year he was removed from his duties and only in 1986-m was returned to the capital with a decrease. During the restructuring of the Main Directorate of Military Security (MSFD), which was turned into the Central Directorate of Army Security (DCSA), he managed to become the head of security of the 5 military district.
In 1990, he was recalled to the capital. Thanks to the help of Medien, who led the DRS, Tartag was put in charge of her power (including secret) operations. The secret unit of 192 has become their instrument. Tartaga is known in Algeria and abroad under the nicknames Blaster, Bomber, Bomber, Terminator, Liquidator and Cyborg. He was responsible for the destruction of the Algerian jihadists in 90, while at the same time establishing interaction with the leaders of the Islamic Salvation Front. He worked with foreign intelligence services from Italy to South Africa (communications in South Africa helped to get a special weapon for DRS). He oversaw the training of special forces in the center in Biskra. In March, 2001 retired, in December, 2011 was returned to service after the overthrow of Gaddafi and placed at the head of the Department of Internal Security (ISD) DRS.
Replacing September 13 gendarmerie head Ahmed Bustila with Nuba Menada is also symbolic in its own way. Menad, who is 60 years old, is 11 years younger than his predecessor, who has been in office since 2000. Bustila became a victim of “insufficient competence” in the prevention of social disturbances in the southern provinces of the country. Menad has a different tactic than this proponent of force. He made several trips to the rebellious provinces, consulting with local tribal authorities. His supporter in reaching a compromise was the head of the national police, Abdelgani Kamel, who was holding informal consultations with supporters of blocking shale gas extraction projects and leaders of unemployed youth. This mission is hampered by government policies to reduce government subsidies on products.
Keep rivals closer
The problem of Algeria - the lack of clarity with the figure of the future president. The favorites in the race are the General Secretary of the ruling TNF Saadani and the Chief of the General Staff of the Army, General Salah. Under the current scenario, they should form an alliance, complementing each other. Salah, who is obliged to nominate exclusively the goals of creating a counterbalance to Medien and his supporters, should strengthen the Saadani presidency. However, Salah, positioning himself as an “Algerian al-Sisi”, clearly does not agree with the secondary role. Especially after resolving the problem of Medien, they will try to limit his authority, although after Bustila leaves, only the current head of the Republican Guard guarding the president, his entourage, General Ben-Ali Benali, the creature S. Buteflika will be able to compete with him.
At the same time, as Deputy Minister of Defense, the official head of the Algerian military "party," General Salah, does not make statements testifying to his ambitions. This role is played by General Khaled Nezar, the former head of the defense department and a member of the Supreme State Committee that led Algeria after the 1992 events of the year, one of the key figures in the defeat of the armed Islamic formations in the country in 90. In October, he made a series of statements critically assessing the situation with regard to DRS. In his opinion, it would be logical for her to submit to the military leadership, since during 2013 – 2015 many functions were transferred to the command of the armed forces. In the meantime, General Tartag, taking the post of head of the DRS, commands her, regardless of the military.
For a month, his leadership lost the posts of 12 generals and two colonels. In their place he appoints his people, whereas Salah had other plans. Based on this, it can be assumed that the permission was given by the clan of the president, or rather, by his brother, the shadow leader of the ANDR. The group behind the president fears military gain at the expense of the security services. If they manage to do this, the Bouteflika clan will become weaker than them, since the military will control two major power functions. It must be recalled that the president, while in power, managed to reduce the influence of army generals during the manipulation of various security forces, primarily army and special services, with the support of the DRS leadership, after which Bouteflika removed Medien, relying on the military.
It is logical if not to directly subordinate the DRS to the president, then at least to leave an independent structure that would be at his disposal and would not depend on the military. Moreover, there are tensions between the leadership of the armed forces and the head of state. It is indicative of the complete replacement of the leadership of military justice carried out by the order of the president during the autumn. Posts lost 14 chiefs of military district courts and prosecutors. The people of Buteflika clan are put to these places in order to avoid a situation where, at a crisis moment, the military may try to take revenge for having been squeezed after the victory over radical Islamism in 90. People of the president are strengthening their positions in other security agencies - the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the gendarmerie, where in summer and autumn there was a noticeable renewal of the leadership.
30 September was arrested by retired general Hoshin Benhadid. A few days earlier, he gave an interview in which he criticized the surroundings of A. Bouteflika, first of all his brother S. Bouteflika, Chief of the General Staff General Gaid and President of the Forum of Heads of Enterprises Ali Haddad. He argued that “the Algerian people, honest officers and elite” will not accept the scenario of a dynastic change of power, which can be interpreted as a call for a change in the leadership of the country. H. Benhadidu charged with disclosing military secrets, insubordination and calls for disobedience, as well as slander. His son was arrested on charges of illegally carrying a weapon. A. Haddad filed a lawsuit against the general with a libel charge, since Benhadid in an interview claimed that the head of the FGP received the post thanks to the patronage of S. Bouteflika, accusing him of having presidential ambitions.
27 August arrested retired General Abdelkader Ait Urab (General Hasan), who was retired from the end of 2013. For twenty years he fought against terrorists, having received the nickname Mr. Anti-Terrorism. Before his resignation, General Urab led the elite unit, the Operational Coordination and Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Service SCORAT (Service de coordination operationnelle et de renseignement antiterroriste), whose fighters participated in January 2013 in the operation to free hostages and the gas complex in In Amenas. The motives for the arrest of General Hassan were not reported, although the press linked the incident to his personal conflict with the Chief of the General Staff at the beginning of 2014, when he suspected him of delivering weapons to the south of the country without permission, receiving in response accusations of accepting bribes from operations related to import weapons.
It is noteworthy that the authorities are doing everything possible so that the security officers who were dismissed from the service did not leave the country both for security reasons (many of them are state secret carriers) and not to create an opposition hostile to the regime, including high-ranking retirees abroad. in the leadership of foreign intelligence services and in the circles of colleagues remaining in positions. The same applies to the ex-military. In particular, 19 in October, it became known that the Algerian authorities prevented the departure of the former personal security chief of President Bouteflika, General Djamel Kechal, who had been sent out in late July, to leave the country. Although the conflict of interests in the ruling elite extends far beyond the power block.
So, in October in Algeria, the conflict between the authorities in the person of A. Bouteflika and his entourage with influential businessman Issad Rebrab, whose holding Cevital is estimated at three billion dollars, intensified. The businessman accused the authorities of blocking the projects of his company, which could give Algeria thousands of jobs. Among his plans were the creation of an industrial zone to the east of the capital and the construction of a metallurgical complex, but fearing arrest, he moved to Brazil, from where he demanded guarantees of personal safety from the president and General Gaida. This sends a very bad signal to investors.