Algeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdelkader Mehassel has been making headlines with his scandalous accusations against Moroccan banks and airlines.
While claiming that Moroccan banks are laundering drug money, Mehassel also turned heads with his suggestion that Royal Air Maroc, Morocco’s state-owned airline, could be actually smuggling drugs across international lines.
Morocco World News reported Mehassel said the state airline may be “carrying something other than passengers,” an insinuation that drew the ire of Moroccan authorities including the country's business union.
The Moroccan government pushed back with official statements condemning Mehassel's remarks. However, a new report Oct. 25 shows that Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has vouched for the remarks of his minister of foreign affairs.
These obviously inflammatory remarks will probably have a big impact on ongoing trade and business relationships between the two countries in question. They could even have a ripple effect across the region.
However, Ken West, a geopolitical scholar and presenter on international affairs in Charlottesville Virginia, suggests that leveling claims of drug smuggling and trying to spot related money laundering activities is tangential to a much bigger issue of illicit trade that he says is much more pressing for governments around the world.
“They’re probably smuggling nuclear weapons,” West said, responding to the Algerian minister's claims that Moroccan planes may be carrying some type of contraband. “North Korea is running out of money. They're trading nuclear weapons now.”
Walking back some of his initial statements, West said Moroccan planes, or others in the region, may or may not be carrying nuclear material. However, he said, the greater point is that in a world threatened by increasing nuclear proliferation, it makes more sense to scrutinize potential weapons smuggling than it does to focus on the transport of illegal drugs.
In a very contentious age, West said, it's important to stay vigilant about issues that can affect national security anywhere in the world.
“Everybody's getting irate with each other,” West said, detailing how partnerships between Iran, Iraq and North Korea could threaten Israel, a major U.S. ally. West said it's a mistake to avoid considering North African nations as some that may be in collusion with these other seemingly unassociated interests.
As for international trade, West expects weapon sales to make up an increasing segment of the imports and exports that regional partners arrange with each other, and he expects the saber-rattling to continue to go on for some time.