Security in North Africa

Internal and External Challenges

by Ian O. Lesser

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Trends in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia have an important bearing on north-south security relations. In this report, Lesser examines internal and external stresses that may affect those relations. Since these countries face massive demographic and economic problems, militant Islam poses an immediate political challenge. With nonaligned status no longer carrying weight in the post-Cold War era, nuclear and ballistic missile programs are seen as a potent source of geostrategic weight. Algeria's size, energy resources, penchant for international activism, military potential, and nuclear ambitions are likely to make it the leading actor in the region. U.S. interests in regional stability, Lesser concludes, would be best served by a restoration of democratic process: future economic and security assistance initiatives should be predicated on progress in this direction. U.S. interests throughout the region would be best served by expanded political and commercial ties, but expanded security arrangements would be detrimental. However, U.S. presence in and around the Mediterranean is regarded favorably as a potentially useful counterbalance to Europe.

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