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Interview with Gilles Munier for the Algerian review, Crésus*


Crésus: Are we close to a new Cold War which could set the world ablaze ?

Gilles Munier: The Cold War has never ceased, it has merely diminished in intensity. NATO, which was supposed to disappear after the collapse of the USSR, was maintained to “finish the job”. Beyond Russia, in more or less the long term, the American military-industrial complex’s target is China. The Americans are attempting to place their pawns everywhere: in Eastern Europe, the Pacific, Africa, the Middle East. In 1996, Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, told me that the first Gulf War was possible only because Iraq no longer had a “protector”. As we can see, this is not the case for Syria. Today, Vladimir Putin is at the helm in Moscow, and Xi Jinping is president for life in Beijing… If the United States attacks Iran, and Israel attacks Hezbollah in Lebanon, they will have serious difficulties. It will not be a foregone conclusion. Fortunately, times have changed, but there are so many uncertainties for world peace and many tragedies yet to come.


Crésus: What will be the consequences of the sanctions against Russia ?

Gilles Munier: Terrible for everyone. For the Russians, obviously, but also for all countries which have cultural, economic and military relations with Russia. Russia will resist, as have all the countries which have endured American sanctions, and in the end it may be the United States that will give in. The current sanctions, supported by the European Union, are doing more economic damage to France and Germany than to Russia. France’s blind adherence to US policy is very badly perceived across the board, outside of the Atlanticist and pro-Israeli camps, of course.


Crésus: What will the delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Syria mean for Israel?

Gilles Munier: The S-300s are capable of detecting aircraft and missiles within a radius of more than 200 km. They should prevent the Israeli F-16s from bombing Syria and perhaps, in the future, Lebanon. Pity this wasn’t done sooner. The balance of power in the Middle East is in the process of shifting and it will continue to do so. The liberation of the Golan Heights, annexed by Israel despite UN resolutions, is now on the agenda. Menachem Begin had to give the Sinai back to Egypt. Netanyahu, or his successor, will have to hand the Golan back to Syria sooner or later. Putin could be the “facilitator” of this process.


Crésus: The pro-Saddam Hussein slogans chanted by supporters of an Algerian football team have sparked controversy. How do you explain this chant ?

Gilles Munier: It is mainly supporters trying to destabilise the opposing team. But it is not just an empty chant because the martyrdom of the Iraqis together with the genocidal embargo, the American invasion, the occupation and the civil war which followed, have scarred the memories of people, especially in Muslim countries. “Allahu Akbar Saddam“, chanted by USMA supporters, was also a way to pay tribute to a president prosecuted in an unfair trial followed by a hanging, all of which was supervised by the Americans. It had nothing to do with the ideology of the chaotic situation in Iraq today where, it should be noted, the Algerian team was well received during the first leg match in Karbala, a holy city for the Shia Muslims.


Crésus: Being a Russian “client”, could Algeria face US sanctions and, if so, what would be the consequences ?

Gilles Munier: The formula is the same for all countries resisting the American military-industrial complex. Algeria is surrounded by American and NATO military bases in Morocco, Spain, Italy, and Niger. They plan to build one in Tunisia. If Donald Trump imposes sanctions against Algeria, we should expect to see operations to destabilise the government, the exploitation of autonomist or secessionist groups. The neo-conservatives may well believe that Algeria is like a ripe fruit, just waiting to fall… into their hands. I wonder how Emmanuel Macron would react if this issue were discussed during his talks with Donald Trump.


Crésus: The Algerian army has made a number of appointments to its high command. How are these changes viewed abroad ?

Gilles Munier: We get the impression that a “secret cabinet” is cleaning up the army in preparation for the post-Bouteflika period. You do wonder whether General Gaïd Salah is next on the list or, worse, whether a conflict with Morocco, in order to unite the population around a future president, is being weighed up as an option.


Crésus: The Western Sahara issue…

Gilles Munier: Exactly, this issue could provide the opportunity for this.


Crésus: Are the statements recently made by Mr. Bajolet, the former French ambassador to Algeria, deliberately provocative, and do they reveal a certain tension between Paris and Algiers? If so, what do you think the reasons are for this?

Gilles Munier: Now retired, Bernard Bajolet, the self-styled “undiplomatic ambassador”, voices what many Algerians and friends of Algeria believe. In a 2008 government cable, revealed by WikiLeaks, he already said very much the same sort of thing. His statements regarding President Bouteflika’s health were made partly to promote his memoirs. To sell his book which, incidentally, is very interesting, he had to create controversy, as it were. It’s worked. Too bad this was done at the expense of a sick man. Relations between Paris and Algiers have always had their ups and downs. Clearly, Emmanuel Macron is more interested in King Mohamed VI and Morocco’s untamed economic liberalism than in what appears to be Algeria’s empty government and development prospects – at least, that is, if the price of oil does not increase sufficiently.

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