Published On: Wed, Apr 9th, 2014

Growing Group of Iranian Loyalists in Algeria

Algerian generals are allowing shiite (an Islamic sect) to expand in north Algeria. Our recent research inside Algeria shows that shiite groups inspired by Iran are expanding in Ghardaïa and the capital city of Algiers.Our data collection shows that shiite number up to 18,440 across Algeria.

Ghardaïa is the capital city of Ghardaïa Province, Algeria. The commune of Ghardaïa has a population of 93,423 according to the 2008 census, up from 87,599 in 1998,with an annual growth rate of 0.7%. It is located in northern-central Algeria in the Sahara Desert and lies along the left bank of the Wadi Mzab.

Researchers at BMCSR have concluded that Algerian generals have set a critical strategy to combat Islamic extremist movement by allowing shia radical groups to operate in Algiers and its neighbouring cities. “Algeria is a door for Iran to pursue its shiite policies in the North Africa region. Since 10 years, Algeria is the only country in the North Africa region which eases the expansion of the shiite policies of Iran,” says Cahit Tuz, Middle East adviser in Parliament.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, in a meeting with Speaker of Algeria’s National Assembly Abdul Qadir bin Saleh on the sidelines of the 16th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran in August, said that the African state has been a good partner for Iran since the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

Intelligence resource say that Iran could be involved in what we witnessed in Ghardaïa from discord between its Mozabite people (Amazigh-speaking Ibadis) and its non-Mozabite people, who, in addition to Chaamba and Madabih members (local Arabic-speaking tribes), include Algerians who come from across the country for civil service or other reasons. The clashes, which lasted for more than a month, resulted in several dead and dozens wounded. They also led to material losses and disrupted economic activity due to attacks on houses and shops.

Researchers at BMCSR are very much concerned with what they have described as a “tacit agreement” between Algeria and Iran with regard to the Syrian crisis.

The increasing alignment in the policies of the North African country and Iran have gained momentum since the beginning of the Arab Spring, particularly in the Syrian crisis, which has dragged on for far longer than any other Arab Spring uprising.

A senior Algerian official, who spoke to BMCSR on condition of anonymity, stated that since the beginning of the Arab Spring in the North African region, Algeria has been very concerned with the possible spillover effect of the unrest on its own country, as three of Algeria’s neighbors, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, have experienced unrest that have resulted in the fall of the regimes in those countries. The same official added that there is a “tacit agreement” between Algeria and Iran over Syria.

Algeria is the new actor on the scene and is keen to play a partner role with Iran in its policy towards the Syrian crisis, agree experts. Iran and Algeria have adamantly opposed any foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs, underlining the importance of resolving the problems through dialogue.

“Algeria and Iran considers the Arab uprising as a threat to their own countries. Syria is an important laboratory for the countries which are concerned about the Arab Spring wave,” Sena Bardshti, a prominent Iran analyst, told BMCSR. Iran and Algeria took a similar stance at the meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in mid-August in Mecca, where the suspension of Syria from the OIC was approved by an absolute majority with objections only from Iran and Algeria.

Another example of the Algerian stance in regards to Syria came in February when it abstained from voting on a United Nations draft resolution on the situation in Syria, which was adopted by a recorded vote of 137 in favor to 12 against, including Iran’s vote siding with the Assad regime. Iranian ex-president has also underlined several times that Iran and Algeria have the capacity to create a new world order, adding Iran and Algeria could be an exemplar of brotherly ties in the world via the expansion and diversification of relations in all spheres.

“In order to get rid of the West’s isolation policy, Iran is in search of new partners in Africa. In this respect, Algeria is an important partner for Iran,” Behnam khurshidi, an expert on Iranian politics and a lecturer in the department of international relations at Yıldırım Beyazıt University in Ankara, said in remarks to BMCSR.

The other point which brings Algeria and Iran to stand in the same line is their anti-imperialist stance. Moreover, Algerian leaders have publicly backed Iran’s ongoing nuclear program on numerous occasions and voiced Algeria’s support for Iran’s right to “peaceful nuclear technology”.