Time for another installement in the arms race update:
The Moroccan government finally seems to have made up its mind, after months of wavering between a French offer of Rafale fighters, and US pressure to buy F-16s instead. The White House has announced that Lockheed Martin will be selling Morocco 24 F-16 fighters (and 24 other planes), to better help the country "fight terrorism" -- because we all know what a terrible nuisance al-Qaida's North African airforce is.
The only question is who will pay for them. As previously reported, Saudi Arabia first hinted that it would pick up the bill (presumably, Morocco would pick up some spare preachers as quid-pro-quo), but then changed its mind.* If that means that cash-strapped Morocco will have to pay for its own fighters, it may yet discover that poverty is a more dangerous enemy to the regime than even nasty next-door Algeria.
Meanwhile, Algeria's relations with its own main gun supplier seem to have run into some trouble. Russian arms companies are upset that payments have mysteriously stopped, after Algeria made a monster purchase of some 70 advanced airplanes, nearly 200 top-range tanks and loads of other military goodies. This is hardly because of a cash shortage, but perhaps related to gas cartel intrigues. Interestingly, Algeria's state hydrocarbon giant Sonatrach has ended the cooperation agreement with Russia's Kremlin-connected Gazprom, having apparently decided that competition with Russia's gas companies, and deals directly with the European consumers, will in the end serve the country better than the much talked-about gas cartel.
All of which begs the question of who calls the shots over arms deals and gas deals in Algeria -- same state, but not necessarily the same men. Bouteflika's deteriorating health, coupled with his desperate dash for a third term, the death of Smaïl Lamari, and much else, does nothing to dispel the impression that Algeria is headed for a period of internal power struggle; not necessarily one that will spill over into the streets of Algiers, but it would be likely to complicate decision-making and relations both internal and abroad for some time to come.
*) Perhaps because of the competition for Arab world leadership between these two glorious leaders?