A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, October 18, 2013

50 Years Ago, a Largely Forgotten War: the 1963 Moroccan-Algerian "Sand War"

We've talked quite a bit about the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but this week also marked the 50th anniversary of  a much less well-known conflict, the 1963 border war between Morocco and Algeria, often referred to as the "Sand War."

Algeria, after its long fight against France, had finally won its independence in 1962, the previous year. Moroccan nationalists were calling for a "Greater Morocco" including  irredentist claims to neighboring territories, including the still-Spanish Western Sahara, but also including the Algerian oases of Tindouf and Béchar. Morocco claimed these territories which had been incorporated into Algeria under French rule. After some border skirmishing, Morocco invaded Algeria on October 13-14, 1963.
Though Morocco made initial advances, and had far better equipment than the Algerians, Algeria had a large popular force of independence war veterans skilled in guerrilla warfare, and despite some heavy fighting in the disputed region and around the Moroccan oasis of Figuig, by November the war was stalemated and the then-new Organization of African Unity provided mediation efforts.

The war ended with no territorial changes, but the two countries have been rivals ever since, with Algeria later supporting the POLISARIO Front in the Western Sahara war years later.

A video report from the era:


Miguel Hernando de Larramendi said...

On this topic I recommend you the excellent book written by Ana Torres "La Guerra de las Arenas. Conflicto entre Marruecos y Argelia durante la Guerra Fria (1963)", Bellaterra: Barcelona 2012

Michael Collins Dunn said...

I wish my Spanish was better.

Ana Torres said...

Maybe this can help:
“US diplomacy and the North African ‘War of the Sands’ (1963)”, The Journal of North African Studies, Volume: 18, Issue: 02, pages 324 – 348. DOI:10.1080/13629387.2013.767041
All the best,
Ana Torres