Morocco accuses Iran of arming the Polisario Front

The statements by the Iranian representative to the UN have led to an escalation of tensions
Atalayar_Irán Frente Polisario

AFP/ RYAD KRAMDI  -   Iran's direct support for the Polisario Front at the United Nations came to confirm Morocco's accusations against Tehran of arming the separatist front's militias

The Iranian representative to the United Nations, Mohammad Reza Sahraei, expressed Iran's position on the Western Sahara dispute. The Persian delegation reiterated the support of the Tehran regime for the self-determination of the Saharawi people. Sahraei demanded that Morocco stop "interfering in the internal affairs of other states and questioning their territorial integrity", according to APS news agency.

The diplomat insisted on the defence of self-determination, and urged the international community to commit itself to the implementation of the UN recommendations on the Sahara. According to Morocco, these declarations show that Iran has been conspiring in secret in Algiers, and that it maintains its support for the Polisario Front. Morocco also accused Algeria of being part of the plot.

Morocco decided to break diplomatic relations with Iran in May 2018. Rabat then accused Tehran of providing military support and weaponry to the Polisario Front. Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita declared that the Lebanese organisation Hezbollah was involved in the transaction of military equipment, carried out through a member of the Iranian embassy in Algeria.

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AFP/ RYAD KRAMDI - Sahrawi soldiers parade during celebrations marking the 45th anniversary of the declaration of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) at a refugee camp on the outskirts of the southwestern Algerian city of Tindouf

During a press conference, the head of Moroccan diplomacy explained that the decision was in response to "Iran's involvement, through Hezbollah, in an alliance with the Polisario aimed at undermining Morocco's security and its higher interests". In the details, the Moroccan minister further revealed that the alliance against Morocco had begun in 2016, when a commission of support for the Sahrawi people organised by Hezbollah was held in Lebanon.

Nasser Bourita held a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Javad Zarif, in Tehran a day after the announcement to deliver a report with details on the cooperation between Iran and the Polisario Front. According to Moroccan government sources, the document included details and 'proven and accurate facts', from dates of visits by senior Hezbollah officials in Algeria to the locations of meetings with Polisario Front officials. There was also allegedly a list of names of agents involved in these contacts.

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AFP/FADEL SENNA - Morocco's Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita

The foreign minister claimed that Hezbollah established a smuggling market for weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, and provided military training to Polisario Front commandos. Bourita further alleged that Hezbollah even sent military officers to the Algerian town of Tindouf.

Both Iran and the Polisario denied Morocco's "unfounded" accusations. However, after denying coalition with the Polisario Front, the Tehran regime publicly announced its support for the separatist group during the 9th meeting of the UN General Assembly's Committee on Special Political Affairs and Decolonisation.

Three years after the rupture, Morocco is convinced that the alliance between Iran, Algeria, the Polisario Front and Hezbollah continues to operate. Sahraei's statements to the UN, a kind of confirmation, have increased tensions between the two, and hinder a peaceful resolution of the Western Sahara conflict.

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PHOTO/Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 2414 in April 2020, which extends the mandate of MINURSO - the UN peacekeeping force that monitors the 1991 ceasefire agreement - and calls for a peaceful resolution of the dispute. The resolution also calls on the Polisario Front to make concessions and refrain from taking any action that could destabilise the region.

Meanwhile, there is majority international support for Morocco's position on the establishment of autonomy for the Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. This initiative received great impetus especially after the support given by Donald Trump's US administration and after several countries such as the United Arab Emirates opened their consulates in Dakhla and El Aaiún. A position that prevails over the Polisario Front's proposal for a referendum, which has very little support worldwide.