Rabat – New information from the Moroccan government, confirmed by Algerian sources, details the depth of the Iran-Polisario-Hezbollah collusion, and clarifies the need for a strong international response to Polisario’s repeated transgressions east of Morocco’s defense wall.
As Polisario and Iran continue to deny any military cooperation with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, an Algerian source confirms that Hezbollah has previously offered training and support for the separatist group.
On April 24, the Algeria Times reported that Polisario separatists receive Tehran-backed “continuous military training from Hezbollah in tunnels, dug under the Moroccan defense wall,” also known as the Berm.
The source also confirmed separatist maneuvers in the Bir Lahlou area, where young separatists have been trained to conduct urban guerrilla operations against the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.
This information confirms detailed evidence that Morocco recently presented to Iran “on the role of Hezbollah, and the involvement of the Iranian embassy in Algiers in the military training and arms delivery for urban guerrilla operations.”
The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, voiced Morocco’s decision to cut relations with Iran on May 1, explaining that Hezbollah offered military training to the members of Polisario in the Tindouf camps in Algeria.
Illegal (and Dangerous) Past Escalations
The latest links between Polisario and Hezbollah reveal the critical risk to the territorial integrity and national security that Morocco is currently facing in the east of Morocco’s defense wall.
The Moroccan government and various Moroccan media outlets have reported extensively on Polisario’s illegal maneuvers in the area, which violate the 1991 ceasefire agreement and represent an international transgression, typically under the jurisdiction of the UN Mandate on the United Nations Mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
In March, the Polisario Front further escalated already-high tensions with Morocco by reportedly moving to relocate its facilities to the Berm region.
Despite these illegal maneuvers, MINURSO had been denying the illegal Polisario transgressions for the past the several months, prior to an altercation with separatist “security forces” east of the Berm on April 16.
At that time, MINURSO observers were intercepted by Polisario elements, who then proceeded to fire warning [shots],” according to United Nations Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric. He added that the observers were deterred from doing their job and could only resume working much later in the day.
Since the incident, MINURSO and the UN Security Council seem to be taking a stronger stance in response to Polisario incursions, as demonstrated by the recent adoption of Security Council Resolution 2414, which was approved one week prior to Morocco’s diplomatic break with Iran.
The new resolution urges the separatist group to withdraw immediately from the Guerguerat buffer zone and cease its illegal maneuvers east Morocco’s defense wall. Unlike previous years, Resolution 2414 applies strong language, explicitly stating that the separatists’ main backer–Algeria–should “increase their engagement in the negotiating process to fulfill their special essential role in supporting the political process.”
Increasing Militant Potential
Given Hezbollah’s militant history throughout the Middle East, the Hezbollah-Polisario connection carries grave implications for the region and should be met with a strong domestic and international response.
As it stands, Gulf countries and 60 members of the European Parliament (EP) have designated the Hezbollah militia a terrorist organization whose aim is to undermine the stability of the Middle East.
Washington has also deemed the Iranian ally a terrorist organization and a threat to regional security, especially in Syria.
Several states have even blamed Hezbollah for the escalations in the Syrian civil war, including one institute that labeled “Hezbollah’s deepening involvement in Syria” as “one of the most important factors of the conflict in 2013 and 2014.”
Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have warned Morocco of Hezbollah’s strategy and its motives to jeopardize Western Sahara.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir wrote on his Twitter on May 2 that Iran “is destabilizing the security of Arab and Islamic countries by igniting sectarianism, interfering in their international affairs and supporting terrorism.”
The official went on to explain that the Iranian-backed movement, Hezbollah, and its affiliation with Polisario’s activities in Western Sahara proves it as a threat against Morocco’s territorial integrity.
Morocco’s decision has received full support from Gulf countries, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The Arab League has joined the list of the opposition parties that condemned Hezbollah’s interference in Morocco’s internal affairs.
Polisario Confirms Desire to Reinforce Ties with Iran
Though Polisario representatives have repeatedly denied any partnership with Hezbollah, Mustapha Sayed, a “minister” at the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) expressed Polisario’s desire to reinforce relations with Iran in an interview with Russian news outlet Sputnik.
“We have traveled to Beirut repeatedly, and we have asked to meet with the Hezbollah leadership, but we have not succeeded,” he said.
Algeria condemned Bourita’s statement on May 2.
The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has labeled Algeria’s response predictable, with the ministry explaining, “it understands Algeria’s embarrassment, as Morocco has documented prove that demonstrates Hezbollah’s connection with the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.