Washington D.C. – Less than a month after the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2414, Polisario has announced that it will celebrate the 45th anniversary of its founding in Tifariti and transfer its parliament there. The move tests the resolution, which called on Polisario to withdraw from Gueguerat area and to refrain from taking any destabilizing steps.
Moroccan diplomacy quickly condemned the move and demanded that the United Nations shoulder its responsibility and compel Polisario to comply with the provisions of Resolution 2414, the ceasefire agreement and Military Agreement No. 1.
A threat to the status quo
Despite Morocco’s condemnation and a statement issued by the UN Secretary-General on Saturday, in which he called on the Polisario to refrain from changing the status quo, the Polisario organized a military parade in the area.
The military parade is an unprecedented and serious development that requires resolute intervention by the United Nations. Security Council Resolution 2414, adopted on the heels of an unprecedented diplomatic campaign launched by Morocco, was clear. In operative paragraph 8, the Security Council expressed concern about Polisario’s announcement to transfer part of its government to Tifariti.
In principle, given the current dynamic of the political process in the Security Council and the strong rhetoric that Morocco has used against Algeria and Polisario in recent months, any Polisario move in Tifariti constitutes a flagrant violation of the Security Council resolution and puts it in a more critical position than it was in this April or even April of last year.
Polisario’s gift to Morocco
It seems that Polisario did not learn any lesson from the diplomatic blows it suffered in the United Nations this year and last year. Nor does it seem to get the message that all its attempts to change the situation in the buffer zone and throughout the area east of the berm have failed and resulted in weakening its position.
Moreover, thanks to the proactive manner in which Moroccan diplomacy is handling the latest development, Polisario has been put on the defensive and is suspected of destabilizing the region and failing to respect the relevant United Nations resolutions adopted by the Security Council since April 2007.
Any such action by Polisario is a gift to Morocco, which should escalate its rhetoric against the separatist movement and warn the United Nations of its determination to take all necessary measures to protect its interests, including the use of military force, should the Security Council fail to compel Polisario to abide by Resolution 2414.
The move also provides Morocco with another argument to reject direct negotiations with Polisario to reach a mutually acceptable political solution to the conflict and to reiterate that there will be no solution as long as Algeria does not participate in the negotiations.
How can Morocco accept negotiations with a party that has shown no good faith, has taken steps contrary to Security Council resolutions and further seeks to change the status quo in the area with a fait accompli?
Furthermore, the regional and international context in which the Polisario move took place will potentially weaken its position in the Security Council and expose it to painful political blows in the next six months.
Iran and Hezbollah in hot water
The move comes two weeks after Morocco cut ties with Iran because of Hezbollah’s alleged military and logistical support for Polisario. These accusations put the Polisario in an unenviable position, raising suspicions about its cooperation with a non-state actor that the US considers a terrorist organization.
If Morocco succeeds in convincing its allies of complicity between Polisario and Hezbollah, the image that the latter has tried to promote for decades as a peaceful movement that renounces violence and terrorism will be eroded and dealt a painful blow.
Morocco’s accusations against Polisario came in an international context characterized by hostility between the US and its Arab allies on the one hand, and Iran and its allies, including Syria and Russia, on the other hand. It is no secret that Iran is the main supporter of Hezbollah and all its actions in the Middle East and North Africa aim to advance Iran’s expansionist agenda.
Security Council’s October deliberations
No matter what Algeria does to refute or dismiss the accusations made by Morocco, there is no doubt that in October, Morocco will surely include the complicity between Polisario and Hezbollah in the debates before deliberations by the members of the Security Council ahead of the renewal of MINURSO’s mandate.
Given the hostility of the Trump administration and of most members of Congress to Hezbollah and Iran and Washington’s eagerness to rein in Iran and put an end to its threat to the stability of its allies, it is highly likely that the US will take Morocco’s accusations against Hezbollah and Polisario seriously.
It is also highly likely that the UN Secretary-General will include in his report on the conflict prior to October discussions of all the violations committed by Polisario.
Morocco should handle Polisario firmly
On the other hand, Moroccan diplomacy should handle the developments with great firmness and demand that the United Nations immediately intervene to compel the Polisario to comply with Resolution 2414 and the provision of the ceasefire agreement.
A simple statement issued by the UN Secretary-General is not enough. If the United Nations fails to ensure full compliance with the agreements, Morocco must escalate its rhetoric and threaten to declare the ceasefire agreement null and void.
To avoid this scenario, the UN Secretary-General should unequivocally state that Polisario is bound by the terms of the agreements and cannot take any action to change the status quo in the region. The Secretary-General must also address any ambiguity in the interpretation of the cease-fire and explicitly declare that the areas east of the berm, including Tifariti and Bir Lahlou, are not “liberated areas” but areas under the authority of MINURSO military officers.
The Security Council should act immediately to condemn Polisario’s move and its disregard for the UN resolution. Morocco should also threaten to cease cooperating with the personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General until further notice, as long as the UN has not done what is necessary to prevent Polisario from changing the status quo in the region.
Samir Bennis is the co-founder of Morocco World News. You can follow him on Twitter @SamirBennis