Gulf states rally behind Morocco against Iran
CASABLANCA - Arab Gulf countries rallied behind Morocco’s severing of diplomatic ties with Iran, a decision taken after Rabat accused Tehran of training, funding and arming the Algeria-backed Polisario Front in Western Sahara. The separatist movement reportedly sent fighters to UN-monitored buffer zones.
Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced their support for Morocco shortly after Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said “a first shipment” of weapons was recently sent to the Polisario Front via an “element” at the Iranian Embassy in Algiers.
Bourita said Morocco had irrefutable proof, names and specific actions to corroborate complicity between the Polisario Front and Hezbollah, a Lebanese proxy of Iran’s.
Iran and Hezbollah rejected Rabat’s accusations, blaming foreign “pressure,” but the Moroccan government denied the decision had been directed by “some countries.”
The Saudi Foreign Ministry condemned “Iran’s interference in Morocco’s internal affairs through its tool, Hezbollah’s terrorist militia, which is training the elements of the so-called Polisario group.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir tweeted that Iran was destabilising Arab and Islamic countries by igniting sectarianism, interfering in internal affairs and supporting terrorism.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash also took to Twitter to express support for Morocco, blasting Iran for interfering in the Western Sahara conflict.
“Iran is working to destabilise the security of the Arab and Muslim countries by stirring up sectarian wars, interference in their internal affairs and supporting terrorism. This is the proof of what Iran has done with the brotherly Kingdom of Morocco, through Hezbollah, leading the so-called Polisario group,” Gargash tweeted.
The Algeria Times news website reported on April 24 that the Polisario Front was working “to execute a wicked combat plan” under the supervision of Hezbollah military experts.
“Hezbollah guerrilla experts have personally trained Polisario militiamen in the digging and preservation of these tunnels,” the Algeria Times said.
This was not the first time that Morocco severed its ties with Iran. In 2009, Morocco cut relations with Iran after Rabat claimed that Tehran was trying to spread Shiism in the North African country but they were gradually restored by 2014.
“Everybody knows that Hezbollah is Iran’s puppet in the Arab world. This is why Morocco, which is defending its territorial integrity, took this decision,” said Charles Saint-Prot, director of the Observatory for Geopolitical Studies in Paris.
Rabat annexed Western Sahara in 1975 and maintains it is an integral part of Morocco. The Algeria-backed Polisario Front began an armed conflict with Morocco for an independent state that lasted until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.
Rabat has proposed a form of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for the territory. The proposal was rejected by the Polisario Front, which insists on the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination in a UN-monitored vote.
The UN Security Council on April 27 backed a US-drafted resolution that called on Morocco and the Polisario Front to prepare for talks to settle the conflict. It renewed for six months the mandate of a UN mission that has been monitoring the ceasefire in Western Sahara since 1991.
Saint-Prot said the Algerian “plan” in the conflict zone was failing because fewer countries were backing the Polisario separatists.
“The fact that the Polisario is getting Hezbollah’s support… clearly exposed the hidden agenda of both Iran and Algeria, which is a threat to stability in the region,” he said.
Saint-Prot warned against Iran’s rising threat in the Arab world.
“Iran has been involved in many conflict zones in the Middle East to spread its influence. North Africa is not immune from the Iranian threat,” he said.