Last week, a group of 27 senators – Democrats and Republicans – sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to rescind the decision made by the Trump administration in December to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara.
The senators argued: “The abrupt decision by the previous administration … was short-sighted, undermined decades of consistent U.S. policy, and alienated a significant number of African nations. We respectfully urge you to reverse this misguided decision and recommit the United States to the pursuit of a referendum on self-determination for the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara.”
Fortunately, as Axios correspondent Barak Ravid reported, “There are no signs that the Biden administration intends to roll back the Trump administration’s recognition of Western Sahara as part of Morocco anytime soon.”
However, Ravid reported that the Biden team is currently reviewing the policy.
We need to pray that Biden affirms the Trump decision.
If he reverses it, Biden will simultaneously:
- embolden the Iranian regime that hates Morocco and wants to undermine her
- put one of America’s oldest and friendliest Arab allies at risk
- and possibly scuttle the recent peace and normalization agreement between Morocco and Israel
THE GROWING IRAN THREAT
To understand what’s really going on, let’s begin by zooming out and seeing the big picture.
And that starts with understanding the sweep of Iranian aggression.
Amid growing media and diplomatic chatter about the possible resumption of talks between the U.S. and Iran, Tehran’s actions are signaling that neither their nuclear program nor their ballistic missile development nor their regional aggressions are up for discussion.
To the contrary, Iranian terrorism and hegemonial aspirations are on the rise.
On Feb. 4, a Belgian court sentenced an Iranian diplomat at Tehran’s embassy in Vienna to twenty years in jail for attempted murder and involvement in terrorism.
The court concluded that Asadallah Asadi, an IRGC agent disguised as diplomat, was the driving force behind a major terror attack targeting exile Iranians in Paris in 2018.
On Feb. 16, Ethiopian intelligence arrested 15 Iranian-linked agents who allegedly planned to carry out attacks against the UAE embassy in Addis Abbaba. They also allegedly gathered intelligence on the Israeli and American embassies.
MOROCCO IS IN IRAN’S CROSSHAIRS
Below the radar of most international media, however, Iran and Hezbollah – its proxy terrorist arm – are working to extend their reach and secure their grip on a less well-known albeit no less important region: the Western Sahara.
As ALL ARAB NEWS reported at the time, President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 10 that Washington would recognize the Kingdom of Morocco as the rightful owner and custodian of the land and people of the Western Sahara.
“Today, I signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara,” Trump tweeted. “Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity!”
Simultaneously, Morocco agreed to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, the fourth Arab-Israeli normalization deal in the last quarter of 2020.
Many Arab and Muslim states applauded both the peace deal and the US recognition of Morocco’s claim on the Western Sahara.
At ALL ARAB NEWS, we applauded both as well, and published a guest column explaining why Trump made the right move regarding the Western Sahara.
But we also noted that the Iranian regime not only vehemently opposed the peace deals but are trying to establish a foothold of their own in the Western Sahara.
“Like Israel and the Gulf States, Morocco feels threatened by the Iranian regime,” we explained on Dec. 17. “Despite being located far from the center of political tensions in the Middle East, Iran has tried to destabilize Morocco and other pro-Western governments in Africa as part of Tehran’s aggressive imperial ambitions in the Middle East and beyond. The Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah has reportedly supported the anti-Moroccan Polisario separatist organization in Western Sahara. As a result, Morocco decided to sever ties with Iran in 2018, thereby bringing it firmly into the anti-Tehran, anti-Hezbollah alliance of the Gulf and Israel.”
IRAN’S MALIGN ACTIVITIES IN NORTH AFRICA
Few are paying close attention to Tehran’s malign activities in North Africa.
There, too, an Iranian IRGC agent disguised as diplomat played a crucial role. The cultural attaché at the Iranian embassy in Algiers, Amir Moussavi, was responsible for coordinating weapons deliveries and training by Iran and Hezbollah to the Polisario Front in 2018.
Originally established as a Marxist rebel movement aiming to take control of the Western Sahara, the Polisario Front over the past decades turned into a terror- and instability promoting force in the region.
The Sahrawi people’s quest for self-determination, which the Algeria-backed Polisario claim to promote, has long turned into an instrument of self-enrichment for the movement’s leaders.
Systematic embezzlement of humanitarian aid sent by the international community to Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf (Algeria) was uncovered in a 2015 report by the EU’s anti-fraud unit OLAF.
Cases of abuse, rape and torture of Sahwari refugees have been exposed by numerous NGOs and human rights activists over the years.
The Polisario’s horrific practice of forcing small children to become child soldiers (while sending their own to study abroad) has been subject of numerous investigative reports.
With this profile, it comes at no surprise that the Polisario Front was a willing recruit to the Iranian regime’s proxy force.
The Polisario needs Hezbollah for training in terrorist activities, including tunnel warfare, whereas Hezbollah needs the Polisario for indirect coordination with Algerian authorities.
Iranian aspirations in the Western Sahara should worry everyone with an interest in regional stability and peace.
More than anything it should worry those who want to see the Sawhari people live in autonomy and prosperity – free from the terrorist grip of the Polisario.
Only ignorance of the Polisario Front’s human rights violations and their ties with Iran and Hezbollah (and growingly with other Islamist terrorist groups) can explain opposition to the US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over this region.
America’s oldest and important strategic ally, Morocco, together with numerous U.S. administration formulated a political path towards Sawharai autonomy.
What stands between the hell that the Sawharis currently live through and the freedom and dignity they could experience are these destabilizing forces of radical Islamism – most notably from the IRGC and Hezbollah – which have an interest in perpetuating the Western Sahara conflict.
In light of all this, the last thing Biden should do is reject the Trump decision to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara.
It would embolden the mullahs in Tehran.
Undermine a friendly Arab ally.
Potentially cause Morocco to reject its new normalization agreement with Israel.
And send a dangerous signal to the ayatollahs ahead of future nuclear deal negotiations with Washington.