Morocco’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Iran is receiving strong pushback from the nations under international fire for supporting the separatist group, Polisario.
While Algeria’s foreign minister summoned Morocco’s Ambassador to express Algiers’ condemnation of Morocco’s position, Hezbollah issued a statement that blamed Morocco’s move on foreign pressure. It called Morocco’s accusations “unfounded and baseless allegations” serving “an unconvincing pretext” to cut off ties with Iran. Iran’s statement echoed the same rhetoric, proclaiming its commitment to respecting territorial integrity.
A recent interview of a high-ranking Polisario official, however, suggests a narrative slightly different from Iran’s proclaimed position of “non-interference” in countries internal affairs, casting doubts about Iran’s denial of involvement in Western Sahara.
Speaking to the Arabic edition of Russian news outlet Sputnik, Bachir Mustapha Sayed, Minister of Interior of the self-styled Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), denied any links to Tehran and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militants.
He said that the front does not need arms supplies from any third parties. “Sahrawi people have for many years been in possession of sophisticated weapons,” Mr. Sayed argued, alluding to the absence of cooperation between the Front and Tehran. Sayed went on to discredit reports linking Polisario to Hezbollah, claiming that “During our many visits to Lebanon, we repeatedly tried to meet with Hezbollah leaders, but to no avail.”
Towards the end of the interview, however, Mr. Sayed acknowledged the existence of “diplomatic ties” between Iran and SADR. “We [already] have an embassy in Tehran, and we envision consolidating our relations with Iran and Hezbollah,” he noted.
Sayed’s statement casts doubt on Iran’s repeated denial of any collusion with Polisario. Following Morocco’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Iran, Tehran strongly dismissed any allegations of Iranian arms deliveries to the Western Sahara separatist group. Tehran insisted that it does not meddle in countries’ internal affairs.
“Remarks attributed to the foreign minister of Morocco about cooperation between an Iranian diplomat and the Polisario Front are false,” read Iran’s statement. Referring to Morocco’s “security and integrity pretext,” the statement added that Tehran “respects the sovereignty and security of countries with which it has diplomatic relations,” and has a policy of “non-interference in internal affairs.”
In opposition to these statements, Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation released a statement on Wednesday, disclosing Morocco’s possession of “detailed” evidence that proves Polisario’s involvement with Hezbollah, including names and specific instances of Hezbollah-Polisario partnership.