Polisario and the Search for Another Card to Play

I had to sit through twelve agonizing minutes watching an interview of the head of the Polisario Mohammed Abdelaziz with the Algerian news agency APS. The first thing that I noticed was that he was very clear and sharp in his responses and he never once stumbled over an answer. Given this first impression, I had to look up his age, and to my surprise, he is 67 years old. He has been ruling the Tindouf camps for 40 years and to my dismay, he looks stronger than ever.

His entire interview was, as expected, a Morocco-bashing fest, but one thing that stood out for me, which he probably unintentionally divulged to the Algerian reporter is the lack of media interest in what he termed “the plight of the Sahraouis”, and that’s what Moroccan decision makers should focus on, to keep this lack of interest as is, and not supply them with anything that they can use against Morocco.

There are two things that keep the Polisario alive, the obvious first one is the Algerian regime, and the second one is the biased media who only cover one side of the story.

Morocco can pull the rug from under the biased media, and might even score some points with those who are doubtful about Morocco’s seriousness, by starting to work on actually implementing the autonomy plan, and not just talking about it. Morocco is making a big mistake by not demonstrating to the world its good faith about its proposal. The doubters, and they are many, need to see facts and not just hear promises. Those interested in seeing an end to the conflict have grown tired of more of the same talk and no action on the part of Moroccan decision makers.

Implementing the autonomy plan now is the one thing that the Polisario cannot counter. How can they counter seeing the Sahraouis running their own affairs without any interference from the central government? That could be the ultimate knockout punch.

During the interview, when the Polisario chief ran out of things to attack Morocco with, he spoke at length about the drug problem that Morocco is supposedly causing in the Maghreb. He also spoke about terrorism in the Sahel and accused Morocco of sponsoring it with drug money.

Moroccan decision makers need to bank on the Polisario’s lack of ammunition to go after Morocco with, especially that the human rights card has not been as successful as they thought it would be. Obama going back on his intention to introduce human rights in Minurso’s mission is nothing short of a huge blow to their Algerian prepared agenda.

The Polisario are awaiting Christopher Ross this month and they are hoping for something to happen, or better yet, they are trying to make something happen that could play to their advantage before they meet with the UN envoy. Sahraouis returning from Boumerdes Algeria after attending several anti-Morocco seminars tried to provoke the Moroccan authorities in the Casablanca airport, but in vain. This time the security personnel at the airport were ready and smart enough not to fall into the Polisario trap. They knew that the Algerian trained agents could use any little scuffle to their benefit.

Lastly, I hope that Moroccan authorities are aware that the Polisario is in dire need of any ammunition to use against Morocco, they need to be vigilant and proactive at all times and not just be on the defensive as was the case in the past.

Mezouar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and his team cannot relent and should not let the Algerian military regime go after Morocco at will. Omar Hilale, the Moroccan UN ambassador, is doing an outstanding job so far, and he should be encouraged to continue to stand up to the Algerian representation at the UN.

Since the coming of Mezouar and Hilale, Morocco has finally come to terms with the fact that Algeria is not interested in peace, and if they are in doubt, they must only remember Algeria’s three well-known conditions to start any negotiation.