Reports from Western intelligence agencies affirm that Tehran has been working to expand its network of influence in the Arab region and North Africa for several years. Iran’s support extends not only to political Islamic parties but also to groups that have no direct connection with Israel, such as the separatist Polisario Front.
According to German newspaper Die Welt’s correspondent, Christine Kensche, the Polisario Front is an example of Tehran’s approach to expanding its influence in North Africa. The separatist Front is based in refugee camps in Tindouf, southern Algeria, supported in its separatist project in the Moroccan Sahara along the Atlantic coast.
The Polisario declined after the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991 when it was defeated by Morocco. However, they resumed fighting against the Kingdom in 2020. The group controls a small part of the Moroccan Sahara and maintains a camp in Tindouf, Algeria, on the border with Morocco, home to approximately 150,000 Sahrawis.
Rabat severed ties with Tehran in 2018 due to its support for the Polisario Front. The then-Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, stated that Hezbollah, Iran’s strongest proxy, “sent military representatives to the Polisario Front, provided it with weapons, and trained them in urban warfare.”
While the leaders of the Polisario and Hezbollah denied these claims, Morocco confirmed holding a large dossier containing detailed reports and satellite images of meetings between Hezbollah and the Polisario in Algeria.
Moroccan authorities added that Iran also facilitated meetings between the Polisario and Hezbollah through its embassy in Algeria. A representative of the Polisario stated last year that Iran was supplying them, through Algerian mediation, with “kamikaze” drones for use against Morocco.
New Western intelligence reports that Die Welt obtained confirm the accuracy of Morocco’s allegations. The newspaper gained access to recordings and texts of telephone conversations between Polisario representatives and an agent claiming to be a Hezbollah contact in Ivory Coast.
They revealed that Mustafa Mohamed Al-Amin Al-Katab is the Polisario‘s communications officer in Syria and responsible for the Middle East. In a recent meeting with a Hezbollah representative, he discussed potential joint attacks on Israel.
He offered support to the Polisario but admitted their resources were currently insufficient to attack the Israeli Embassy in Morocco, for instance. In other talks, he requested more support from Hezbollah and Iran.