On March 3, 2023, in his column in the London-based Emirati daily Al-Arab, Lebanese journalist Khairallah Khairallah wrote about the deployment of Iranian drones in various arenas of conflict. He especially noted the reports that the Polisario Front – a movement which is supported by Algeria and is acting to establish an independent state in the Western Sahara, in territory claimed by Morocco – now possesses such Iranian drones and uses them to threaten Morocco.

Khairallah stated that the extent of the danger posed by the Iranian regime’s drones was exposed when Russia used them in the war in Ukraine, and prior to this when the Iran-backed Houthis used them to target Saudi Arabia. He added that Algeria has ties to the Iranian-Russian alliance, and that the threat now posed to Morocco by the Polsario’s Iranian drones constitutes a critical test for the U.S. and Europe, which bear the responsibility to confront this threat.

It should be noted that, in early October 2022, Polisario official ‘Omar Mansour stated that his organization would “soon use drones as part of its war of attrition in the Western Sahara,” without mentioning the source of the drones. Furthermore, on October 27, 2022, Morocco’s representative to the UN, Ambassador ‘Omar Hilale, claimed that Iran and Hizbullah were arming the Polisario with advanced weapons, including Iranian drones, and presented photographs confirming his claim. Hilale accused Hizbullah and Iran of destabilizing the region and warned that the use of Iranian drones against Morocco by the Polisario would be met with a harsh and appropriate response.

In fact, in May 2018 Morocco broke off diplomatic relations with Iran after accusing it and Hizbullah of attempting to undermine its security by providing military assistance to the Polisario. In a press conference, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita stated that Iran had sent military aid to the Polisario via the Iranian embassy in Algeria, and that Hizbullah had trained Polisario operatives. He also contended that the ties between the Polisario and Hizbullah dated back to 2016. He revealed that Morocco had information that Iran and Hizbullah had supplied the Polisario with rockets, and that the collaboration between them also included excavating tunnels and trenches in the Sahara region.

The following are translated excerpts from Khairallah’s column:

“The war in Ukraine did not only change the world, but also the character of wars when it deployed drones, among them Iranian drones, on the frontlines. This war exposed the danger of the Iranian regime, which has begun to threaten Europe directly and is apparently prepared to extend its activities to North Africa as well. The U.S. administration has become aware of this, and Germany has recently begun to take very firm positions regarding Iran’s possible attainment of nuclear weapons, and regarding the Iranian nuclear program in general.

As for the deployment of the drones, the Iranians are using the Polisario, which is nothing more than a tool that has been used since 1975 by the Algerian regime to wage a war of attrition against Morocco. Iran has already used drones by means of the Houthis in Yemen, who [used them] to attack civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, including airports, and once even used them to attack the airport in [the Yemeni city of] Aden. These precedents highlight the serious danger inherent in the transfer of [Iranian] drones to the Polisario as part of the war that the Algerian regime is waging against Morocco.

“[Russian President] Vladimir Putin has managed to continue his war against Ukraine, which is moving into its second year, with Iranian assistance. According to testimony from CIA Chief William Burns, Iran supplies Russia with drones and cannon shells… The war in Ukraine has proved the depth of the current relationship between Iran and Russia… The U.S. administration is no longer hiding its priorities in this particular phase, which include the manner of dealing with Russia, China and Iran…

“What seems certain is that there has been a shift in the American position toward Iran and toward its nuclear ambitions, its missiles and its drones. Iran opened the eyes [of Europe and the U.S.] after it became an integral part of the war against Ukraine and after it revealed the depth of its relationship with Vladimir Putin. In the end, the Russian president was forced to succumb to the Iranian embrace in order to wage a war of attrition in Ukraine. Putin’s fate now depends on Iran and its support, especially given that China has yet to make a final decision regarding its involvement alongside him in the Ukraine war, and its commitment to supporting him militarily to the bitter end.

“How much longer can the U.S. administration tolerate Iran’s character? The point is not just the Iranian conduct in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and not [only] the militias which are subordinate to [Iran’s] Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and which operate in these countries and supervise the destruction of their institutions. There are matters that go far beyond this. There are the Iranian drones, which are no longer confined to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, but have begun to spread to the Arab Maghreb [i.e., North Africa]. There is a clear attempt to attack Morocco, which means that the U.S. and Europe have a great responsibility and face an important test. [And] all this is happening at a time when the extent of the Algerian regime’s ties with the Russian-Iranian alliance is becoming clearer every day…”

Source » memri