The North African nation of Morocco is breaking off diplomatic relations with Iran, shuttering its embassy in Tehran, and sending home the Iranian ambassador who is based in Morocco’s capital of Rabat.
The dispute centers on Iran’s alleged support for the Polisario Front, a political and military rebel group that seeks independence from Morocco in Western Sahara.
“Morocco claimed Western Sahara after colonial Spain left, but Polisario fought a guerrilla war for independence for the Sahrawi people until a U.N.-backed ceasefire,” Reuters explained about the long-running territorial conflict.
According to Nasser Bourita, Morocco’s foreign minister (shown above), “Iran and its Lebanese Shi’ite ally, Hezbollah, were supporting Polisario by training and arming its fighters, via the Iranian embassy in Algeria.”
Officials in the Iranian capital have not yet commented on the change in diplomatic status.
In a prior dispute unrelated to the Polisario Front, Morocco cut ties with Iran in 2009, but they were restored in 2014.
Both Morocco and the Polisario Front control areas of Western Sahara, with the adversaries separated by a huge berm wall called the Moroccan Wall. A United Nations Security Council resolution adopted last week at the urging of the U.S. calls for Morocco and the Polisario Front to resume peace talks. The U.N. has previously taken the position that the Polisario Front constitutes the Sahrawi population’s legitimate representative and that they should be granted the right to self-determination.
“Rabat considers Western Sahara an integral part of Morocco and proposes autonomy for the resource-rich territory, but the Polisario Front insists on a UN referendum on independence,” AFP explained, adding that that the conflict has been in a stalemate since U.N.-sponsored negotiations ended about 10 years ago.
There are said to be about 50,000 to 165,000 Sahrawi refugees living in camps in Algeria.
In a further development for Iran on the world stage, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday accused Iran of cheating on the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that was reached during the Obama administration. He offered evidence in a widely watched video presentation.
President Trump, who has repeatedly criticized Obama for giving away the store in the deal with little in return, has hinted that he may withdraw from the JCPOA later this month when it comes up for recertification. The U.S. State Department has designated Iran as a state-sponsor of terrorism.