Since the war in Ukraine began, several US politicians of different ideological persuasions have called on Joe Biden's administration to sanction Algeria for its ties with Russia. Under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), senators such as Marco Rubio and congressmen such as Lisa McClain have called on Washington to react to the strategic relationship between Algiers and Moscow. Through this federal order passed by Congress in August 2017, the US imposes sanctions on countries that enter into defence or intelligence agreements with certain nations, such as North Korea, Iran or Russia, Algeria's main arms supplier.
Now, Mark Brnovich, a former Arizona attorney general, is calling for going further and designating the North African country a "state sponsor of terrorism" for its support of the Polisario Front. Brnovich, who considers the separatist group a "terrorist organisation", also highlights the military ties between Algeria and the Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation considered by the US to be an "active sponsor of terrorism" along with North Korea, Cuba and Syria.
In an article in the Washington Times, Brnovich explains that, for decades and with Tehran's help, Algiers has provided military support to the Polisario with the aim of "destabilising its Moroccan neighbour".
He also highlights Algeria's links with terrorist groups in the Sahel. "The Polisario Front has established a corridor for arms trafficking and other illicit activities, forging links with various terrorist groups," writes the former attorney general. In addition to terrorism, he alludes to corruption within the organisation, recalling a report by the European Anti-Fraud Office that revealed that between 2004 and 2007 the Polisario stole and diverted international aid intended for Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf.
This is not the first time that a public figure has warned of the Polisario's connections with terrorist groups. At the end of December, Brice Hortefeux, a French MEP, pointed out in a written question to the European Commission that there may be "collusion between the Polisario and terrorist groups to the extent that the Polisario is allegedly supplying arms and logistical support, including fuel, to these groups".
He also warned that the situation in the Sahel and Sahara region "has deteriorated in recent years, posing a threat to regional and international stability".
Another MEP, Spain's Antonio López-Istúriz White, also highlighted the instability caused by the Polisario in the region, referring in particular to the group's acquisition of Iranian drones. This came shortly after the Interior Minister of the proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Omar Mansour, claimed during a visit to Mauritania that the Polisario would soon be relying on Iranian drones to confront Moroccan forces.
Morocco has repeatedly warned of the threats posed to Africa and more specifically the Maghreb by the links between Iran, Hezbollah and the Polisario Front. While the Moroccan ambassador to the UN, Omar Hilale, has warned of the influence of Tehran and the Lebanese group in Tindouf and North Africa, the Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, has directly accused Iran of arming the Polisario, thus destabilising "North and West Africa".
Coordinator America: José Antonio Sierra