Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cold War-Era Separatist Movement Still Threatens US Ally Morocco

Probing Polisario's Pedigree, Present Ties and Politics of Terror

By André Pachter
For Foreign Confidential

America's oldest ally is threatened by a separatist, Cold War-era "national liberation movement" that was for many years overtly backed by terrorist-sponsoring Libya, Algeria and Syria, and covertly supported by the Soviet Union's KGB, its satellite secret services and Communist Cuba--and the passenger airline bombers and hijackers of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The American ally is Morocco, a stable, pro-Western country that steadfastly supports the struggle  against Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The so-called liberation movement is the Polisario Front, a Stalinist-styled organization that claims to have converted to social democracy while being allied with Venezuela and supported, still, by Cuba's Castro regime.

The Cuban connection goes way back--to 1963 and Che Guevara's plans for a "Sahara initiative" to spur the cause of world revolution. Starting in 1975, Cuban military advisors trained Polisario guerrillas in Algeria and in Libya with support from Libya's Moscow-aligned dictator, Col. Gaddafi. Libya and Algeria were conduits for a flow of Russian-made rocket launchers and machine guns to the Polisario's 3,000-man guerrilla army. Before becoming Cuba's ambassador to Panama, Miguel Brugueras del Valle, a Cuban intelligence officer who was one of the founders of Cuba's Communist Party, served as Fidel Castro's senior advisor attached to Polisario headquarters in Tindouf, Algeria.

1970s PFLP-Polisario solidarity poster

The Cuban spy/diplomat was instrumental in forging Polisario's PFLP tie, including, specifically, a joint communiqué reported on Algerian state radio on January 19, 1980 calling for the destruction of the Moroccan government. As reported by Algeria, the notorious PFLP chief, George Habash--considered the father of airline hijacking--and Mohamed Abdelaziz, the Polisario Secretary-General, personally led the talks that resulted in the release of the joint statement. Along with condemning "American imperialism," the Camp David peace accords and "imperialist-Zionist-Reactionary machinations," the communiqué called on "the active forces in Morocco" to "work quickly and without delay in order to eliminate the Moroccan regime."

Following the joint statement, PFLP publications praised "Polisario victories"--meaning, terrorist attacks--on Moroccan targets. The PFLP's English-language, April 1982 Bulletin, for example, reported that Polisario "has dealt painful blows to the [Moroccan] regime."

Habash is Dead but Abdelaziz Still Leads the Polisario

 BACKED BY CUBA: the PFLP's Habash (l.) and Polisario's Abdelaziz.

Habash died in 2008. But Abdelaziz remains the Polisario's head, ruling dictatorially over the organization and a personality cult that brings to mind North Korea--which was one of the first countries to recognize the Polisario's claim to the Western Sahara, a sparsely populated, Colorado-sized territory that is administered by Morocco.

The Polisario's Tindouf base today serves as a recruiting center and sanctuary for Al Qaeda and affiliated Islamist terrorist groups across northern Africa, including armed jihadists forced out of northern Mali by French and African forces. Polisario training camps also serve as havens and hubs for drug smugglers; analysts are increasingly concerned about links between Al Qaeda and South American drug gangs. Click here to read about a Japanese intelligence agency report on Polisario ties to Al Qaeda affiliates.

Vivian Salama reports on the Polisario's Tindouf camps, which have been described as constituting a giant, open-air prison:

The Polisario estimates that as many as 150,000 people live on their four major camps in Tindouf, Algeria;  for years, the group received international aid to accommodate such a large number of exiles. However, the U.N. lowered its estimate in 2005 to 90,000 after conducting an assessment of the size of the camps via satellite imagery. Moroccan officials insist that the number may be as low as 40,000, and that Polisario officials are profiting from sales of the extra food and supplies—something the Polisario staunchly denies. 
However, former refugees note terrible abuses behind the scenes for those who undermine the Polisario’s authority or fail to support the fight for Western Saharan independence. Accusations of spying for Morocco are reportedly rampant and punishment is allegedly severe, with numerous refugees telling The Daily Beast that they endured torture and years of imprisonment and solitary confinement at the hands of the Polisario. Cherif Mohamed, a former diplomat and member of the Polisario military, said he spent a year in solitary confinement as part of a seven-year sentence for treason, a crime he says he didn’t commit.  
“They dug a lot of individual holes in the ground and in these holes is where prisoners were kept,” he explained. 
“Sometimes they attach you by your hands to the ceiling. Sometimes they attach you hanging from your ankles. Sometimes they cover your head and pour water over your face until it drives you crazy. Sometimes they tie you to a pole in the ground and throw cold water on you all night. Sometimes they tie you to a table, spread eagle, and people put their cigarettes out on your body--my body is covered in scars.”

The White Gold Angle

Sahara means desert in Arabic; and the Western Sahara, with a population of only 500,000, consists mainly of desert flatlands. But there is more to this desert than meets the eye. The disputed territory is rich in white gold--phosphate rock. The resources are strategically important because phosphorous, a mineral that is an essential ingredient in commercial fertilizer--and the engine of global agriculture and food supply--is mined from phosphate rock.

Not for nothing, as the Soviets were fond of saying, did Moscow meddle in the region during the Cold War. By backing a proxy such as the Polisario, the Kremlin sought indirect control over the vast phosphate deposits of the Western Sahara and Morocco--about 85% of the world's proven reserves of the rock.

Given that phosphate production is declining everywhere except in Morocco, the prospect of a takeover of the Western Sahara by the Polisario, or, even worse, the possibility that the terrorist-tied group could someday succeed in achieving its real, longterm objective of overthrowing the Moroccan government, are both too … terrifying … to imagine.

Morocco's Strategic Relationship with the U.S.

With that in mind. one hopes that President Barack Obama, with whom Morocco's King Mohammed VI, will meet tomorrow, will, in the words of an open letter to the President signed by nine former American ambassadors to Morocco, "support Morocco’s common sense and legitimate effort to resolve the problem in Western Sahara by granting the territory broad autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty."

The letter states: "It is time for the US to make clear in the UN Security Council and elsewhere that this is the only realistic way to resolve this issue so that the international community can move on to more urgently needed solutions to the more pressing problems in the region. It is also a crucial time for the US to assist Morocco with the implementation of its ambitious regionalization plan, which devolves substantial political power to democratically elected local officials and implements programs that will make it a model for others in the region.

"It was 50 years ago that His Majesty’s father, King Hassan II, visited President Kennedy and stated, 'My people are hopeful, also, that this visit will prove to be a means for further understanding and closer relations between them and the people of the United States. And that it may usher in a new era of stronger ties, in the field of true and honest and unselfish cooperation in their mutual interests, as well as in the interest of the cause of freedom, peace, and human dignity throughout the world.'

"These words ring so true today and echo the words of George Washington, in a December 1, 1789 letter to King Mohammed VI’s ancestor, Sultan Mohammed III, when he wrote to the King, 'We flatter ourselves that one day we will be useful to our friends.'

"The moment is right for you, Mr. President, to clearly declare the importance of the strategic relationship with Morocco and to partner with it on its path towards economic, democratic, political, and human rights reforms."

PANAMA POSTSCRIPT: After more than three decades of recognition of the Polisario, Panama on November 20 suspended recognition of the group and denounced its self-proclaimed "ghostly" government as not meeting the "the basic constituent elements of a sovereign in accordance with principles of international law." Panama criticized Algeria and the Polisario for contributing to the destabilizing of the Sahara region. Panama's decision came less than two months after Haiti announced the withdrawal of its recognition of the Polisario's "Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic."

Read more about the Polisario.

Read still more about the Polisario's secret history and origins involving Cuba, Algeria and … the KGB. 

A documentary about the sufferings of Polisario... by SahrawiMorrocan
Fifty Years Ago …