Iranian influence in Western Sahara is now conspicuous in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict. The Western Saharan conflict has been the principal cause of instability and regional rivalry in the Maghreb ever since Morocco and Mauritania reclaimed their ‘Saharan provinces’ in 1975. Despite UN pressure, the indigenous Sahrawi population had not been consulted over the transition of their territory. Algeria was quick to adopt their cause by backing the Polisario Front, the Sahrawis’ national liberation movement. Keen to subvert Morocco, a moderately Sunni state, Iran’s actions will impact the course of the dispute in the near term.
Key Judgement 1: Iran and its partners will likely supply arms, drones, and training to Polisario Front militants in the near term.
Key Judgement 2: The Iranian regime will likely seek to downplay its role in Western Sahara ahead of its legislative elections in March.
Key Judgement 3: Escalation of the Israeli offensive in Gaza will likely provoke deeper engagement between Iranian proxies and the Polisario Front.